Faculty group suffers legal setback in lawsuit about college viewpoint surveys

, Spencer Irvine, Leave a comment

Florida is a battleground state when it comes to education, where parents, politicians, teachers’ unions, and college faculty groups are battling over parents’ roles in public education. Now, lawsuits are in abundance and it appears that a Florida faculty group suffered a legal setback.

Florida news station WFSU reported that former Republican Florida House Speaker and former state education commissioner Richard Corcoran will not be forced to testify in a lawsuit challenging a 2021 Florida law which imposed requirements to hold surveys of viewpoint diversity and intellectual freedom on Florida’s higher education campuses.

Corcoran’s role as education commissioner also meant he was a Board of Governors member, which oversaw Florida’s colleges and universities.

Judge Mark Walker, the chief U.S. district judge, granted a protective order request to prevent the deposition of Corcoran in the lawsuit. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, of which the main plaintiff is the United Faculty of Florida, wanted Corcoran to testify about his involvement in the crafting of the law. The plaintiffs allege that the law violates faculty members’ First Amendment rights.

Lawyers for the defendants of the lawsuit, which are the Florida Board of Governors and the state’s Board of Education, argued that the “apex doctrine” protects high-ranking officials from testifying in depositions if information can be sourced from other information sources. Judge Walker agreed with the defendants.

The law will be enacted this year and the surveys will not be required for students. Yet the survey results could provide great insight into how students and higher education employees truly feel about viewpoint diversity and intellectual freedom on Florida’s college and university campuses.