Academic Freedom and Speech on Campus

Since 1976, UFF-UF has defended academic freedom on the UF campus through our collective bargaining, our grievance representation, and our activism. See Article 10 of the CBA, “Academic Freedom and Responsibility.” Currently, we are battling attacks on tenure, attempts to censor faculty teaching and research, surveys required by the state to survey faculty and student political opinions, UF restrictions on faculty outside activities, and more. Learn about the issues, and our actions, below.


Attacks on Tenure

University World News (06/08/22):  Tenure is under attack in the US and your country is next “We’re hearing this false narrative, over and over again, that faculty are inserting their personal beliefs in the classroom, that they are ‘quote’ indoctrinating their students, forcing them to believe things that are untrue or unsupportable. Every time Governor DeSantis or other politicians make that statement, they can never find examples to prove their point.’  J Andrew Gothard, President of the United Faculty of Florida

CBS 12 (04/19/22): DeSantis signs higher-ed accreditation, tenure changes “All of Florida’s faculty already undergo an extensive performance review process, tenured or otherwise; they are already held accountable by their peers and employers,” Gothard said in a statement.

WCJB 20 ABC (04/19/22): Gov. DeSantis announces higher education reform, tenured professors must undergo 5-year review In a statement, the United Faculty of Florida wrote: “DeSantis made it clear today that controlling the thoughts and actions of the higher education community is more important to him than the quality of education Florida’s students receive.”

News4Jax (04/19/22): Gov. DeSantis signs higher education reform bill dealing with accreditation, tenure The governor’s approval of the bill drew an immediate objection from United Faculty of Florida President Andrew Gothard. The union has argued that individual schools already have processes to review faculty tenure.

Tampa Bay Times (04/19/22): DeSantis signs bill limiting tenure at Florida public universities Andrew Gothard, president of United Faculty of Florida, said the comments by DeSantis and Sprowls reflected a deep misunderstanding of how higher education works. ”From where we stand, the only indoctrination happening right now is coming from Tallahassee.”

CW 44 Tampa CBS (04/19/22): Gov. DeSantis Aims to Reform Higher Education In Florida “This bill is trying to score cheap political points at the expense of the future of Florida’s over a million higher education students across the state,” said Gothard.

WPTV (04/19/22): Tenured professors in Florida must undergo 5-year review, under new law The United Faculty of Florida responded to the law signing, saying DeSantis is “playing political games with the futures of over a million of Florida’s students.”

Inside Higher Ed (04/20/22): Florida Passes Posttenure-Review Law Andrew Gothard, president of Florida’s statewide faculty union, the United Faculty of Florida, said in a statement Tuesday that DeSantis “enjoys touting the top-ranked quality of our state’s higher education system, while simultaneously failing to recognize that Florida’s higher education faculty are the reason for that ranking.”

The Center Square (04/20/22):  DeSantis signs higher education reform bill into lawThe United Faculty of Florida released a statement criticizing the new law. “The statements made today are playing political games with the futures of over a million of Florida’s students.”

Yahoo News (04/20/22): Florida limits professor tenure, citing ‘indoctrination’ concerns The head of United Faculty of Florida suggested the lawmakers and governor did not understand how universities operate.

ABC Action News (04/20/22): Tenured professors in Florida must undergo 5-year review, under new law “The only missing piece in that equation is that tenured faculty cannot be fired for political reasons, meaning the passing whims of the latest politician in power cannot be used to harm the future of Florida’s students and institutions,” Gothard said.

Florida Phoenix (04/20/22): DeSantis, other state officials, go after university professors, tenure protections The United Faculty of Florida, a statewide university faculty union, responded, saying: “If Gov. DeSantis and Florida’s legislative leaders demonstrated anything during today’s press conference, it is that they fundamentally do not understand how Florida’s higher education system works,” according to the union’s written statement.

HigherEd Drive (04/20/22): Florida bid to change public colleges’ accreditors, add post-tenure review becomes law “Gov. DeSantis made it clear today that controlling the thoughts and actions of the higher education community is more important to him than the quality of education Florida’s students receive,” Gothard said.

“Intellectual Diversity” Surveys

CBS4 News (07/22/22): Higher education concerns continue with some universities as fall semester approaches “HB 233 the viewpoint discrimination law is the glue that holds all these pieces together,” President of United Faculty of Florida (UFF) Andrew Gothard said.

Tampa Bay Times (05/09/22):  Florida campus surveys under scrutiny in lawsuit. ‘A political tool.’ “The law intrudes upon the private views and associations of students and faculty and … pits students against faculty members in a battle over classroom expression, and public colleges and universities against their own faculty,” the complaint says.

KUTV , FOX 31 and  FOX 11 News (04/12/22): Florida union leader calls college free speech survey ‘authoritarianism’ At UFF, we fight for the rights of all Floridians, not merely those who agree with the political party in power. We believe that every American has the right to think, feel, and believe as they see fit,” Gothard says, according to the UFF. “Living in Florida, under the influence of Governor DeSantis, does not abridge that right.

