Florida State students Matthew Farrar and Matt Buck consider themselves conservatives. They say they’re in the minority on college campuses, where students who share their views get chastised by professors and even asked to leave for challenging their liberal peers.
Matthew Farrar with Students for Academic Freedom says, "They’ve either not spoken up for fear of something like this happening, and once they decided to, they’ve had such things as this happen and most of the time end up dropping the class because they don’t want their grades to suffer."
Now, lawmakers are talking about creating a bill of rights for academic freedom. Rep. Dennis Baxley’s bill would even let students sue if they feel like they’re being targeted for conservative views.
Rep. Dennis Baxley, (R) Ocala, says, "We’re all about freedom of speech. We just think it ought to be for everyone and not just the classroom professor."
But others argue the state shouldn’t be in the business of legislating the free exchange of ideas on college campuses. That kind of policing ought to be up to the colleges themselves.
Rep. Dan Gelber, (D) Miami Beach, says, "I think it’s a bit of a whacky bill. There’s really no need to do it. It's ironically named academic freedom when it will do nothing but hurt the free flow of ideas."
Even conservative champion Jeb Bush thinks passing a law might be pushing it, but he says universities need to recognize this is a real issue.
Gov. Jeb Bush says, "Professors' ideology, most of which are liberal, which is fine, I have no problem with that, should not play out in a science class or botany class or biology class."
Opponents of the academic freedom bill say even if it doesn’t pass, it may have already had a chilling effect on campus.
An analysis by legislative staff shows the academic freedom bill could end up costing the state millions of dollars if it passes. One estimate shows universities spending $4 million to hire attorneys to defend against lawsuits.
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