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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis

Photo by Master Sgt. William Buchanan / U.S. Air National Guard (Public domain)

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

On June 22, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a Republican-sponsored bill that calls for standards of "intellectual diversity" to be enforced on college campuses in the Sunshine State. But the Miami Herald''s editorial board, in a scathing editorial published on June 24, emphasizes that the law isn't about promoting free thought at colleges and universities but rather, is an effort to bully and intimidate political viewpoints that DeSantis and his Republican allies in the Florida Legislature disagree with.

"The state government wants to know what political ideologies and beliefs university professors hold, and it's giving the green light for students to secretly record lessons to later use what instructors say against them," the editorial explains. "All of that is being done in the name of free speech. Such twisted logic and targeting academia have been hallmarks of anti-democratic regimes. Now, they have also become the MO of Florida Republicans who passed a bill that requires public universities and colleges to survey students, faculty and staff, to ensure 'intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity' on campuses."

The Herald's editorialnotes the type of arguments that Florida Republicans have used in favor of the new law. According to the law's supporters, college campuses in Florida have become "socialism factories" designed for "indoctrination" of students.

The Herald's editorial board writes, "Don't worry, bill sponsors say, these surveys won't be used against college professors or to threaten their employment, even though there's nothing in House Bill 233 that guarantees that, or that survey responses will remain anonymous. University budget cuts might be looming if our supreme leaders — er — lawmakers don't like what the survey results show, bill sponsor Sen. Ray Rodrigues and DeSantis suggested Tuesday."

According to the Herald's editorial, HB 233 is designed to do the exact opposite of promoting "intellectual diversity" on college campuses.

"College professors have got to be seeing the writing on the wall," the Herald's editorial warns. "We wouldn't be surprised if they fudged their survey responses out of fear of retaliation or that their institution will lose funding for being deemed too liberal. That's especially true for professors teaching liberal-arts degrees that conservatives consider a waste of time and were trying to make ineligible for full Bright Futures scholarship funding. Luckily, that proposal failed during this year's legislative session after student backlash."

History repeats itself, and the Herald's editorial recalls that during the 1950s, college professors were a favorite target of far-right Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin and his Cold War witch hunt.

"University professors were a target of the post-war Red Scare," the Herald's editorial notes. "In 1949, the National Council for American Education published a booklet called 'Red-Ucators at Harvard,' listing professors deemed subversive. In 1954, Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy...sought to flush out communists among educators and questioned professors accused of having ties to the Communist Party. Intellectual diversity should be something every university strives for, but we know the results of government officials policing educators: paranoia, persecution and the opposite of the free speech Republicans say they want to protect."

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