April 15, 2005

HB837/SB2126 update (Florida legislature)

It looks like the bill wasn't considered in the Florida Senate Education Committee meeting this week and is probably effectively dead with the face-saving maneuver for Rep. Dennis Baxley (the House sponsor) that the universities promise to better publicize the grievance procedures that currently exist (and are published in the catalog).

The Florida Senate staff analysis is scathing, including the following:

The bill elevates student expectations in academic instruction to the level of an academic freedom protected by the courts. Arguably, this academic freedom of students has not been recognized as a constitutional right. However, the bill appears to create a cause of action for students to litigate against the public postsecondary education institution in which they are enrolled. This cause of action could produce some unintended consequences. For example, in a course on study of the bible, a student could file suit demanding that the professor discuss evolution. ...

The bill does not define serious scholarly viewpoints. Accordingly, this provision invites student complaints as to the proper pedagogical method employed by the faculty. Moreover, the lack of a definitive standard would place the courts in a Hobson’s position of denying a cause of action based on a lack of standards by which to measure the complaint, thereby rendering this provision meaningless, or creating a standard by which to measure serious scholarly viewpoints thereby arguably intruding upon separation of powers concerns.

This language and other parts of the analysis mirror the arguments taken by the United Faculty of Florida and the Florida Conference of the AAUP. My thanks goes to the hard work of everyone in lobbying the Senate to kill this bill.

(Update, 8:27: A few subject-verb disagreements this morning—one in the early version of this entry and two others in letters to several senators—remind me that I probably should sit on drafts of anything that I write this early in the morning. How embarrassing...

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Posted in Academic freedom on April 15, 2005 7:00 AM |