Statement from Retired Faculty of UF on Academic Freedom

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Statement of RFUF Board of Directors 

November 10, 2021 

TO: President Kent Fuchs 

The Retired Faculty of the University of Florida (RFUF) Board of Directors is concerned with  reports of interference by state politicians and donors in the free speech of faculty as well as in  university policy and hiring decisions. This has already resulted in substantial harm to the  governance and functioning of the University, the good name of UF in the state and nation, and  the wellbeing of students, staff, and the general public. 

UF has recently been ranked in the Top 5 of US public universities, accomplishing this after  years of dedication to quality teaching, research, and service. Perception that outside actors are manipulating UF’s participation in ongoing discussions on health, elections, and civil rights and  in faculty hires could certainly yield negative results for all.  

While we appreciate that President Fuchs has rescinded the decision to ban professors from  testifying in court on voter rights restrictions in Florida, and while we agree with the decision to  activate an investigation into the issues, as retired faculty of the University, we question the  decision-making process that led to this crisis about academic freedom and political interference. As a state institution, teaching, research, and service must be on behalf of all Floridians, whether  or not it serves the specific interests and objectives of the state government or of powerful  individuals and interest groups within the state.  

Faculty members must have the academic freedom to conduct research, teach, and communicate  to the public facts and ideas stemming from their academic explorations and there should be no  political interference in university hiring decisions. We are concerned that the composition of the  newly created task force to review UF’s practice regarding requests for approval of outside  activities is unrepresentative of broader faculty and university concerns, and we recommend that  as a first step, the task force be expanded to include designees of the UF Senate president and the  UFF president. 

Carmen Diana Deere (IFAS), RFUF President, 2021-2022 

R. Hunt Davis Jr. (CLAS) 

John Foltz (IFAS) 

Alison Gerencser (Law) 

Abraham Goldman (CLAS) 

George J. Hochmuth (IFAS) 

Pushpa S. Kalra (Medicine) 

Saeed R. Khan (Medicine) 

James L. Kurtz (Engineering) 

Richard Phillips (Libraries) 

Robin Poynor (Arts) 

Harry B. Shaw (CLAS) 

Ann P. Smith (Nursing)