House Democrats seek answers after Florida professors’ testimony was briefly blocked

A pair of House Democrats are asking for information on the University of Florida (UF) conflict of interest policy after the school has made headlines in recent weeks for banning and then allowing, three professors to testify in a federal voting rights lawsuit against the state.

News broke last month that UF was banning three professors from testifying as expert witnesses in a lawsuit brought by a coalition of civil rights groups against Florida over the Senate Voting Rights Bill. state, which restricted the use of ballot boxes and established new identification requirements for postal voting, in addition to other restrictions.

The Gainesville school told teachers they were not allowed to testify as experts in the case on behalf of the plaintiffs in their “outside activities.” Emails sent to professors revealed that the restriction was put in place due to conflicts of interest with the executive branch of the state.

The university reversed course a few days later, allowing the trio of professors to testify, but that did not stop the three educators from filing a federal complaint asking the state to cease applying “any policy or practice. Which allows the school to limit their ability to testify in cases that do not coincide with the “interests” of the state of Florida.

In a letter to UF President Wesley Kent Fuchs, to Democratic Representatives. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben Raskin The Memo: Democrats May Regret Bannon’s Prosecution Subpoena Shows Jan 6 Panel Focuses On Trump Plans Overnight Energy & Environment – Presented By American Clean Power – Democrats Prepare To toast oil rulers MORE (Md.) And Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (Florida) said the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s subcommittee on civil rights and civil liberties is examining “to what extent your university’s actions have undermined the integrity academic freedom and interfered with the constitutionality of employees. right to express oneself freely as a private citizen on matters of major public interest.

“In addition, we seek to understand the extent to which federally funded universities use conflict of interest policies to censor employees who oppose the interests of the ruling political party,” lawmakers added.

They said they wrote with “deep concern” that the move was “in violation of the First Amendment and in violation of long-established principles of academic freedom.”

“We are concerned that UF will censor its faculties on the basis of a point of view, which would set a dangerous precedent that goes against its own commitment to free speech,” Raskin added and Wasserman-Schultz.

Lawmakers requested a list of information relating to the situation, including the names of those involved in shaping the conflict of interest policy, information on professors who have been denied the opportunity to participate in “outside activities” and dozens of relevant documents.

Reached by The Hill for comment, Hessy Fernandez, UF’s director of issues management and crisis communications, said the school received the letter and acknowledged it to the committee and is now working to respond to inquiries. ask for information.

“We are working to respond within the guidelines we have received,” Fernandez said.

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