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State university faculty union encourages faculty, staff, and students to ignore “Viewpoint Diversity” survey

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

The United Faculty of Florida-UF has sent out an email to University of Florida (UF) employees from the statewide United Faculty of Florida that “encourages all higher education faculty, staff, and students to ignore the voluntary ‘Viewpoint Discrimination’ survey.” The email goes on to say that “this survey is an infringement upon the basic rights of Floridians to freedom of speech, freedom of association, and the basic right to privacy, regardless of a person’s background or political persuasion and without intimidation from the political party currently in power.”

The email from the faculty union goes on to say that “The specificity of the survey’s demographic questions allows for targeting of faculty, particularly faculty of color, and can be used to attack tenure” and “The survey will cause a chilling effect on freedom of speech and freedom of association on campus because faculty, staff, and students will be wondering whether their words and deeds will be reported to those in power.”

The survey, which the union acknowledges is voluntary, was sent out by the Florida Board of Governors in compliance with HB 233, which passed during the 2021 legislative session. The bill prohibits the State Board of Education from “limit[ing] students’, faculty members’, or staff members’ access to, or observation of, ideas and opinions that they may find uncomfortable, unwelcome, disagreeable, or offensive” and protects the expression of “any lawful oral or written communication of ideas, including all forms of peaceful assembly, protests, and speeches; distributing literature; carrying signs; circulating petitions; faculty research, lectures, writings, and commentary, whether published or unpublished.”

The bill also requires each state university to “conduct an annual assessment of the intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity at that institution. The Board of Governors shall select or create an objective,
nonpartisan, and statistically valid survey… which considers the extent to which competing ideas and
perspectives are presented and members of the university community, including students, faculty, and staff, feel free to express their beliefs and viewpoints on campus and in the classroom.”

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An email from the university to UF employees, sent on April 4, provided a link to the survey and emphasized that the survey is “completely voluntary” and that “no personally identifiable information will be associated with your responses.” The email also says, “You are free to not answer any question or withdraw from the survey at any time.”

One weakness of the survey is that anyone who has the link can complete it; other than distributing the link to email addresses affiliated with the schools, there does not appear to be any effort to ensure that the responses are from actual students or employees at state colleges or universities.

The survey questions are shown below:


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