The Free UF Coalition, made up of UF students and faculty held an academic freedom rally on March 30 on the UF campus. The March 30th Academic Freedom rally called for university personnel and students to be able to discuss, teach and conduct research on any subject without censorship by government officials.
The University of Florida has been in the national news recently for limiting professors’ academic freedom, by barring them from testifying as expert witnesses. In January, a federal judge issued an injunction against UF, saying the university “had blatantly violated the Constitution and described the university’s legal defences as ‘shocking.’” (See WUSF’s report at tinyurl.com/Iguana1375.)
Examples of censorship include cancelling courses or degree programs that higher-ups don’t like, blocking experts from testifying in a court of law, terminating faculty based on politics or personal opinions, and the blocking of experts from publishing research that contradicts a particular political position or impact the personal investment of a politician or political donor.
From the Free UF Coalition rally handout:
Public universities exist to serve the citizens of their state, NOT to serve as a tool of political oppression and propaganda. Academic freedom protects the integrity of public research and education by ensuring that information generated and shared at these institutions is as unbiased as possible.
Ashley Sanguino, a UF student, spoke at the rally speech:
I’m honored to be able to speak for such a critical issue that is directly affecting our university.
Now, there’s a lot of reasons to consider the impacts of academic freedom. We could talk about degree implications, how UF’s submission to exterior interests has raised suspicions on the crediting agency and affects the validity of our degrees. Or the professors who aren’t being allowed to testify and uphold justify.
But at the heart of this is an attack on history. An attack on our ability to learn, grow, and change as students and as a collective. They don’t want us to talk about critical race theory, or any curriculum that challenges the status quo because they don’t want us to be better.
They want us to be complicit, and the Florida legislature is hoping to do that by putting caps on what we can learn.
But if there wasn’t hope, they wouldn’t need these laws. They fear people power. The organization of people who care, like all of the people I see before me today.
So we need to keep fighting.
Keep teaching your children about systemic racism.
Keep teaching your children about LGBTQIA+ identities.
Support your fellow students and faculty through these difficult times. And remind them that they can never truly control knowledge. Because we hold it right here.