The Oracle (04/10/22): UFF condemns Viewpoint Diversity Survey This extends to universities, where staff, faculty and students would be able to sue universities if they believed they were being prevented from accessing some political viewpoints or information. UFF said this may lead to the spreading of hate speech, which universities would be unable to suppress due to the legislation’s provisions.

WJCT News (04/09/22): The Florida Round Up:  Diversity viewpoint surveysAndrew Gothard, UFF President [Audio 32:47-44:26]

WLRN (04/08/22): The Florida Round Up – Florida faculty are fighting back on state survey “Interestingly enough, neither of those two surveys asks what influence local administrators might be having on the political climate on campus. They don’t ask what board of trustees members might be doing to influence political climate, and they don’t ask what local politicians might be doing.” Andrew Gothard, UFF President. [Audio 32:47-44:26]

The Rock Hill Herald (04/06/22): Editorial Roundup: Florida These laws aren’t about fighting corporate abuse, protecting children or unharnessing speech on campus. They’re about keeping large, influential employers from challenging Republican talking points on social and cultural issues.

CBS 4 News (04/06/22): FL state faculty union vs “Intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity” survey “The only goal and the only role that this survey can play is to chill the freedom of speech, freedom of association, and right to privacy that our students and faculty have,” Gothard [President of the United Faculty of Florida (UFF)] said.

Creative Loafing Tampa (04/06/22): Federal court denies state motion to dismiss constitutional challenge over law that led to ‘intellectual freedom’ surveys The plaintiffs [UFF] have argued that the surveys violate First Amendment rights and could lead to the Republican-dominated Legislature punishing campuses because of political ideologies reflected in the surveys.

WQCS 88.9FM (04/06/22): Motion to Dismiss Lawsuit Against Survey of State School Employees and Students Denied “The United Faculty of Florida (UFF) is thrilled by this decision,” said UFF President Andrew Gothard in a statement issued following the Tuesday decision. “It indicates that the free speech rights of Florida’s higher education community will have their day in court … we look forward to seeing this law struck down.”

Florida Phoenix(04/06/22): FL’s new college survey on political leanings may have flaws that could invalidate results The Phoenix has found that links related to the surveys have been sent to people who are not supposed to be taking it.

The Epoch Times (04/05/22): Florida Rolls Out ‘Viewpoint Diversity’ Survey for Public College Students, Faculty “This survey is an attack on the fundamental rights of all Floridians, and it has no place in a state or society that claims to be free,” the Union said in a statement, arguing that many of the questions are “leading in nature.

Alachua Chronicle (04/05/22): State university faculty union encourages faculty, staff, and students to ignore “Viewpoint Diversity” survey One weakness of the survey is that anyone who has the link can complete it; other than distributing the link to email addresses affiliated with the schools, there does not appear to be any effort to ensure that the responses are from actual students or employees at state colleges or universities.

WCJB (04/05/22): DeSantis issues “viewpoint diversity” survey stirring controversy among university students and faculty “If our colleges and universities are so biased, why is it that parents all over the world are fighting to get their kids into our universities? Answer me that, Governor Ron DeSantis,” said Paul Ortiz, President of UF’s chapter of United Faculty of Florida.

WQCS 88.9FM (04/05/22): United Faculty of Florida Opposes “Ideological” SurveyUnited Faculty of Florida (UFF) characterized the survey as “ideological” saying it seeks to determine the political leanings of all faculty, staff, and students as well asking respondents to share their viewpoints on the politics of their friends, colleagues, and classmates.

The Baharat Express (04/05/22):  Florida colleges must administer a “Diversity of Views” survey. Don’t take it, says the faculty union. “During the committee process when this law was a bill there was not a single complaint, there was no evidence of any repression on campus. Still, the governor and politicians said it was necessary because professors are trying to suppress students.” said Candi Churchill, the union’s executive director.

Spinnaker (04/05/22): Ignore “Viewpoint Discrimination” survey, Florida faculty union says “We don’t need or want a return to the dark days of McCarthyism and the Johns Committee in Florida. Academic freedom, freedom of speech, and exposure to diverse perspectives in the classroom are core values for our campus community,” United Faculty of Florida at the University of North Florida (UFF-UNF) President Nicholas de Villiers said. 

WFSU (04/05/22): Union urges Florida higher ed students and faculty to ignore ‘intellectual freedom’ surveys “Ignoring this survey is an act that protects individuals of all political persuasions, now and into the future. This survey would not pass ‘validity tests’ in any institutional review process, as there is no way to ensure that responses will reflect the demographics of the institution. It is not worthy of time away from our teaching and research,” the union said in a statement.

The Chronicle of Higher Education (04/04/22): Florida’s Colleges Must Administer ‘Viewpoint Diversity’ Survey. Don’t Take It, Faculty Union Says “During the committee process when this law was a bill there was not one complaint, there was no evidence of any kind of suppression on campus. Yet the governor and politicians said this was necessary because faculty are trying to repress students.” Said Candi Churchill, Executive Director of United Faculty of Florida.

