During a press conference on April 15, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) urged Florida colleges and universities to support the First Amendment and promote college as a market place of ideas.
DeSantis has aimed to follow the University of Chicago’s approach towards the First Amendment on campus.
“I’m asking all of our state’s college and university presidents to adopt a resolution similar to the Chicago statement at the University of Chicago championing free speech on college campuses,” DeSantis said during the press conference.
According to the statement made by the University of Chicago, “it is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.”
However, Chicago reserves the right regulate speakers on campus, saying, “The freedom to debate and discuss the merits of competing ideas does not, of course, mean that individuals may say whatever they wish, wherever they wish.”
Nevertheless, DeSantis firmly believes that the First Amendment should be upheld, not forgotten. He is critical of universities that cancel speeches or events due to protests, saying those actions are “a sign of weakness on behalf of school administrators.”
“As elected leaders, we have a responsibility to ensure our constitutional freedoms extend to our state’s educational institutions and are not encumbered.”
“The role of the university is not to shield students from speech that make them uncomfortable,” the governor continued. “The cure for speech that one disagrees with lies not in prescription, but in open debate and free inquiry.”
DeSantis talks down upon “safe spaces,” claiming they do not properly ready students for life after academia.
“If you’re trying to compete in business or something, there’s not going to be a safe space in the business world. You’re going to have to compete,” DeSantis stated. “We want to make sure we’re preparing our students not just to have a rich education but for success later in life.”
Universities in Florida such as Florida State University, the University of Florida, and the University of Central Florida are all proudly in support of DeSantis’s resolution.
Florida State University President John Thrasher embraces the policy entirely, saying:
“FSU is proud to join with eleven other institutions in the Florida state university system in affirming the dedication to preserving and celebrating freedom of expression and freedom of inquiry.”
“We support Gov. DeSantis on his position in strongly and unconditionally advocating for free speech at our universities,” Thrasher stated.
Many institutions are following the trend of fully supporting the First Amendment. Universities may be taking into consideration the January 1, 2020 deadline of President Trump’s executive order, draining federal funding for all public institutions not in support of the First Amendment.
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