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Political Survey of the Academy

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If all goes as planned by the Republicans who control the government, my adopted state of Florida will require an annual survey of the political beliefs of students at faculty at public universities. This survey is not occurring in isolation. Trump recently signed an executive order aimed at enforcing “free inquiry” on campus and complaints about the liberal domination of the academy are now stock conservative talking points. Image Credit One challenge with assessing this plan is that the details are unclear—questions remain about whether the survey will be compelled (which would seem to violate the 1st amendment), whether the data will be anonymous, who will use the data and to what end. One concern is the question of whether the survey will be compulsory. If it is, it would seem to force students and faculty to engage in compelled expression of their political beliefs. This seems likely to provoke legal challenges based on the 1st amendment. There is also the moral concern about compelling people to identify their political beliefs to the state, something that seems to smell a bit of tyranny. If the survey is not mandatory and there is no punishment or retaliation for not participating (which could, in theory, result in entire schools not completing the survey), then the 1st amendment concerns evaporate, but there is still the moral concern about the state seeking such information about the political beliefs of citizens. There is also the concern about the goal of the survey, its intended consequences and unintended consequences. On the face of it, the planned survey seems innocuous, even benign. It is supposed to have a board that will pick or develop an “objective, nonpartisan and statistically valid survey.” As stated, this survey “considers the extent to which competing ideas and perspectives are presented and members of the university community feel free to express their beliefs and viewpoints on campus and in the classroom.” Objecting to. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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