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Overview of HB 7

In brief, HB 7 amends a current Florida non-discrimination statute (Section 1000.05, Fla. Stat., the Florida Educational Equity Act) to provide that an educational institution, including FSU, may not subject any student or employee to training or instruction that “espouses, promotes, advances, inculcates, or compels such student or employee to believe” any of eight “specified concepts” (listed below, each based on race, color, sex, or national origin) because such action would be per se discriminatory under the amended statute.

The eight specified concepts are:

  1. Members of one race, color, national origin, or sex are morally superior to members of another race, color, national origin, or sex.
  2. A person, by virtue of his or her race, color, national origin, or sex is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.
  3. A person’s moral character or status as either privileged or oppressed is necessarily defined by his or her race, color, national origin, or sex.
  4. Members of one race, color, national origin, or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race, color, national origin, or sex.
  5. A person, by virtue of his or her race, color, national origin, or sex bears responsibility for, or should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of, actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, national origin, or sex.
  6. A person, by virtue of his or her race, color, national origin, or sex should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment to achieve diversity, equity, or inclusion.
  7. A person, by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, bears responsibility for and must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress because of actions, in which the person played no part, committed in the past by members of the same race, color, national origin, or sex.
  8. Such virtues as merit, excellence, hard work, fairness, neutrality, objectivity, and racial colorblindness are racist or sexist, or were created by members of a particular race, color, national origin, or sex to oppress members of another race, color, national origin, or sex.

The revised statute applies to instructor-led class content (i.e., syllabus, lectures, assessments, and assigned materials) delivered by a faculty member, instructor, or graduate assistant assigned to a specific course. It also applies to guest lecturers or speakers brought in by the instructor. Because instruction occurs within a course, the revised statute does not apply to faculty speaking engagements outside of a specific course (unless attendance by students within a specific course is mandatory or offered as the only option in exchange for tangible benefits, e.g., extra credit), faculty research outside of a specific course (e.g., publishing scholarly articles), faculty commentary outside of a specific course, student to student discussions (whether inside or out of class), or to student-generated coursework such as presentations.

Importantly, the revised statute does NOT preclude instructing students on topics pertaining to race, color, national origin, or sex. Nor does the statute preclude discussion of the specified concepts listed above; these may be discussed as part of a course, so long as the instruction is “given in an objective manner without endorsement of the concepts.” The University interprets this language according to its plain meaning and as being consistent with faculty members’ existing obligations to teach their academic subjects in an objective and skillful manner. As stated in the FSU Faculty Handbook section on Academic Freedom:

Academic freedom and responsibility are essential to the full development of a university’s faculty and apply to teaching, research, and creative activity, and assigned service. In the development of knowledge, research endeavors, and creative activities, a faculty member must be free to cultivate a spirit of inquiry and scholarly criticism and to examine ideas in an atmosphere of freedom and confidence. A similar atmosphere is required for excellence in university teaching. Consistent with the exercise of academic responsibility, an instructor must have freedom in the classroom to discuss academic subjects. The university student must likewise have the opportunity to study a full spectrum of ideas, opinions, and beliefs, so that the student may acquire the critical thinking skills crucial to success in life and occupation. Objective and skillful exposition of such subject matter is the duty of every instructor, and the university does not serve to shield individuals from experiences of ideas and opinions that differ from their own.

Also, see Article 5 (Academic Freedom and Responsibility) of the UFF-FSU Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”).

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