Since the Scopes monkey trial in the 1920s, it has been rare for a state legislature to outlaw the teaching of thoughts, concepts and ideas which are viewed by scientists, philosophers and academicians as being within the legitimate scope of academic inquiry.
However, the Florida Legislature has done just that. With the passage of Senate Bill 266 (SB266), the state has adopted as law a policy whose goal is to prohibit the dissemination of certain ideas.
In response, NCF Freedom has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Florida Board of Governors of the State University System, and the Board of Trustees at New College of Florida. “NCF Freedom is committed to improving New College through a collaborative process that complies with constitutional principles,” says NCF Freedom President Jono Miller. “We intend to act when we see academic freedom, shared governance, or student agency threatened.”
The suit contends that SB266 creates a chill on free speech on the New College campus (and at every other public university in Florida) by censoring the teaching of certain “disfavored” topics and by prohibiting them outright - specifically, any teaching, discussion, and open debate around topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion, institutional bias, and similar ideas.
In addition, as the Complaint points out, SB266 further denies state-supported funding to any institution which offers classes that touch on any of the politically “disfavored” subjects that advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion or “social activism”.
The Complaint underscores how SB266 infringes directly on academic freedoms at New College by quashing the right to free speech and debate on many topics of interest or concern and directly restricts professors at New College and their ability to teach their students within the established curriculum of the College.
Furthermore, SB266 directly scales back protections of faculty tenure and increases the chilling effect of censorship on any professor eligible for tenure.
As the Complaint clearly states, “The marketplace of ideas cannot thrive if politicians simply declare a significant number of ideas to be off-limits for discussion or debate in colleges and universities.”
This suit is an important first step in our work to fulfill our mission and seek justice. With your support, other powerful actions will follow.
This work will require significant investment. We would be grateful if you would consider donating to NCFF to help us cover our legal and associated expenses.