Florida Phoenix (04/04/22): Statewide faculty to FL college students, staff: ignore new ‘viewpoint diversity’ survey The surveys are to measure “intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity,” defined in Florida law as “the exposure of students, faculty, and staff to, and the encouragement of their exploration of, a variety of ideological and political perspectives.”

WCTV (04/04/22): Union Urges Ignoring ‘Intellectual Freedom’ Surveys “The state will frame any data collected from this survey, regardless of what it shows, as evidence that our profession indoctrinates students. I see no reason, then, for our faculty to willingly provide information for that purpose when the entire instrument was designed to hurt higher education in the first place,” Niner said in a statement. Patrick Niner, president of the faculty union at Florida Gulf Coast University.

HigherED Dive (04/04/22): Battle heats up over ‘viewpoint diversity’ survey in Florida public colleges United Faculty of Florida said boycotting the voluntary survey would protect “individuals of all political persuasions.” The Republican-dominated state government began requiring public colleges to distribute the questionnaire under a 2021 law.

WFLX (04/04/22): Union urges Florida faculty to ignore controversial survey The United Faculty of Florida urged faculty to ignore the survey, saying it would create a chilling effect on free speech and freedom of association on campuses.

WUSF (04/04/22): Florida university professors react to implementation of ‘intellectual freedom’ survey The [UFF-UF] staff argues that “surveillance has no place in Florida’s higher education system” and that DeSantis’ behavior “is not a standard of leadership any member of Florida’s higher education community should support.”

CBS47 Action News Jax (04/04/22): Florida universities, colleges asking students & staff whether their campuses are politically biased “Faculty do not welcome the interference of an explicitly partisan survey that infringes on our privacy and civil liberties,” said UNF chapter President Nicholas de Villers in an emailed statement.

Associated Press and Florida Politics (04/04/22): Union urges Florida faculty to ignore controversial survey The union says that while the surveys are supposed to be anonymous, faculty members can be identified and targeted through questions about their demographic background and where they work.

Times Higher Education (04/04/22): Florida fears brain drain as political interference mounts The state’s governor and other Republican leaders acted in recent months to subject students and faculty to tests of personal viewpoints, and to bar faculty countering the state in courtroom testimony. From there, they have moved to erode tenure protectionsrestrict and interfere in campus leadership searches and appointments, and reduce funding to locations that teach gender and racial equity.

Beaumont Express (04/04/22): Union urges Florida faculty to ignore controversial survey “Florida’s government has no right to know the thoughts, feelings, or political or religious beliefs of anyone, including the higher education community,” the letter said. “Privacy is the bedrock of democracy and a safeguard against autocratic control.”

WFTV (04/01/22): Judge OKs sending controversial survey to Florida college, university students and staff “A constitutional right means it applies to everyone, even if and especially if you disagree with those in power. That’s what we are here to protect,” Gothard said. [Video 00:00 – 01:47]

Tampa Bay Times (04/01/22): Judge clears way for ‘intellectual diversity’ surveys at Florida colleges Andrew Gothard, president of United Faculty of Florida, responded to Walker’s ruling by calling on people to boycott the surveys. The union leader cited concerns that the surveys ask respondents to provide information that could result in faculty members being identified and targeted.

Miami Herald (04/01/22): Judge declines to block intellectual freedom surveys on Florida university campuses Lawmakers and Gov. Ron DeSantis last year approved a law (HB 233) requiring schools to distribute the surveys annually. But the measure drew a legal challenge from the United Faculty of Florida union and other opponents who argued that it violates the First Amendment.

The Capitolist (03/28/22): Opponents rush to court to block Florida’s intellectual freedom surveys on college campuses Attorneys for the plaintiffs, including the United Faculty of Florida union, contended that allowing the surveys to move forward on the timeline “threatens irreparable harm to plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights.” The motion said Republican lawmakers passed the measure to target what they perceived as liberal bias on campuses

Florida Phoenix (9/24/21): New college survey for “intellectual freedom” has already spawned a lawsuit “Any law that relies on the good will of legislators and politicians over the protections of the Constitution is not a good law,” said Andrew Gothard, the UFF president. 

NEA Today (8/18/21) : Florida Faculty Fighting for Free Speech and Ideas  “The goal is to intimidate faculty and students into holding one political viewpoint, and that would be the viewpoint of the political party in power,” says Andrew Gothard, president of the United Faculty of Florida, the statewide NEA-affiliated faculty union.

News Service of Florida (08/05/21) : ‘Intellectual Freedom’ Law Faces Constitutional Challenge

WLRN 91.3FM (8/05/21): The United Faculty of Florida on Wednesday joined the lawsuit, which was filed last month in federal court in Tallahassee. 

WTSP (Ch​.10) Tampa-St​. Petersburg (8/04/21): Florida university union joins lawsuit against state’s ‘intellectual diversity’ law …challenging a recent law that calls for a survey of beliefs of university and college professors. United Faculty of Florida announced it would join other students and faculty members in challenging the ‘intellectual..

