Clay Calvert Comments on Florida “Viewpoint Diversity” Law
Clay Calvert, director of the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project and Brechner Eminent Scholar in Mass Communication at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications, is quoted in “A Florida Free Speech Professor Discusses Ron DeSantis’ Assault on the First Amendment” published in Rolling Stone on June 29.
Calvert comments on Richard Spencer’s controversial 2017 appearance on the UF campus, about the new law signed by Gov. DeSantis requiring public universities to survey students about their beliefs, the greater “landslide” of anti-First Amendment legislation in Florida, and how the discourse around free speech changed during the Trump era.
Calvert was not surprised that the new law passed. “Florida is a very large red state that perceives free speech to be under attack, whether it’s on social media platforms or in public universities. [They could say that] a university is supposed to be a diverse marketplace of ideas, and you’re not allowing that to happen, so therefore, until you do better, we’re going to withhold this funding from you. That’s the dire scenario, the worst-case scenario. The positive side might be that it’s simply informational.”
“So the irony might be that while the bill is supposed to ensure a diversity of viewpoints, the professors might squelch completely expressing all views because they may be perceived as endorsing one. That’s always a danger,” said Calvert.
He adds, “We’re almost seeing a free speech flip flop from the past, where we used to think of liberals as being the supporters of free speech and protecting the little guy’s ability to speak up. Now, I think the perception is that protecting a wide range of hateful speech is damaging to the principle of equality.”
“I do fear for the overall state of free speech as the government slowly tries to manipulate the marketplace of ideas. Basically, that’s what’s happening [in Florida],” he said. “Lawsuits have already been filed against the Big Tech [bill], and I think they’ve been filed against the protest bill, so some of these will shake out because we do have the First Amendment. But it is a rather scary time right now.”