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- Only a small number of students in the Florida State University System responded to a controversial state-mandated investigation designed to measure “intellectual freedom and diversity of viewpoints” on campuses.
- Less than 3% of the students surveyed answered it. State lawmakers have required all public colleges to administer the survey to students, faculty, and staff with a law passed in 2021. The survey asks them how comfortable they are in expressing their personal beliefs and whether they think the institutions welcome a variety of political views.
- The employee response rate, just under 10%, was slightly higher than that of students. Survey results for the Florida College System, which is controlled by the state Board of Education, have not yet been made public.
Overview of the dive:
When Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, last year signed the invoice demanding the questionnaire, he called colleges “intellectually repressive environments”.
His remarks reinforced fears that GOP leaders are using the survey’s findings to determine which institutions have strong liberal leanings and possibly punish themfor example by targeting their tenured professors.
State policymakers who backed the legislation establishing the survey said it was intended to ensure colleges protect free speech, but critics called it redundant because public institutions must already apply the principles of the First Amendment.
Conservatives across the country often accuse colleges of being liberal strongholds that crush opposing viewpoints.
The United Florida Faculty, which represents thousands of educators in the state, in April urged students and staff to boycott the investigation, around the time the colleges sent out an invitation to complete it. The union also filed a lawsuit to prevent the administration of the investigation. The trial is ongoing.
UFF later reported defects in administering the survey, he said he could invalidate his results. The survey was conducted online via SurveyMonkey, and students and employees were able to send a link containing it to those outside of higher education systems.
Early reports indicate that students in the 12-campus university system have mostly ignored the request for investigation.
The highest response rates occurred at Florida Polytechnic University and New College of Florida, where approximately 12% of those who received the survey responded. About 170 students attended Florida Polytechnic and 77 at New College.
The lowest response rate was at Florida A&M University, a historically black institution. Over 8,390 students received the survey and only 53 responded, for a response rate of 0.6%.
Across the system, 8,835 students responded to the survey, while it was sent to 368,120, a response rate of 2.4%.
A large majority of students who responded to the survey, approximately 85%, said they agreed or strongly agreed that they were able to express political views without fear of reprisal.
About 6% of students said they disagreed or strongly disagreed with this idea.
About half of students said they disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that their professors use class time to espouse their own political beliefs without discussing them objectively.
About a quarter of respondents said they agreed or strongly agreed with this statement.
Among employees, about 40% said they agreed or strongly agreed that they were intimidated by the idea of sharing political thoughts or opinions because they differed from their colleagues. However, just under half also said they agreed or strongly agreed that their institution tolerated and welcomed liberal and conservative views equally.
The system board barely discussed the results at its last meeting. The results of the survey that have been published are a preliminary version. The final version should be published before September 1st.
The law requires public colleges to conduct the survey annually.