I begin to feel as though we are descending into the Dark Ages again.....
Capitol bill aims to control leftistı profs
THE LAW COULD LET STUDENTS SUE FOR UNTOLERATED BELIEFS.
By JAMES VANLANDINGHAM
Alligator Staff Writer
TALLAHASSEE Republicans on the House Choice and Innovation Committee voted
along party lines Tuesday to pass a bill that aims to stamp out ³leftist
totalitarianism² by ³dictator professors² in the classrooms of Floridaıs
The Academic Freedom Bill of Rights, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Baxley,
R-Ocala, passed 8-to-2 despite strenuous objections from the only two
Democrats on the committee.
The bill has two more committees to pass before it can be considered by the
While promoting the bill Tuesday, Baxley said a university education should
be more than ³one biased view by the professor, who as a dictator controls
the classroom,² as part of ³a misuse of their platform to indoctrinate the
next generation with their own views.²
The bill sets a statewide standard that students cannot be punished for
professing beliefs with which their professors disagree. Professors would
also be advised to teach alternative ³serious academic theories² that may
disagree with their personal views.
According to a legislative staff analysis of the bill, the law would give
students who think their beliefs are not being respected legal standing to
sue professors and universities.
Students who believe their professor is singling them out for ³public
ridicule² * for instance, when professors use the Socratic method to force
students to explain their theories in class * would also be given the right
³Some professors say, Evolution is a fact. I donıt want to hear about
Intelligent Design (a creationist theory), and if you donıt like it, thereıs
the door,ı² Baxley said, citing one example when he thought a student should
Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, warned of lawsuits from students enrolled in
Holocaust history courses who believe the Holocaust never happened.
Similar suits could be filed by students who donıt believe astronauts landed
on the moon, who believe teaching birth control is a sin or even by Shands
medical students who refuse to perform blood transfusions and believe prayer
is the only way to heal the body, Gelber added.
³This is a horrible step,² he said. ³Universities will have to hire lawyers
so our curricula can be decided by judges in courtrooms. Professors might
have to pay court costs even if they win from their own pockets. This is
not an innocent piece of legislation.²
The staff analysis also warned the bill may shift responsibility for
determining whether a studentıs freedom has been infringed from the faculty
to the courts.
But Baxley brushed off Gelberıs concerns. ³Freedom is a dangerous thing, and
you might be exposed to things you donıt want to hear,² he said. ³Being a
businessman, I found out you can be sued for anything. Besides, if students
are being persecuted and ridiculed for their beliefs, I think they should be
given standing to sue.²
During the committee hearing, Baxley cast opposition to his bill as
³leftists² struggling against ³mainstream society.²
³The critics ridicule me for daring to stand up for students and faculty,²
he said, adding that he was called a McCarthyist.
Baxley later said he had a list of students who were discriminated against
by professors, but refused to reveal names because he felt they would be
Rep. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, argued universities and the state Board of
Governors already have policies in place to protect academic freedom.
Moreover, a state law outlining how professors are supposed to teach would
encroach on the boardıs authority to manage state schools.
³The big hand of state government is going into the universities telling
them how to teach,² she said. ³This bill is the antithesis of academic
But Baxley compared the stateıs universities to children, saying the
legislature should not give them money without providing ³guidance² to their
³Professors are accountable for what they say or do,² he said. ³Theyıre
accountable to the rest of us in society All of a sudden the faculty think
they can do what they want and shut us out. Why is it so unheard of to say
the professor shouldnıt be a dictator and control that room as their
In an interview before the meeting, Baxley said ³arrogant, elitist academics
are swarming² to oppose the bill, and media reports misrepresented his
³I expect to be out there on my own pretty far,² he said. ³I donıt expect to
be part of a team.²
House Bill H-837 can be viewed online at www.flsenate.gov