- A federal judge in Florida last week dismissed a lawsuit seeking to strike down a state law that requires public colleges to administer an “intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity” survey to students, faculty and staff.
- United Faculty of Florida, a union representing thousands of public college educators, along with other individual professors, argued the law, passed in 2021, restricted First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and treaded on student and employee privacy.
- But U.S. District Judge Mark Walker said in his April 17 ruling that because the survey is optional and anonymous, reasonable people would not self-censor.
The law has been controversial even before Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed it into law in June 2021. UFF joined suit against it shortly thereafter.
The survey asks students and employees if they believe colleges are accepting environments for people with differing political beliefs and if they are comfortable expressing their opinions.
Motivations behind the survey don't make it illegal, Walker wrote.
"True, political entities have expressed clear animosity to the views Plaintiffs seek to express, and the evidence presented at trial demonstrated that the surveys’ design is seriously flawed, calling into question the statistical value of their results," Walker wrote in his ruling. "These factors, however, would not cause a reasonable person to infer that they should self-censor now based on how the state may use the results of the surveys in the future."
A majority of those given the survey opted not to take it, according to publicly shared data.
In 2022, less than 3% of students at the State University System of Florida who were given the survey took it. The response rate for state employees was just under 10%.