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Wednesday, December 01, 2021

The latest news on UF’s barring of professors from testifying against the state

The Alligator compiled a live timeline of updates regarding the events

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This is a developing story. Check back for current updates.

November 23: President Fuchs released his task force’s report on its recommendations in a university-wide email. He also accepted the recommendations. 

The task force advised the university to preserve its right to deny requests that pose as a conflict of commitment. But emphasized professors have a right to comment and serve as experts in cases against the state, especially in cases that challenge the constitutionality, legality or application of a Florida law.

The professors suing UF over the scandal said they were disappointed by the recommendations in a joint statement.

UF also sent documents to its accreditor in order to comply with its investigation into the scandal. In a press release, UF stated it sent the documents over and affirmed that no outside influence affected its decision to bar professors from testifying against the state.

November 22: President Fuchs’ Task Force on Outside Activities met for its final meeting. The members said they sent Fuchs their final recommendations one week ahead of schedule. They did not make the recommendations immediately available to the public.

November 18: Congress members Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Jamie Raskin sent a letter to President Fuchs to reiterate their concerns about the infringement of academic freedom at UF. The Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties will be investigating UF to see to what extent the university “undermined the integrity of academic freedom and interfered with employee’s constitutional right to speak freely.” 

They have requested UF send them specified information about their conflicts-of-interest policy and the university’s denials of faculty’s requests by Dec. 2. 

November 17: The UF Faculty Senate held an emergency meeting to devote more attention to academic freedom. The Faculty Senate Welfare Council drafted a resolution that suggests the senate call upon the UF administration to invite an external, independent evaluation of UF’s policies. The resolution aims to ensure separation of the school from outside groups, particularly state and federal governments. 

The Faculty Senate discussed a previously appointed ad hoc committee, acting as a fact-finding body to report back to the Senate about UF’s practices affecting faculty’s ability to engage in outside activities. The committee is not subject to The Sunshine Law, so all information submitted is confidential to ensure that faculty members feel comfortable submitting reports without fear of repercussions. 

November 16: The dean of the College of Liberal Arts said the decision to deny requests from the three UF political science professors to testify against the state came from UF’s administration, according to a Chronicle of Higher Education report. At a CLAS Assembly held today, he said the decision was reviewed by central administration, who deemed the testimony to go against the school’s interest.

November 15: Three additional professors have joined a lawsuit against UF. The lawsuit was originally filed by Sharon Austin, Michael McDonald and Daniel Smith Nov. 5. Now, they are joined by professors Jeffrey Goldhagen, Teresa Reid and Kenneth Nunn.

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November 12: The three professors who were originally barred from testifying sent a letter to President Fuchs expressing disappointment in his Task Force on Outside Activities. The letter states that two members of the task force, Laura Rosenbury and Terra DuBois, have been involved in the policies that barred the professors in the first place. Therefore they are not suitable to be on the task force, according to the letter. 

November 9: President Fuchs’ Task Force on Outside Activities met for the first time. They agreed to create a plan to review UF’s policies on disclosure of outside activities and conflict of interest within 20 days.

November 5: President Fuchs asks the university to reverse its decision barring professors from testifying.

UF officially reversed its decision to not allow professor Michael McDonald from testifying against the state.

The three professors who were originally denied testimony against the state have filed a lawsuit against UF.

November 4: Fuchs addressed the controversy for the first time since news broke out in a senate faculty meeting. He alluded to a future announcement that he said would not be appropriate to make at this time.

Fuchs also announced who would compose the task force to review the school’s conflict of interest policy. The names included three faculty members; Katie Vogel Anderson, John Kraft and Clay Calvert; two deans, Hub Brown and Laura Rosenbury; and one staff member, Terra DuBois.

Chief judge Mark Walker of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida addressed the issue. He stated that although the issue is not in front of a court at the moment, it is possible the issue could go before a court if the United States Attorney’s Office decides to pursue an investigation and initiate criminal proceedings. 

November 2: A Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau report finds that five additional professors were limited in their abilities to act as expert witnesses in cases against the state. 

Paul Ortiz, UF faculty union president, said UF has been ignoring pleas from professors and the union to reverse its decision to restrict professors from testifying against the state from as far back as Oct. 13. 

President Fuchs received a letter from 10 U.S. Congress members who expressed their “profound disappointment with the decision to prevent” the three professors from serving as expert witnesses.

November 1: UF’s accreditor opened an investigation into the school following the New York Times report, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

UF released a statement announcing a task force revising the school’s conflict of interest policy. The statement also stated the professors can testify if they do not receive compensation.

October 29: The New York Times released a report outlining how UF blocked three political science professors from testifying in a case against one of the state’s voting laws. The professors were barred from testifying because their participation as expert witnesses is adverse to the university’s interests, according to the school’s response to requests to testify from the professors.

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