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Fla. Students Largely Ignore ‘Intellectual Freedom’ Survey

August 30, 2022

A controversial “intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity” survey issued to students and employees at Florida public universities elicited a remarkably low number of responses given its reach. Just over 2 percent of the 368,000 students who received the survey—or about 8,000 students—submitted a response. The response rate among employees was slightly higher: just over 9,000 out of 73,000, or about 12 percent.

The survey was sent out in April after a judge refused to grant an emergency injunction against it. United Faculty of Florida, the state’s faculty union, encouraged students and professors to ignore the survey; the numbers suggest UFF’s campaign was successful.

The student response rate varied among institutions but never exceeded 12.1 percent. Florida A&M University, a historically Black university in Tallahassee, had the lowest response rate—just 53 of its nearly 8,400 students responded, or about 0.6 percent.

Of the students statewide who responded, the majority said their campus provided an environment for the free expression of a diverse array of beliefs and opinions. One-quarter of student respondents said they did not believe free expression was supported on campus.

Since the initiative was first proposed in 2019, faculty in the state’s public colleges and universities have criticized it as a political litmus test for classroom instruction. They argue that the survey is an attempt to reinforce perceptions of the state’s higher education institutions as “intellectually repressive” strongholds of liberal and socialist thought or even instruments of leftist “indoctrination.”

UFF and other parties are suing the state over the survey and other aspects of a 2021 law that mandates its annual distribution. The plaintiffs allege the law violates the First Amendment rights of students and faculty by incentivizing institutions to “police the speech inside, and outside, of their classrooms to avoid having to litigate cases.”

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Liam Knox

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