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Restrictions on Faculty Testimony at UF Included Non-Paid Testimony, COVID Protocol

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tags: voting rights, academic freedom, COVID-19, University of Florida



It’s not just three professors.

An effort by the University of Florida to deny professors the ability to testify in litigation against the state extends beyond the previously known political-science faculty members, whose restrictions were revealed in a court filing on Friday. Administrators denied requests from a fourth professor who had asked to participate in litigation supporting mask mandates against Florida in August, too, The Chronicle first reported Tuesday. He said he would not have been compensated for this participation.

The professor, the pediatrician Jeffrey L. Goldhagen, was asked to testify and serve as a declarant in litigation that followed Gov. Ron DeSantis’s executive order that forbade mask mandates in schools as the Delta variant of Covid-19 tore through the state. Goldhagen is chief of the division of community and societal pediatrics at the University of Florida‘s College of Medicine, in Jacksonville, and a professor in pediatric palliative care. Goldhagen said he would have spoken about why masks work and why children need protection from the virus.

Goldhagen served as a declarant — someone who files a statement that they declare to be true — in the two lawsuits anyway, he said. He asked a lawyer in the third lawsuit to subpoena him for his testimony, but the lawyer, Charles Gallagher, did not, citing a lack of time. Gallagher confirmed Goldhagen would not have been paid for his testimony. The case is now in appellate court.

A spokeswoman for the University of Florida did not respond to questions on Tuesday on how the decisions about Goldhagen’s testimony had been reached, and whether other faculty members had also received rejections. The Miami Herald on Tuesday identified four University of Florida law professors who “did not have their name affiliated with their university” as they signed a “friend of the court” brief challenging state law. They did so after an administrator had said they would need to indicate they were signing in their “individual capacity.”

Goldhagen’s case appears to contradict the university’s earlier explanation for why the political-science professors’ testimony was blocked. The campus’s president, W. Kent Fuchs, and provost, Joe Glover, wrote on Monday night that the political-science professors would be “free” to testify “pro bono on their own time without using university resources.” Goldhagen wrote in the disclosure he submitted to the university that he would not be using university resources and indicated, when asked if he would be paid more than $5,000 annually, that he would not. He told The Chronicle that administrators never separately asked him if he would be paid at all.

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At the foundation of American universities is the idea that faculty members have the freedom to study what they want and share that knowledge without constraint. In Gainesville, this appears to come with a caveat: not when it challenges the politicians in power.

Read entire article at Chronicle of Higher Education

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