Florida Phoenix (9/24/21): New college survey for “intellectual freedom” has already spawned a lawsuit “Any law that relies on the good will of legislators and politicians over the protections of the Constitution is not a good law,” said Andrew Gothard, the UFF president. 

“Stop-Woke” Legislation and attacks on critical race theory

The Gainesville Sun (07/12/22): UF receives $3 million for new civics program with conservative links Efforts to measure, restrict ‘woke culture’ on campuses ..the “Stop WOKE” law passed this year, could imperil up to $100 million in performance funding for UF .. That also has prompted a lawsuit.

The Gainesville Sun (06/28/22): I won’t let Florida’s ‘Stop WOKE Act’ silence discussions on race in my classroom I am not going to allow HB 7 to stop me from offering my students the most challenging scholarship on the Holocaust, eugenics, racism and related fields. The Stop WOKE Act will have zero impact on my research, public speaking or on my class lesson plans. – Article written by UFF-UF President Paul Ortiz, Guest Columnist 

Florida Record (06/27/22): Florida’s ‘anti-WOKE’ law drawing more criticism from academic freedom advocates “Universities are supposed to be places of uninhibited debate, and the state of Florida has decided that debate should be inhibited,” Adam Steinbaugh, a foundation attorney, told the Florida Record.

WUFT (06/20/22): Florida higher education union decries new ‘anti-WOKE’ law“I’m not going to pull a book or stop talking about a topic because I think some politician in Tallahassee wants me to stop talking about it,” Ortiz said. “If I did that, I would be doing disservice to my students who no longer would be able to have the benefit of the best scholarship on any given topic.”

News-Press / Palm Beach Post (06/16/22): DeSantis’ ‘Stop WOKE Act’ faces court test as universities become targets. At issue: free speech “People in hiring positions are telling us they’re hearing from professors in other states who question, ‘What’s the political environment like on your campus?’” said Andrew Gothard, president of the United Faculty of Florida, a union representing 25,000 members across the state.

FIRE (05/10/22): University of Florida’s chilling message to faculty: Abide by House Bill 7 because our funding’s on the line As Andrew Gothard, president of the United Faculty of Florida union, observes, “Not only does [the university’s guidance] editorialize around the law and continue to perpetrate the falsehood that higher ed faculty are inserting their personal views into classroom lectures, but it also shows once again that UF administration is more comfortable aligning itself with Tallahassee than it is defending the rights of its own faculty and student bodies.”

University Business (05/06/22): Woke-up call: UF president sends video to faculty to deal with DeSantis-backed bill “We were really disappointed in that video for two reasons,” Gothard said. “We’re seeing administration serving as a mouthpiece for legislators and the governor, instead of defending the rights and the great work of the faculty.”

KFDM, FOX 17 (05/06/22): University of Florida sends a video explaining ‘Stop Woke Act’ law to faculty “There’s a very broad difference between what a faculty member personally believes and what theories or concepts or ideas they support as a professional and a scholar based on the available evidence that is out there,” Gothard said.

Academic Freedom Victory at UF : College of Education Approves doctoral program “Critical Studies in Race, Ethnicity, and Culture in Education (05/03/22) : “After several more meetings with college level administration, faculty contacted our union, the United Faculty of Florida, and I filed a grievance that quickly garnered unanticipated national attention. The university approved the concentration, representing a major milestone in the battle for academic freedom and critical race studies against this fascist form of suppression.” [Christopher Busey, a UFF-UF member and professor in the College of Education]

CBS4 News (05/02/22): UF sends a video explaining “Stop Woke Act” to facultyMeera Sitharam is UF’s chapter of UFF vice president. “Whose this person who’s going to decide whether I’m being objective,” Sitharam said. She said the bill consistently talks about the importance of being objective, but wants to know who determines if something is objective.

The Chronicle of Higher Education (05/02/22): He Accused the University of Florida of Violating His Academic Freedom. The Provost Disagrees. When asked, Busey said that threat was implicit. “If you or anyone else can’t understand that as … a faculty member of color, being called into a meeting by the associate provost where you’re told that your work can no longer be supported, that you may want to seek employment elsewhere, and if you move forward with the concentration as is, that there will be consequences” constitutes a direct threat, then “I don’t know what else to say to that.”

The Washington Newsday (12/02/21):  The University of Florida has been accused of renaming a study on critical race in order to avoid offending legislators.Conservatives, on the other hand, have accused this framework of being deliberately divisive and “anti-white.”

Associated Press / Washington Post / Kenosha News and KOB4 (12/02/21): Complaint: UF wants to ax ‘critical race’ from study title The grievance is seeking to stop the university’s attempt “to eliminate and/or whitewash” critical race theory from the curriculum.

WTSP 10 Tampa Bay (12/01/21):  Union says UF wanted professors to remove words like ‘critical’ and ‘race’ from syllabi “Faculty members in the College of Education were informed by the associate provost and college administrators that they would not approve a concentration of study because it includes the words ‘critical’ and ‘race’ and advised changing syllabi and course descriptions to appease the Governor,” the United Faculty of Florida chapter wrote.

CBS 4 News (12/01/21): UF teachers union says UF has a new violation of academic freedom “We were a jim crow university this is what makes what happens in the college of education more disturbing,” said [Paul] Ortiz.

WCJB 20 (12/02/21): University of Florida professor files academic freedom grievance after critical race curriculum was barred According to the grievance, UF Associate Professor Chris Busey was asked to change the title of his curriculum, which is on “Critical Studies in Race, Ethnicity, and Culture”. Specifically, Busey said leadership in the College of Education would not approve anything with “critical” and “race” in the title.

Miami Herald (12/01/21): Critical race theory becomes flash point for GOP, UF heading into legislative session “What’s next? Are we going to be telling the people in biology, you can teach evolution but don’t call it that?” UF College of Journalism and Communications professor Churchill Robert, the faculty union’s chief grievance officer, said in an interview Wednesday.

CBS 4 News (12/01/21) : Academic freedom grievance filed against UF over critical race curriculum “These intrusions into curricular matters represent an egregious and unprecedented violation of academic freedom,” the grievance says these actions, “Threaten to undermine faculty autonomy and tarnish the reputation of the University of Florida.”

Tampa Bay Times (12/01/21): At UF, someone used ‘critical’ and ‘race’ in a sentence. Trouble ensued. The reason: fear on the part of top UF administrators that the words “critical” and “race” in proximity might offend the Florida Legislature.

The Independent Florida Alligator (12/01/21):  UF professor files grievance over school’s denial of critical race theory concentration title Busey and the United Faculty of Florida are requesting the university stop requiring faculty to eliminate an accepted area of study in relation to critical race theory from the curriculum.

The Chronicle of Higher Education (11/30/21): ‘It Just Felt Wrong’: U. of Florida Faculty Say Political Fears Stalled an Initiative on Race Chris Busey, who filed the grievance, told The Chronicle that the episode has been destabilizing and demoralizing. “I’ve never hid my identity as a race scholar. It was in my job talk. It was in my cover letter. It’s who I am as a scholar.” In other words, “You knew who I was when you hired me,” Busey said. “Don’t expect for me to change because Ron DeSantis said so.”

Faculty Barred from Outside Activities (fall 2021)

WCJB (03/30/22): Free UF Coalition advocates for academic freedom as UF Professor files suit against school Students, professors said free the University of Florida from what they call censorship from administrators. “This is a crisis time for academic freedom,” said Professor Dr. Paul Ortiz. [Video 00:00 – 01:19]

MyCBS4 News (03/30/22):  #FreeUF Academic Freedom day at UF “Academic freedom is not something we can take for granted.. candidly, many people are afraid,” Ortiz said. [Video 00:00 – 01:55]

WUFT (03/30/22): University of Florida students, professors hold teach-in on academic freedom Rachel Hartnett, co-president of Graduate Assistants United at UF… is concerned about how UF’s recent behavior will reflect on her degree, she said. She also worries about UF’s accreditation being investigated by The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Miami Herald (02/04/22): Accrediting agency scrutinized flagship universities, so GOP lawmakers want new process United Faculty of Florida President Andrew Gothard was concerned that the effort would “intimidate accrediting bodies into allowing more political interference on our higher education campuses.”

CBS 4 News (01/21/22): Federal judge blocks UF from requiring approval for faculty to testify against state “He’s saying you know, China doesn’t have to pass a law, people began to anticipate. Our German colleagues here called it anticipatory obedience.” said Paul Ortiz [President of UFF-UF Chapter].

The Gainesville Sun (12/16/21): Accreditation authority notifies UF of plans to dig deeper into academic freedom concerns  “This is very much in the interest of students and parents in the state of Florida. External organizations like SACSCOC … play an important role as checks and balances against  actions that are unduly politically influenced.” Meera Sitharam, VP of University of Florida- UFF.

Tallahassee Democrat (12/14/21): Democrats portray Gov. DeSantis as foe to academic freedom at faculty union forum The labor union representing university and college professors and instructors had also invited Gov. Ron DeSantis. He declined to attend alongside Congressman Charlie Crist of Pinellas County, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, and state Sen. Annette Taddeo of Miami. 

Miami Herald (12/13/21): UF trustee chairman was back channel to DeSantis office over pandemic and remote classes Fuchs, who has said previously in interviews that he does not have the authority to challenge decisions from the DeSantis administration, sent Hosseini a draft email he was preparing for faculty announcing there would be no move to online classes. “Could you let me know if you have any changes?” Fuchs asked.

