Florida Judge (Mostly) Sides with Faculty in UF Speech Dispute

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tags: academic freedom, University of Florida

A federal judge granted, in part, a preliminary injunction against the University of Florida Friday in a high-profile academic freedom case. All the plaintiffs are professors. Most accused the university of using its conflict-of-interest policy to block them from serving as expert witnesses in legal challenges to state laws on voting rights and a ban on school mask mandates.

The decision means that UF cannot invoke its conflict-of-interest policy regarding any faculty or staff requests to engage as expert witnesses or provide legal consulting in litigation involving the state, until otherwise ordered.

‘It Could Never Happen Here’

Mark E. Walker, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida and a two-time UF alum, wrote the scathing 74-page order that likened UF’s behavior to recent reported acts of censorship at the University of Hong Kong.

“Some might say, ‘that’s China, it could never happen here,’” Walker wrote of this comparison. “Yet, when several UF professors were called to speak truthfully on topics related to their expertise in cases challenging the state, their requests to speak truthfully and critically in courts of law were denied in an all-too-familiar display of anticipatory obedience. It was not until the wider world caught on to what was happening that the muzzle was lifted.”

Walker added in a footnote, “If those in UF’s administration find this comparison upsetting, the solution is simple. Stop acting like your contemporaries in Hong Kong.”

Read entire article at Inside Higher Ed