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Friday, July 01, 2022

UF professor files grievance over school’s denial of critical race theory concentration title

Professors were told that including the words “critical” and “race” together in a course title could be viewed negatively by the state

Tigert Hall is seen on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021.
Tigert Hall is seen on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021.

A UF professor filed a grievance over UF’s hesitancy to create a concentration that included the words “critical” and “race,” adding to the ongoing challenges to academic freedom at the institution.

UF Associate Provost Chris Hass met with the College of Education’s faculty Sept. 28 to discuss the curriculum initiatives surrounding race and antiracism, according to a grievance filed by Chris Busey, a UF College of Education professor. 

Professors attempted to get a concentration titled “Critical Study of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture in Education” approved, but UF’s administration denied the proposition. 

The grievance stated the faculty was told in a meeting Oct. 18 that the graduate school would not approve any course with the words “critical” and “race” in the title. Administration asked for the course to be changed to something less offensive to the Florida legislature, the grievance read. 

Discussions about curriculum pertaining to race issues began after two laws, House Bill 233 and House Bill 57, were proposed by state legislators. If passed, HB57 would prohibit professors from teaching critical race theory, a cross-disciplinary intellectual movement that began after the civil rights movement in the 1960s following the idea that race is a social construct.

Many lawmakers oppose the implementation of critical race theory in education —  including Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has vocalized his position against the theory. This education method remains controversial because opponents of critical race theory believe children should not be taught that America is inherently racist, according to an AP News report.

During the Sept. 28 meeting, Hass told the faculty members UF Vice President for Government and Community Relations Mark Kaplan said the College of Education was viewed favorably by the state and had been receiving money from it. Therefore, Hass said Kaplan recommends avoiding any actions that could jeopardize this relationship.

The complaint comes as UF faces a firestorm of criticism regarding accusations that its administration appeases the state too often. The criticism stems from a scandal where UF barred professors from testifying as expert witnesses in lawsuits against the state. 

Faculty members have repeatedly expressed concern about the possibility of external political influence affecting the administration’s decisions after learning about the ties some of the Board of Trustees have to DeSantis. 

The filed grievance states these intrusions into curricular matters violate academic freedom and further tarnish the reputation of UF. 

Busey and the United Faculty of Florida are requesting the university stop requiring faculty to eliminate an accepted area of study in relation to critical race theory from the curriculum. 

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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