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Motion to Dismiss Lawsuit Against Survey of State School Employees and Students Denied

Photos courtesy U.S. Justice Department
Last Friday Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker rejected a request by opponents for an injunction against the survey. Then on Tuesday he denied a state motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

Tallahassee Fla.- April 5, 2022: The Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida has denied the state of Florida's motion to dismiss a lawsuit against the annual “intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity survey” of higher education faculty and students at state universities and colleges.

On Tuesday District Judge Mark Walker denied the state's motion to dismiss, after rejecting a request from opponents on Friday for an injunction against distribution of the survey.

“The United Faculty of Florida (UFF) is thrilled by this decision," said UFF President Andrew Gothard in a statement issued following the Tuesday decision. "It indicates that the free speech rights of Florida's higher education community will have their day in court ... we look forward to seeing this law struck down."

UFF filed the lawsuit in August last year. The union represents 25,000 faculty members at all twelve Florida public universities, sixteen state and community colleges. They argue that the survey "chills First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and invades the privacy of Florida’s higher education students, faculty, and staff."

The survey was emailed Monday, April 4. UFF has called on its members to boycott it.

The survey is mandated by HB 233 which was passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed into law last year by Gov. Ron DeSantis. The law requires public universities to conduct an annual assessment of viewpoints and freedom of expression on state campuses. Supporters say that the aim of the measure is to "promote intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity within the State of Florida's State University System and Florida College System." They have accused state universities of drowning out conservative voices on campus.

The survey is anonymous and states at the start: "Respondents are free to not answer any question or withdraw from the survey at any time. Responses will only be reported at the group level, not at the individual level. Respondents’ identities will never be published or compromised in any way." It includes 24 questions which can be seen by clicking on this link: