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Friday, December 02, 2022

Investigation upholds UF accreditation

A report found UF mended academic freedom scandal with integrity

An accreditation committee cleared UF’s name after a monthslong investigation following its possible restriction of academic freedom. 

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, which accredits universities across the southeast U.S., determined Thursday UF has operated with integrity as they take steps to protect academic freedom. 

“While there are still unresolved concerns among individuals at the institution regarding complex aspects of how conflict of interest, conflict of commitment, and consideration of viewpoint may erode academic freedom, the institution has endeavored in good faith to put safeguards and corrections in place,” the report read.

The SACSCOC Special Committee began its investigation in November after news outlets reported the university restricted professors to testify in a voting rights case. SACSCOC visited the university in April before finalizing its findings. 

It carefully observed the internal investigation launched by UF President Kent Fuchs as he created a Task Force to review the situation and determine whether UF violated academic freedom. 

The association’s report said Fuchs and faculty leadership recognized the problem and quickly crafted short and long-term actions to resolve it. The university revised its procedures for addressing conflicts of interest and introduced new processes to disclose conflicts of commitment, situations where an individual’s time is detracted from their primary employment toward an external activity. 

The report also recognized the efforts UF has made to help its community understand the new procedures, but it noted concern about state legislation “regarding censorship in the classroom.” The “Stop Woke Act,” signed in April, limits how race-related issues are taught in public universities, colleges and workplace training. Another new law will require state universities and colleges to have a new accreditor every cycle.

The report prompted Mori Hosseini, a chairperson of UF’s Board of Trustees, to complain about the media's coverage of the investigation. He said in its meeting Thursday the university has become collateral damage for the media’s agenda throughout the investigation. 

Hosseini said the university will push through those “attacks” with integrity, though he was frustrated with what news publications left him with.

“Where do I get my reputation back? Where do I get his [President Fuchs’] reputation back?” he said. “Where do I get the reputation of this university back?”

Contact Faith Buckley at fbuckley@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @_faithbuckley.

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Faith Buckley

Faith is a third-year journalism student specializing in sports media. She hopes to one day work as a play-by-play announcer for the National Hockey League. 


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