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Governor Signs Intellectual Freedom Law That Students See As Unnecessary

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Governor signs Intellectual Freedom Law

A new law, supporters say, will reinforce freedom of speech on college and university campuses got Governor Ron DeSantis’ approval this week. But some say the measure goes too far. Under the new law, school officials can’t block a group from speaking on campus, regardless of their views. College students, however, say the law isn't necessary.

Precious Adams is a graduate of Florida A&M University. She’s showing her sister around campus during freshman orientation. Adams feels the law could have unwanted results.

"It can go good. I mean people are allowed to voice their opinions in what they believe in, but you have those students who take it too far and it can become an unsafe space," Adams said.

Adams’ sister is beginning school at FAMU this fall. First-time college students are required to stay on campus. Adams worries that could give extreme groups ready access to impressionable young students.

"Being young- yeah- open mind... let me try this, let me try that. Oh, that don’t sound too bad. Oh, my mom put this in my head, but now this don’t sound too bad so let me try this," Adams said.

Adams thinks people should have the right to feel safe where they live and shouldn’t be bombarded by unwanted speech.

"Campus (is) supposed to be a safe place from home. I’m supposed to feel like, you know, I’m hungry let me walk to the orange room," Adams said. "Not, oh I’m hungry let me eat this bread and water because I don’t want to be harassed."

Adams isn’t the only one with concerns. Trinity Gardner is an incoming freshman at FAMU. She says she supports free speech. But she says she thinks there’s a line where speech can become harmful.

"I think that anyone should be able to express their opinions openly when it doesn’t conflict with someone else’s safety or harm others' wellbeing," Gardner said. "So if what they’re spreading or what they’re talking about could potentially cause harm to others, I don’t think that should be allowed."

But Governor Ron DeSantis says the measure is about helping students understand new and unique viewpoints and ideas.

"It used to be thought that a university campus is a place where you would be exposed to a bunch of different ideas. Unfortunately, now the norm is really these are more intellectually repressive environments. You have orthodoxies that are promoted and others' viewpoints are shunned or even suppressed," said DeSantis.

Florida students in higher education will have a chance to share their views on whether they believe diversity in viewpoints can be freely expressed on their campuses. The law requires universities to conduct an annual assessment that will grade the freedom to express ideological and political perspectives on campus. The law takes effect July 1, results from the first round of surveys must be compiled by September 2022.

Blaise Gainey is a State Government Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.