BOG Free Expression Statement mocks true freedom of expression

Non-endorsement correctly recognizes that our state does not practice what it preaches when it comes to expression and idea exchange in higher education. | Via State University Sytem of Florida

PantherNOW Editorial Board

During the last faculty senate meeting of the fall on Nov. 14, senate chair Noel Barengo informed senators that the senate would again not endorse the Board of Governor’s State University System Free Expression Statement

Our editorial board fully stands behind this move. It may seem counterintuitive for a student newspaper committed to free speech to do so, but we are convinced that this statement makes a mockery of true freedom of expression. 

“The purpose of this Statement is to…seek our campus communities’ commitment to maintaining our campuses as places where the open exchange of knowledge and ideas furthers our mission,” reads the statement. 

It reads quite differently than other recent regulations from the BOG and legislation from Tallahassee. 

If we’ve learned anything in the last year or so, it’s that our state officials do not represent the interests of those in higher education – particularly in the “open exchange of knowledge and ideas.”

From proposed prohibitions on diversity, equity and inclusion funding to shutting down campus organizations to banning critical race theory in state university curricula, it’s clear our representatives do not value what they supposedly promote. 

At PantherNOW, we wholeheartedly stand by free expression, regardless of political affiliation or leanings, academic background, or anything else.

Nobody among faculty, staff, or students should feel shouted down or passed over in bringing ideas to the table. It’s better to respectfully disagree about ideas in higher education if it means promoting diverse thoughts. 

On its surface, the statement says just that. However, ignoring the contexts in which the BOG asks universities to endorse that statement is foolish. 

Faculty senate’s last senate meeting of the semester, Nov. 14 | Elise Gregg, PantherNOW

That’s exactly how Barengo and former senate chair Deanne Butchey explained the rationale behind non-endorsement the last two years. 

“On the surface, they look very innocuous and very, very good,” said Butchey during senate. “In practice, a lot of the things that are coming out are very different.” 

It’s hypocritical in the face of the numerous other regulations and legislations from Florida. 

Endorsing free speech isn’t an issue at all. However, non-endorsement correctly recognizes that our state does not practice what it preaches when it comes to expression and idea exchange in higher education. 

“We should empower and enable one another to speak and listen, rather than interfere with or silence the open expression of ideas,” reads the BOG’s statement. 

Ironic, given the state’s recent track record of quite literally interfering with and silencing the open expression of ideas. 

“That statement tells us we can express ourselves – but it doesn’t line up,” Barengo said during the meeting.  

Our editorial board applauds the faculty senate for not endorsing this statement in response to hypocrisy from our representatives. To the BOG: before you ask student and faculty leaders to approve this statement, ask yourselves if you’re even keeping your own commitments.

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