FSU and university system develop survey on campus discourse diversity



The Florida legislature’s plan to investigate political discourse on college and university campuses is on schedule to survey students, faculty, and staff in the spring semester of 2022.

University Chancellor Marshall Criser told a House subcommittee on Wednesday that he was working with the Institute of Politics at Florida State University to develop an “intellectual diversity assessment” that will measure the level of tolerance of political discourse on the state’s 12 public university campuses.

“I have people on my staff who are very good at data analysis, and they have people who are incredibly talented and who do surveys,” Criser told the House Post Secondary Committee.

The Institute of Politics uses applied research to encourage civic engagement. Criser relies on their advice on how to structure the survey and approach students and staff who do not wish to share their views.

“I know a lot of you aren’t introverts, but others (maybe),” Criser told the panel of lawmakers about the challenge of asking people what can be a sensitive topic.

HB 233, signed by Governor Ron DeSantis in June, defines intellectual freedom as a diversity of views and aims to create a campus climate where “a variety of ideological and political perspectives” can flourish, according to its sponsors, representatives. Republicans Spencer Roach of Fort Myers and Alex Andrade of Pensacola.

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Roach told a committee he had heard many people, especially conservatives, think they needed to self-censor on campus and wanted empirical evidence to see if that was true.

The measure prohibits schools from protecting students and staff from speech they might find offensive.

Upon signing the bill, DeSantis expressed concern that students are being “brainwashed” on college campuses.

“We don’t want them to be essentially hotbeds of outdated ideology,” he said of the climate of speech on campus. “It’s not worth taxpayer dollars, and it’s not something we’re going to support in the future.”

The Policy Institute is housed in the FSU College of Social Sciences and Public Policy of the FSU.

The school was recently ranked among the top 5 campuses for free speech according to Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

“We are delighted that our efforts to protect the right of every individual to freedom of expression and expression have been recognized by FIRE,” said Amy Hecht, Vice President of Student Affairs.

FIRE is a product of data marketing company College Pulse and news service RealClear Education.

The survey of 37,000 students from the country’s 159 largest universities found that respondents who identified themselves as conservative most often said they felt the need to self-censor when discussing issues such as race, guns and abortion.

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Over 80 percent of students said they censor themselves from time to time.

Twenty-one percent said they censor themselves often.

A 2017 national survey of student engagement found that 50% of students believed their schools supported different political ideas.

Criser told the committee that his goal was to put the results of those investigations into the right context.

“What we’re trying to figure out is if students feel differently on our campuses than elsewhere in their lives,” Criser said.

As FSU ranked at number 5 in the FIRE Campus Free Speech Climate Survey, sandwiched between Emory University and Purdue, the University of Florida came in at number 19, the Florida International University at 44, the University of Central Florida at 67, and the University of Miami at 140.

James Call is a member of the USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida Capital Bureau. He can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @CallTallahassee

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