Recent Actions by the University of Florida are Part of a Long History of Collusion Against FacultyBreaking News
tags: academic freedom, University of Florida
The University of Florida prides itself on ascending to a top-five public university but in recent months, allegations of politically motivated infringements on academic freedom have ignited controversy and made their way to courts and Congress.
Open discourse has a checkered history on campus.
Throughout the university’s history, administrators have terminated or forced the resignation of professors whose ideologies were revolutionary for their time and went against the state government. Some professors say the most recent examples fall in line with a pattern of academic repression.
Earlier this year, three renowned UF political science professors were barred from testifying as expert witnesses in a voting rights lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration, despite having done so in the past. While this decision was reversed, it wasn’t an isolated incident. A law professor was told that he couldn’t use his affiliation as part of signing an amicus brief for a similar lawsuit. A medicine professor was also forbidden from using his expertise to participate in lawsuits about mask wearing to protect against COVID-19.
Attacks on academic freedom have historically occurred during periods of social stress, and they often come from the political right against the left, UF archivist Carl Van Ness said. In UF’s history, professors have been fired or reprimanded after speaking about slavery, wars, communism and, recently, critical race theory in ways that didn’t align with the state government’s ideologies.
In previous noteworthy examples at the university, the administration has worked in tandem with the state government in silencing professors.
“University administrators will often say they support academic freedom, but when these assaults occur, they rarely rally to the defense of academic freedom,” Van Ness said.
Restricting professors’ academic freedom is more common in Southern schools than any other U.S. region, he said.
From 1956 to 1965, the Johns Committee investigations are regarded today as an infamous example of academic freedom violations. The Florida Legislature was looking for connections between communism and the civil rights movements. But the “red menace” turned into the “lavender menace” when gay students and faculty were persecuted, and the university fired at least 15 professors for their sexuality.