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Tags: florida | election reform | professors

U. of Florida Prohibits Its Professors From Testifying in Voting Rights Case

university of florida entrance sign
(Dreamstime)

By    |   Monday, 01 November 2021 10:48 AM EDT

The University of Florida has prohibited three professors from testifying for plaintiffs against a voting reform law backed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, saying it is in the school’s best interest not to be in conflict with the state’s administration, The New York Times reported.

University officials told the three political science professors — Daniel Smith, Michael McDonald, and Sharon Wright — that because the school was a state institution, participating in a lawsuit against the state "is adverse to U.F.’s interests" and could not be allowed.

The three had been hired as expert witnesses for organizations opposing the voting reform law, according to the Times.

The school’s refusal to permit the professors to testify was in contrast to its usual policy, which like universities across the nation, has regularly allowed academic experts to give testimony in lawsuits, even when they are against the interests of the political party in power.

Leading figures on academic freedom told The New York Times that the university’s action was most likely unconstitutional, as they were unaware of any similar restrictions on the free speech of professors.

However, University of Florida spokeswoman Hessy Fernandez said that "the university did not deny the First Amendment rights or academic freedom of the professors, [but instead] denied requests of these full-time employees to undertake outside paid work that is adverse to the university’s interests as a state of Florida institution," the Times reported.

But Henry Reichman, an author of two books on academic freedom, said that "the whole purpose of a university and academic freedom is to allow scholars free rein to conduct research. The ultimate logic of this is that you can be an expert in the United States, except in the state where you’re actually working and being paid by the state."

Robert Post, a Yale Law School professor and expert on academic freedom and the First Amendment, added that "the university does not exist to protect the governor. It exists to serve the public. It is an independent institution to serve the public good, and nothing could be more to the public good than a professor telling the truth to the public under oath."

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The University of Florida has prohibited three professors from testifying for plaintiffs against a voting reform law backed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, saying it is in the school's best interest not to be in conflict...
florida, election reform, professors
358
2021-48-01
Monday, 01 November 2021 10:48 AM
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