Man, and I thought this academic year would be personally notable mostly for my alma mater’s terrible, horrible, no-good football season. A new report from The Tampa Bay Times:
UF researchers felt pressure to destroy COVID-19 data, faculty report says
Faculty Senate panel alleges more violations of academic freedom. Says staff was told not to contradict state on pandemic issues.
Fear of upsetting state officials is pervasive among faculty at the University of Florida, to the point that race-related references have been edited out of course materials and researchers felt pressure to destroy COVID-19 data, according to a report released Monday by a Faculty Senate committee.
The six-person panel was convened three weeks ago to investigate academic freedom issues after the university decided to bar three political science professors from testifying in a lawsuit against the state. But its findings go well beyond that episode and were so disturbing — especially regarding COVID-19 research — that the group decided to speed up its work, said Danaya Wright, a constitutional law professor and former Faculty Senate chairperson who served on the committee…
The report further states that UF employees were told “not to criticize the Governor of Florida or UF policies related to COVID-19 in media interactions.” It says they were told not to use their UF titles or affiliation in written commentary or to give oral presentations. And faculty at UF Health expressed concerns over funding being in jeopardy if they did not adopt the state’s stance on pandemic regulations in opinion articles, the report says.
Last month in this space, we discussed how DeSantis and the wingnut supermajority statehouse had cowed the university to the point that it wasn’t allowing professors to testify as experts in legal proceedings about voter suppression laws or the governor’s dumb and destructive crusade against mask mandates in schools.
A week ago, The Independent Florida Alligator (UF student newspaper) reported on a rather broad effect of CRT panic at the university, where you’d think administrators could trust graduate students not to become whitey haters via exposure to a framework for intellectual inquiry, but nah:
A UF professor filed a grievance over UF’s hesitancy to create a concentration that included the words “critical” and “race,” adding to the ongoing challenges to academic freedom at the institution…
Professors attempted to get a concentration titled “Critical Study of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture in Education” approved, but UF’s administration denied the proposition.
The grievance stated the faculty was told in a meeting Oct. 18 that the graduate school would not approve any course with the words “critical” and “race” in the title. Administration asked for the course to be changed to something less offensive to the Florida legislature, the grievance read.
This is, or at least should be, an embarrassment to every current and former UF student and faculty member. The spineless president of the university, Kent Fuchs, is dithering around with task forces when he should be publicly telling the governor and legislature to back the fuck up.
Meanwhile, the real power at UF, Board of Trustees Chairman Mori Hosseini (coincidentally a DeSantis megadonor), is fuming about all the negative attention, which means the faculty union is doing its job:
“To this I say enough,” Hosseini said. “This behavior is unacceptable. It is disrespectful….This will not stand. It must stop and it will stop. If you allow something to happen, that means you condone it. Let me tell you, our legislators are not going to put up with the wasting of state money and resources, and neither will this board. And we shouldn’t…”
Hosseini also praised Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls, Senate President Wilton Simpson and Gov. Ron DeSantis for their support of the university. He took issue with the notion that UF’s decisions regarding the three professors were the result of political pressure.
To that I say, bull-fucking-shit. Hosseini is not only a major FL GOP donor, he co-chaired DeSantis’s transition team (along with as yet unindicted pervert Matt Gaetz) and flies the governor’s wife to events on his private jet.
Hosseini also foisted our new kook of a surgeon general on the state and the University of Florida, importing the crackpot from UCLA to spread dumb pandemic conspiracy theories and terrible medical advice for the princely sum of $500K per year. The whole arrangement is corrupt as fuck.
UF recently obtained a top 5 ranking among public universities, and they were damn proud of it. I don’t know how academia works, but I suspect top scholars have already started to avoid a university that is run like the Hazzard County sheriff’s office.
Sadly, there’s no one to step in and clean up this mess because there’s a Republican fox guarding every entry point to the UF henhouse. But I know the faculty union will keep squawking.