CBS 4 News (12/10/21): UF teachers union demands an apology from UF Board of Trustees “The board of trustees had the gall to deny that there is a crisis of academic freedom at the University of Florida,” said Paul Ortiz president of UF’s chapter of UFF

Tampa Bay Times (12/09/21): UF president, faculty agree on changes to safeguard free speech “The broad perception now is that UF is less a public university and more a tool of a few highly placed Tallahassee politicians,” he said. “There’s no committee you can form to change that. That requires much broader commitment and recommitment to intellectual freedom.”

The Independent Florida Alligator (12/06/21): Academic freedom coalition steps forward as UF denies critical race theory concentration Congress and UF’s accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, both opened investigations to evaluate the school’s recent actions. UFF and UF’s faculty senate are calling for separate additional independent investigations.

The Independent Florida Alligator (12/06/21): UF Board of Trustees takes aim at faculty, unions over academic freedom scandal “If it was just faculty who’s upset about this, it would be one thing,” he said. “But in reality, it’s the whole community that’s appalled. It’s colleagues all across the country. If it was just a minority of faculty, it wouldn’t have received the kind of sustained attention that it is receiving.”

Gainesville Sun (12/03/21): UF board chairman defends administration in academic freedom controversy “This statement is an insult to the faculty who, under great duress, have guided the institution through the most challenging crisis in its history during the global pandemic. We expect an immediate apology,” [Paul] Ortiz [President of UFF-UCF Chapter] said.

UF News (11/23/21): UF affirms no external influence in faculty expert testimony decisions The full report can be found here

WCJB 20 (11/23/21): University of Florida releases results of task force and response to inquiry on conflict of interest policy Requests will only be denied “when clear and convincing evidence establishes that such testimony would conflict with an important and particularized interest of the university…” or if there is a conflicting time commitment.

National Education Association [NEA] (11/18/21) : Florida Faculty Stand Up For Academic Freedom Hours after a United Faculty of Florida (UFF) press conference earlier this month that detailed the University of Florida (UF)’s recent attacks on academic freedom and free speech, university administrators reversed course.

Tampa Bay Times (11/18/21): Congressional committee to investigate UF as academic freedom flap widens The House Committee on Oversight and Reform cites concerns that “UF is censoring its faculty based on viewpoint.”

Tampa Bay Times (11/18/21): Congressional committee to investigate UF as academic freedom flap widens The House Committee on Oversight and Reform cites concerns that “UF is censoring its faculty based on viewpoint.”

The Independent Florida Alligator (11/15/21):  Students, faculty unite to protest amid academic freedom controversy “We don’t care that they reversed their decision,” said Rachel Wolfrey, UF College Democrats spokesperson. “We don’t think that that’s enough by any means.”

WUFT NPR (11/15/21): UF students and faculty protest First Amendment concerns Sean Trainor, a lecturer of writing and public speech and UFF-UF member, spoke during the protest and said that the support from students was more than welcome. “When students want to participate, when they are concerned for situations faculty are facing, that’s great,” Trainor said before his speech. 

The Gainesville Sun (11/15/21): Faculty must have freedom to work without political interference The Retired Faculty of the University of Florida board of directors… We recommend that, as a first step, the task force be expanded to include designees of the UF Senate president and the United Faculty of Florida president.

WCJB Gainesville (11/12/21):  ‘UF works because we do’: Faculty, students protest conflict of interest policy and task force “For me the question of the task force isn’t a question of the composition,” [Sean] Trainor said. “It’s a question of principle. An institution that has engaged in wrongdoing shouldn’t be investigating its own mistakes. Trainor said the United Faculty of Florida (UFF) and UF Faculty Senate will meet on Wednesday to discuss an independent investigation. [Video 00:00-01:56]

The Gainesville Sun (11/12/21): Protest on the street and in writing show continued concern at UF over academic freedom “The present moment provides the university with an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to academic freedom,” the professors wrote in the letter to Fuchs.

CBS Channel 4 News (Gainesville) (11/12/21): Faculty, students, and staff hold a protest on university ave “The union plans to file a chapter grievance talking about various violations of the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement,” said Meera Sitharam vice president’s at UF’S chapter of United Faculty of Florida (UFF). . [Video 00:00 – 01:48] 

WCJB Gainesville (11/11/21): United Faculty of Florida protest UF’s conflict of interest policy The United Faculty of Florida are expressing their dissatisfaction with the University of Florida’s response to professors being blocked from testifying against the state. [Video 00:00 – 00:32] 

Tampa Bay Times (11/10/21): Faculty union calls on academic groups to investigate UF “We consider this a victory for our members, our union, and all faculty and students at the University of Florida, but our fight for academic freedom and free speech is far from over,” [Elizabeth Dale, a member of UF’s faculty union] said in the union’s news release.

The Independent Florida Alligator (11/10/21):  Giving Gators boycott donations to UF following academic freedom controversy UF alumni expressed their disagreement with UF in tweets that announced their decision to halt donations until the university was back on the “right side of academic freedom,” said Paul Ortiz, United Faculty of Florida president. 

The Miami Herald (11/08/21): Professors sue over conflict of interest policy despite UF’s reversing its decision Faculty members, it says, were not employed “to be mouthpieces for a particular administration’s — or any administration’s — point of view.”

