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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Time for UF to clean house

“It is time to salvage UF’s reputation”

Opinions generic
Opinions generic

UF President Kent Fuchs, Provost Joe Glover, Dean Michael Perri and Dean Colleen Koch should resign immediately. Dan Mullen’s team giving up 52 points to Samford made for an unpleasant few hours, but the actions of Fuchs, Glover, Perri and Koch have permanently damaged the university’s reputation and abdicated its mission. 

Through extensive reporting and court filings, it is safe to conclude that Fuchs and Glover are more concerned about protecting Gov. DeSantis’ ego than they are about upholding the university’s mission to “share the benefits of its research and knowledge for the public good.” 

Fuchs and Glover banned expert testimony from three political science professors renowned for their work on voting behavior, two law school professors with over 60 years combined service to UF and a professor from the medical school with expertise in public health and pediatrics. 

And the cases in which Fuchs and Glover forbid them from providing testimony? Cases that sought to protect voting rights, uphold Florida’s constitutional amendment allowing those with felony convictions to vote (which two thirds of voters supported) and allow for interventions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The reason? This expert testimony would be “adverse to the university’s interests.” The definition of the university’s interests has yet to be provided. Instead, the only information we have learned is that UF has a Director of Crisis Communications and Assistant Vice President for Conflicts of Interest on the payroll. 

The only response from Fuchs and Glover has been to set up a taskforce that is rife with conflicts of interest. Fuchs and Glover have attempted to turn the academic three-legged stool of teaching, research and service into a one-legged stool of satisfying the governor’s political desires. They have yet to realize this one-legged stool will always fall over, through accreditation investigations, poor faculty and student morale and a drop in the rankings. 

In doing so, Fuchs and Glover have not only ignored the university’s mission but have also tarnished the university’s reputation and violated faculty’s constitutional rights and collective bargaining agreement. 

Meanwhile, Perri and Koch enabled the fast-tracked hiring of Dr. Joseph Ladapo, something many suspected and something that we now know to be true thanks to reporting from the Tallahassee Democrat. Throughout this pandemic, Ladapo has repeatedly been on the opposite side of his new colleagues in medicine and public health, whether it was his support of hydroxychloroquine — a drug with risks but no benefits, according to clinical trials — his opposition to FDA approval of COVID-19 vaccines — which clinical trials have found to be safe and effective — or his participation in a press conference alongside Stella Immanuel who believes in the existence of “demon sperm” and “alien DNA.” 

The deans of the medical and public health colleges, respectively, should have not only considered Ladapo’s non-evidence-based beliefs and their impact on the health of Floridians, but also the integrity of the faculty hiring process. Instead, they were “closely involved in shepherding Ladapo through the hiring process.” 

Without the resignations of Fuchs, Glover, Perri and Koch, where does this end? Will medical students be taught that masks are not necessary in the operating room? Will faculty be forbidden from conducting research that is contrary to the governor’s beliefs? Will PhD students be prevented from publishing a dissertation on a topic that makes the governor uncomfortable? Will the university’s accreditation be revoked? 

It is time to salvage UF’s reputation and for the university community to focus on its mission. 

Mike Swain is a Ph.D. Candidate in the UF Department of Epidemiology.

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