Florida Republicans passed a law that mandates students and faculty to clarify their political beliefs.
As an educator and former Republican, the new law is a terrible overreach of government.
Colleges and universities should be realms of free expression, unmonitored by politicians.
Matt Walton was the 2015 Republican nominee for the Virginia House of Delegates (74th District).
This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
"Tell us your political beliefs or else."
This is what will be required of Florida's public university students and faculty under a new law. Recently, the Republican Florida Legislature passed SB 233, which mandates the State Board of Education to conduct an annual survey of the "intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity" on each campus. Once it was passed by the Legislature, it was signed into law by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis.
This bill will survey the staff and students at public universities about their political beliefs. The bill and the resulting surveys are dangerous and an overreach of the government. We should not compel universities to ask their employees or students about their political beliefs. This is big government and an intrusion into the rights of people.
This bill stands in stark contrast to the Republican Platform, in which they "call on state officials to preserve our public colleges, universities, and trade schools as places of learning and the exchange of ideas, not zones of intellectual intolerance or 'safe zones,' as if college students need protection from the free exchange of ideas."
SB 233 will intrude in the lives of students and staff on college campuses by asking them to fill out a survey about their beliefs. Proponents say that this is needed to make sure that there is an adequate representation of political views on campus. By their admission then, they are attempting to "protect" college students from varying views, a stark contradiction of the GOP platform.
This bill was a solution for a problem that does not exist. In 2018 in Florida, the Campus Free Expression Act went into effect to protect free expression in the public areas of the campuses.
One aspect of the bill could be to "level" the ideological makeup of campus faculty.t At face value, that sounds great. However, it's more dangerous than you think. Imagine a QAnon believer examining the survey results and stating that there is not enough representation on the faculty that supports these views and demanding that the university hire a QAnon faculty member, or even people calling for the addition of a Holocaust denier to the staff to satisfy someone's interpretation of a survey. This law has the potential to weaponize campus and turn them into cesspools of conspiracy theorists.
The security of the survey responses is another factor that has to be considered. With computer hacking happening at unprecedented levels, there is no guarantee that these survey results will remain anonymous. Foreign actors such as Russian, China, and Iran have made it a goal to sow hateful discourse in America and promote political chaos, especially in the 2016 presidential election.
Allan Liska, an intelligence analyst at Recorded Future said when discussing government cyber security, that ""Ransomware attacks are only going to get worse and more pervasive into people's lives, and they're not disappearing anytime soon." It would be easy for a hostile country to hack these surveys and leak the results and responses in a way that would promote discord and division.
Additionally, the law allows further intrusion into the educational environment in which it guarantees the right to record classroom lectures and discussions. As a teacher, I can tell you that this is a recipe for disaster.
Recording someone without permission (or a warrant) a felony under Florida law, as Florida is a "Two Party" state where it is a crime to intercept or record a "wire, oral, or electronic communication", unless all parties to the communication consent, something that many of my fellow educators would not allow.
Giving students universal control and the right to record teachers without their knowledge is a travesty. Imagine if a student who was angry over a recent grade recorded a teacher and baited them to say something out of context and then posted the video on social media and ruined the teacher's reputation. In an era where Republican are fighting against "cancel culture" , recording teachers for their academic views for the intent of having them replaced would degrade an educational system that is the best in the world.
Republicans, especially Tea Party Republicans, for years have fought against government intrusion into people's lives, as many fought and spoke out against the Patriot Act. SB 233 not only allows universal surveillance into classrooms, but also pries into the political beliefs of students and faculty.
Colleges and universities should and must be a free expression of ideas and intellectual discovery. There is no need for the state to pry into the beliefs of students and staff by surveying their thoughts, something that you would see in more authoritative countries. We must promote educational environments that are meant to challenge students' thoughts and not make professors feel as if big brother is watching at all times.
Read the original article on Business Insider