The Independent Florida Alligator (11/08/21): UF barring professor testimony raises political questions “They don’t really represent the people of Florida,” Ortiz said. “They represent their own corporate interests.”

CBS Channel 4 News (11/08/21) : Teachers union leader says UF hasn’t met all demands “Why were these faculty singled out, that’s what we still need to understand,” said Ortiz.

Jacksonville Business Journal (11/08/21): UF reverses course on professors’ testimonyThe original decision had riled faculty members and put school administrators under scrutiny.

Orlando Weekly (11/07/21) : University of Florida backs off from attempt to control professors’ freedom to testify In response to the growing scrutiny earlier this week, University President Kent Fuchs said the professors could testify if they didn’t get paid or use school resources.

Flagler Live (11/07/21): UF Backs Off Gag Order on 3 Professors Testifying in Challenge to Restrictive Voting Law “Professors Smith, McDonald and Austin are renowned experts in the field of voting rights. They are also members of our faculty union. Since Oct. 13, leaders of our grievances team, as well as our executive committee, have met around the clock with these three courageous faculty members,…

Local 10 News [South FL] (11/07/21):  This Week in South Florida Full Episode: November 7, 2021 | University of Florida faculty union VP Meera Sitharam “Things began to change at UF since March 2020, with administration trying to police educators.. its ethically corrupt…” [11:30- 20:55]

Miami Herald (11/05/21):  UF controversy is latest chapter in long conflict between politics, academic freedom Those concerns grew late last month when it was learned that the University of Florida fast-tracked the hiring of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ divisive surgeon general, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, into a tenured position at the medical school.

The Gainesville Sun (11/05/21): UF faculty union sticks by its list of demands on academic freedom “This impacts all Floridians and all Americans,” Ortiz said. “As advocates of civil liberties and as union members, we feel that the University of Florida — its denial of intellectual freedom — is an outrageous blow to academic freedom that gravely threatens our democracy.”

Tampa Bay Times (11/05/21); UF faculty union calls for boycotts over academic freedom Faculty union leaders at the University of Florida called on donors Friday to withhold their contributions until the school takes steps to assert its independence from state politicians.

The Washington Post (11/05/21): Professors sue University of Florida, claiming free speech restraints The complaint by the professors contends the university is discriminating against them based on viewpoints they wish to express, and by trying to prevent them from offering expert testimony on issues of overwhelming public importance, UF violated their First Amendment rights.

WFSU News (11/05/21): UF’s evolving policies on professors testifying in state cases are drawing conservative and liberal concerns about academic freedom “Academic freedom and free speech allows students and scholars to challenge ideas and to use our discoveries and expertise for the public good without fear of reprisal,” said Andrew Gothard, president of the United Faculty of Florida and a professor at Florida Atlantic University.

CNN Newsource (11/05/21) : University of Florida reverses decision, will allow professors to testify as paid experts in voting rights case The union representing faculty on campus, United Faculty of Florida-University of Florida, called today’s announcement a positive step forward. “However, UFF-UF is looking for a clear and unambiguous commitment to academic freedom going forward,” said Paul Ortiz, UFF-UF president.

The Gainesville Sun (11/05/21) : University of Florida President Fuchs reverses decision blocking professors’ testimony against state It is an abrupt change of course following blistering criticism across the university community, from noted academics across the nation and amid a probe by the accreditation authority essential for student aid.

The New York Times (11/05/21): University of Florida Reverses Course to Allow Professors to Testify Against State Facing a storm of protest, the university said three professors could testify as expert witnesses in a voting-rights lawsuit against the state.

WESH 2 Channel (11/05/21): After UF blocks testimony, professors across Florida worry about freedom of speech A spokesperson for the University said, “Regarding the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges: like SACS, the University of Florida places the highest importance on freedom of speech and academic freedom. We welcome the opportunity to address all questions.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education (11/05/21) :  After Scathing Criticism, U. of Florida Will Let Professors Testify Against the State The reversal follows a week of turmoil on the campus spurred by administrators’ decisions to bar faculty members from serving as expert witnesses.

The Washington Post (11/04/21):  Opinion: The scandal involving Ron DeSantis and the silenced professors just got worse Mr. DeSantis’s spokeswoman echoed that argument in her statement, saying the Constitution “guarantees the right to free speech, but there is no right to profit from speech.”

The Washington Post (11/04/21): Opinion: The University of Florida’s decision to silence its professors is an assault on academic freedom The American Association of University Professors, condemning the decision “in the strongest possible terms,” noted that among the stated missions of the university is its obligation “to share the benefits of its research and knowledge for the public good.”

The Miami Herald (11/03/21): UF restricted five other professors’ participation in legal cases against the state These actions show how the University of Florida has gradually moved toward suppressing the voices of its scholars who want to offer legal or subject-matter expertise in cases that challenge the policies advanced by the governor or Legislature.

