College ideology survey is “frightening,” “devastating”

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis last month signed into law a bill that would require state universities to conduct an annual assessment of “viewpoint diversity” by surveying students and faculty.

Ray Arusenault, emeritus professor of American history and civil rights at USF St. Pete and chair of the Pinellas Chapter of the ACLU, calls that bill and a state Department of Education policy banning the teaching of critical race theory “frightening.”

“I’m hopeful that the courts at some point hopefully sooner rather than later will strike the new law down,” he said during an interview on MidPoint on July 7. “It seems to me it’s clear violation of the First Amendment.” 

While DeSantis presents the law as promoting a diversity of ideas, Arsenault notes its intention seems to be the opposite, and will have a chilling effect.

“It’s actually devastating and totally destructive of the whole process of university education,” he said. “Our whole goal is at some level to introduce new ideas to our students, to force them to rethink things and restructure their beliefs. Not to proselytize, not to guarantee any kind of outcome. But to force them to go through an analytical process. To be open minded and tolerant about ideas and about the world. That’s what a liberal education is all about. That’s what it’s always been about. But there have always been people have been uncomfortable about it.”