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Monday, June 27, 2022
NEWS  |  CAMPUS

Students, faculty unite to protest amid academic freedom controversy

UF community gathered to show its united stance against UF’s decision to bar professors from testifying against state

Students protest against UF for initially denying three professors the ability to testify in a case against the state on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021 on the corner of West University Avenue and Northwest 13th Street.
Students protest against UF for initially denying three professors the ability to testify in a case against the state on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021 on the corner of West University Avenue and Northwest 13th Street.

When Robert Hatch recalls the institution to which he has devoted 30 years of his life, he feels ashamed. 

“I am ashamed that our university has sunk to the level it has,” the UF College of Medicine professor said. 

Ever since UF denied three political science professors the ability to testify against the state, many have expressed their dismay toward the university. The events led roughly 40 protesters to band together Friday on the corner of West University Avenue and Northwest 13th Street. They gathered with colorful, handmade posters and their voices for a common goal: to hold UF accountable for its actions. 

Despite UF reversing its decision Nov. 5, which allowed the three professors to testify as expert witnesses, many believe there’s still a battle to fight. 

“We don’t care that they reversed their decision,” said Rachel Wolfrey, UF College Democrats spokesperson. “We don’t think that that’s enough by any means.”

The event was put together by UFCD, Young Democratic Socialists of America, United Faculty of Florida and Graduate Assistants United. The groups are hoping their efforts will ensure this will not happen again in the future, Wolfrey said.

During the hour-long demonstration, five people presented prepared speeches, including a statement from Sean Trainor, a UFF member and lecturer in the Warrington College of Business. 

Each speaker expressed disapproval for how UF’s administration and President Kent Fuchs handled the situation. They highlighted the importance of standing up for academic freedom and the consequences that would arise if they did not. 

“What right does UF have to tell us what we can and can’t do when we are not on the clock?” Trainor said. 

Trainor argued if they didn’t stand against UF now, what would stop the university from dictating what professors teach and what students learn.

He also believes UF is incapable of investigating its own wrongdoings. An outside body with no loyalties to the state, the American Association of Universities or the American Association of University Professors should lead the investigation.

Protest leaders publicly vocalized the opinions many of the faculty and students have yet to share. 

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“It was definitely very disheartening as a brand new student to have to see that my university is doing these actions,” said Amelia Packham, an 18-year-old political science freshman. 

It’s important the student body speaks out to stand behind the faculty and show it cares just as much as the faculty does, she said. Packham was excited to come to UF because she thought it was a place that encouraged learning and finding your voice, but the current events have let her down.

Similarly, UF’s prestige and respected name is what enticed Hatch to seek employment at the university. For decades he considered himself to be very fortunate to work for the university, but that has since changed, he said. 

The institution, Hatch said, has increasingly leaned in the direction of limited academic freedom, so the administration’s decision was not shocking to him. 

Contact Elena Barrera at ebarrera@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @elenabarreraaa.



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Elena Barrera

Elena is a second-year journalism major with a minor in health sciences. She is currently the University Administration reporter for The Alligator. When she is not writing, Elena loves to work out, go to the beach and spend time with her friends and family.


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