The Washington Post (11/03/21): Opinion: We work for the people of Florida. That’s why we can’t let the University of Florida silence us on a voting rights lawOur job as public university professors and researchers is not to be mouthpieces for a particular administration’s — or any administration’s — point of view.

The Independent Alligator (11/03/21): Five additional professors say UF tried silencing them from testifying against state “We gave the university numerous opportunities before the story hit the media to change course and do the right thing and support academic freedom and the university decided not to do that,” said Paul Ortiz, the president of UF’s chapter of the United Faculty of Florida. 

NPR (11/03/21): Some Florida professors are blocked from testifying in suits against the state “I don’t see how the voting rights law is a matter of against the interest of the University of Florida or frankly against the interest of the Governor. We should all be ensuring free and fair elections and access to the polls.” said Candi Churchill, Executive Director of United Faculty of Florida. [Audio 2:00 -2:14]

The Chronicle of Higher Education (11/02/21) :  ‘I’m Speechless’ What prompted the U. of Florida to tell professors not to testify? “To Meera Sitharam, a vice president of UF’s faculty union and a chief negotiator… It seemed like a way for the university to “police” faculty members’ outside activities..”

WESH 2 News Orlando (11/02/21):  After UF blocks testimony, professors across Florida worry about freedom of speech “The professors and educators need to be able to teach the truth based on science and facts not on a political party or ideology of whoever is in charge at the moment.” said Candi Churchill, Executive Director of United Faculty of Florida.

Florida Politics (11/02/21): UF in political firestorm over decision to block professors’ testimony on voting lawsuit The union representing 25,000 higher education employees, United Faculty of Florida, urged administrators to “get out of the way and allow faculty to tell the truth based on their expertise and research.” 

WGFL 4 News (11/01/21): Three UF professors were denied permission from UF officials to testify in a state case “None of us want to embarrass the University of Florida, the faculty here the students we love the university but we understood that right away the university was putting faculty and students in jeopardy,” said Ortiz.

Tampa Bay Times (11/01/21): UF’s big mistake on academic freedom | Editorial It’s not hard to guess what’s going on, a combination of political pressure and some state funding hanging in the balance.

The Washington Post (11/01/21): Opinion: Why did Florida ban state professors from challenging Ron DeSantis’s voting law? Wasserman Schultz noted that such activity by professors was routinely approved in the past, adding that the only difference now is “who is governor.” 

Orlando Sentinel (11/01/21) : A choice for the University of Florida: Academic freedom or government stooge Rest in peace, academic freedom, because the University of Florida has decided faculty members may speak their minds only when it’s in the best interests of the Gators and the governor.

WMFE 90.7 (NPR) (11/01/21) : University of Florida prohibits professors from testifying Organizations speaking out in support of the professors include the United Faculty of Florida, a Union representing more than 25-thousand faculty members at Florida’s public universities, and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). 

Inside Higher ED (11/01/21) : U of Florida Bars Professors From Helping Lawsuit Against the State The University of Florida banned three professors from helping the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the state opposing Florida’s new restrictions on voting rights.

UK Today News (10/31/21): University of Florida bars professors from testifying against DeSantis-backed voting law Meanwhile, the United Faculty of Florida, a union representing the state’s faculty staff, said that the school’s claim that the professors’ testimony would pose conflict is “outrageous.” “UF does not exist to protect DeSantis or any party,” it said on Twitter on Friday.

The Gainesville Sun (10/31/21) : UF professors could testify in voting rights case if they are unpaid, spokeswoman says “They undermine the university’s adherence to principles of academic freedom and the constitutional rights of UF’s faculty, staff, and students,” wrote UFF President Andrew Gothard and Executive Director Candi Churchill in a Friday email to Fuchs.

The Washington Post (10/30/21): University of Florida bars faculty members from testifying in voting rights lawsuit against DeSantis administration The University of Florida barred three faculty members from testifying for plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging a voting-restrictions law enthusiastically embraced by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), which activists say makes it harder for racial minorities to vote. 

The New York Times (10/29/21): Florida Bars State Professors From Testifying in Voting Rights Case Three University of Florida professors have been barred from assisting plaintiffs in a lawsuit to overturn the state’s new law restricting voting rights… The ban is an extraordinary limit on speech that raises questions of academic freedom and First Amendment rights.

UFF-UF Opposes White Supremacist Speaker (Fall, 2017)

On October 19, 2017, avowed white supremacist Richard Spencer spoke on the University of Florida campus.  UFF-UF voiced opposition against Spencer’s appearance when it was first proposed in August, 2017, just days after a deadly rally of white nationalist groups in Charlottesville, VA, at which Spencer was present. We held that Spencer’s appearance here presented a danger to faculty, staff, and students. And, because the university is required to ensure safe working conditions, free from discrimination or harassment, it may have represented a violation of our Collective Bargaining Agreement.

A full account of this event, and the union’s role in it, can be found here: Nazis on Campus:  A Union and Community Responds by Susan Hegeman and Paul Ortiz (PDF, 139 KB)

 Other resources: