JUNE 15, 2006
A group of Florida college professors has joined forces with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to sue the state for passing a new law that bans the use of public money for “acadmeic” travel to any country labeled as a terrorist nation by the U.S. State Department.
The bill was recently approved by the Florida legislature and, this week, Governor Jeb Bush signed it into law. It will take effect next month and has caused quite a ruckus in liberal academic circles because it will prohibit the use of state funds to implement, organize, direct or coordinate activities related to or involving travel to a terrorist state.
The U.S. government’s list of terrorist-sponsoring nations features Cuba, North Korea, Sudan, Syria and Iran and therefore taxpayer dollars would be forbidden from financing so-called academic research excursions to these countries.
The ACLU and plaintiff scholars claim the law is unconstitutional and that the primary effect is to deny Americans information about other parts of the world. The leader of the organization’s Florida chapter went on to call it “crude censorship” that serves to keep Americans uninformed.
The fact remains, however, that the new law does not ban professors from traveling to Cuba or other terrorist nations as many do annually with federal licenses. It simply forbids the use of public funds to do it. This makes their argument, that limiting travel to Cuba, for instance, will inhibit important efforts to understand the economy and agriculture of Florida’s communist neighbor, quite weak.
Additionally, many academics say they worry that the law will discourage top students who have in an interest in studying Cuba or other countries on the list from remaining at Florida schools. The Florida Masochist says that argument is idiotic because the scholars can still travel, they just won’t get state money to do it.
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