Update on Speaker Renner’s Request for Information Related to DEI Faculty

In recent days, UFF-UF leaders have heard from faculty regarding a memo requesting information from Florida House Speaker Paul Renner about Faculty DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) committees. Please keep us informed about developments in your unit related to the information-gathering process.

The questionnaire, developed by UF in response to the Speaker’s request and shown to us by UF administrators, asks for the names and job titles of employees serving on DEI committees, and all communications to or from DEI faculty committees that contain or reflect assessments, proposals, or recommendations relating to DEI. Communications, as defined by the memo, include all written or electronic communications, including but not limited to emails, text messages, and social media messages.

Though US District Court Judge Mark Walker issued an injunction on the “Stop WOKE” legislation as it pertains to higher education, he ruled that this request for information didn’t violate the injunction as long as the Board of Governors or legislature didn’t act on the information in some way. Since the legislature isn’t yet in session, we can only wait and see how this information is or is not used. Meanwhile, we are very concerned that its intention is to intimidate and silence faculty and staff.

Also concerning is the state’s apparent expansion of the scope of public records. As you know, UF emails are already part of the public record. The state appears to be arguing that any discussion between public employees (including by phone or text) concerning public employee business on which notes are kept is also public. 

Our collective bargaining agreement (CBA) doesn’t have any additional protections beyond the law to prevent the FL government from seeking this information. However, we are committed to fight tooth and nail to protect all faculty members from retaliation should the information gathering turn into an infringement of the CBA’s other provisions, such as those covering academic freedom. 

Our Bargaining Team is in constant contact with the administration. Nearly every other day, our Bargaining Co-Chief Negotiator emails administrators to remind them of the union’s and university’s commitment to academic freedom and warn them not to violate faculty members’ privacy. The team will not cease this pressure until the administration and the state back off. 

You may be able to help us. If you have any information to share about how this information is being gathered in your units, please feel free to contact us or the UFF-UF president Paul Ortiz directly at (831) 334-0131. Your communications with UFF-UF are not public record.

This effort is, of course, of a piece with a comprehensive assault on academic freedom, and indeed higher education in the state of Florida. The legislature is also coming for your right to be represented by a union.  If you are not a UFF member, join now. Becoming a member today is the single greatest way to protect yourself, protect your colleagues under direct fire, and protect the CBA itself, which ensures our rights and academic freedom. We are all in this together.