On June 23, 2021, Salon’s Brett Bachman claimed that “public universities in Florida will be required to survey both faculty and students on their political beliefs and viewpoints, with the institutions at risk of losing their funding if the responses are not satisfactory to the state’s Republican-led legislature.”
Josh Meyer, Domestic Security Correspondent for USA Today also claimed “DeSantis signs bill requiring Florida students, professors to register political views with state.” This claim was rooted in HB 233, which was signed into law by Florida governor Ron DeSantis last year.
Politifact, basing their analysis on the text of HB 233 itself, rated this claim as false shortly after its initial publication, but their fact check acknowledged that a definitive answer could not be given until the actual survey was published. The survey was published publicly by the Tallahassee Democrat on April 6, 2022.
Chalkboard Review staff evaluated the claim in light the survey being sent to Florida universities, as well as renewed interest on social media, and determined:
The survey contains 24 multiple-choice questions, 23 of which make no reference whatsoever to the respondent’s political affiliation. 20 questions relate to the state of academic freedom on campus, and inquired as to whether students and faculty were able to express their views and engage in their academic interests irrespective of political affiliation. If the answer to one of these questions is no, the survey inquires as to the direction of the bias.
The other three questions ask respondents for non-political demographic information, such as their gender and the nature of their role on campus. There is, however, one question that asks respondents to self-identify their political affiliation.
However, the survey is careful to specify that the demographic questions are intended to “collect information about respondents’ backgrounds as a whole.” They add, “as a reminder,” that “no responses will be attributed to any single individual.”
As such, even after the publication of the survey itself, Bachman’s claim that students and faculty will have to register their political views with the state is false. There is only one question of 24 that deals with the respondent’s political views, and respondents are protected from having their identity revealed. The survey appears to be an information-gathering measure, and any consequences that the survey may have on Florida’s universities are purely speculative at this point in time.
Josh Meyer of USA Today later tweeted, “Didn’t know this was debunked (or a year old), or I wouldn’t have suggested more reporting needed on it, folks. But thanks for the fan mail! Maybe you should save it for @Salon for not correcting or clarifying it if it’s actually incorrect!”
Meyer has not yet responded to any questions on whether he checked the date or did any prior research to making these false claims on social media.