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U. of Florida’s Accreditor Will Investigate Denial of Professors’ Voting-Rights Testimony

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tags: voting rights, academic freedom, University of Florida



The University of Florida’s accreditor plans to investigate the flagship campus over the revelation that administrators denied three professors’ requests to serve as paid experts in a voting-rights lawsuit.

Belle S. Wheelan, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges, told The Chronicle on Monday that the accreditor would follow its policy on investigating unsolicited information. Under those rules, accreditors can dig into campus happenings between review cycles if they learn of potential “significant issues of compliance.” Accreditation is needed for colleges to receive federal student aid.

Wheelan said the accreditor would send a letter to Florida’s president, W. Kent Fuchs, on Monday or early Tuesday “asking for information to verify or clarify the news media’s account of what happened,” she wrote in an email. “From there, we will decide if there are any noncompliance issues.” She declined to comment further.

Many accreditors, including Florida’s, demand that governing boards be independent and free from influence from external sources.

In a federal-court filing on Friday, plaintiffs’ lawyers in the case wrote that university administrators had told the three faculty members that “they were not authorized to serve as experts” in a lawsuit that challenges a new Florida law limiting the ways in which state residents can vote. In a statement, the university acknowledged that it had barred the three professors from taking part in the lawsuit, saying that such paid work was “adverse to the university’s interests as a state of Florida institution.”

The state enacted a law this year that restricts the use of drop boxes for absentee ballots and adds requirements on voter identification, among other things. The lawsuit in question challenges the legislation as racially discriminatory.

Read entire article at Chronicle of Higher Education

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