University of Florida will no longer bar professors from testifying in voting rights case, school announces

The University of Florida announced Friday it will no longer bar three political science professors from serving as paid expert witnesses in a voting-rights case against the state, reversing course on a decision that put the state’s flagship university under intense scrutiny for a week.

University President Kent Fuchs said in a statement Friday that he asked the school’s Conflict of Interest Office to reverse its decision barring professors from providing expert testimony in legal challenges involving the state regardless of personal compensation provided they are not using school time or resources.

The professors barred from testifying on Friday said they are still weighing what to do next. “The University curtailed their First Amendment rights and academic freedoms, and as long as the University’s policy remains, those rights and freedoms are at risk,” they said in a statement via their attorneys. “We are continuing to assess our options.”

They also asked that the school apologize to the professors in the voting lawsuit, Daniel Smith, Sharon Austin and Michael McDonald, “for violating their academic freedom and their rights as workers.”

“We’ve got to save the University of Florida,” Paul Ortiz, president of the United Faculty of Florida’s UF chapter and a history professor, told reporters. “This is really a crisis moment in our republic.”

Additionally, the union called on University of Florida leaders to “formally declare” that the school, which this year became a top-5 ranked university, is independent of political interests and to oppose any voter suppression efforts throughout the state.

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