Friday, April 22, 2005


State Representative Dennis Baxley (R - Ocala) is one of the most conservative legislators in Florida. His claim to fame this session is a bill --- HB837, better known as the "academic freedom" bill --- would allow university students to sue their instructors if they are taught "extremist or untrue views" or fail to include scholarly viewpoints other than the professor's own. It is Baxley's attempt to counter what he views as a pervasive liberal bias in higher education, and is part of a nationwide effort by right-wingers to force colleges and universities to their point of view.

Yesterday, Baxley --- who counts the Education Council and Education Appropriations Committee among his legislative committee assignments --- spoke to university presidents about his reasons for sponsoring this bill, noting that it comes from his "longtime concerns the university culture has gravitated far to the left and has increasingly lost ideological diversity." He even torpedoed the president of his alma mater, Florida State University, by using the claim that a professor at the Tallahassee school told students on the first day of class that he didn't give "A" grades to Republicans in his class. Of course, he didn't bother to go into specifics or name names.

But no worry...quite yet. While HB837 passed committee and is awaiting floor action, it's companion bill in the Senate (SB2126, sponsored by State Senator Steven R. Wise of Jacksonville and co-sponsored by Senator Bill Posey of Rockledge) has had no committee action with only two weeks remaining in the session.


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