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President Fuchs reverses decision to block University of Florida professors from giving expert testimony in lawsuit challenging state

President Fuchs reverses decision to block University of Florida professors from giving expert testimony in lawsuit challenging state
Published: Nov. 5, 2021 at 6:36 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - University of Florida President Kent Fuchs is reversing administrators’ decision, after three UF professors were blocked from testifying in a lawsuit against a state civil suit on Friday.

In a statement President Fuchs said, “I have also asked UF’s Conflicts of Interest Office to reverse the decisions on recent requests by UF employees to serve as expert witnesses in litigation in which the state of Florida is a party and to approve the requests regardless of personal compensation, assuming the activity is on their own time without using university resources.”

The three professors, Daniel Smith, Michael McDonald, and Sharon Austin, were barred from offering expert testimony last week in a lawsuit against the state’s recent election reform laws.

UFF Demands
UFF Demands(WCJB)

Then, on Monday the university responded to the first amendment complaints saying they can testify if they don’t receive pay.

Now, with Fuchs reversing that decision, he is also implementing a task force to review conflicts of interest policies.

Related story: UF professors can testify in voting rights lawsuit if they do not receive pay, officials say

It’s a seven person task force that will give him a recommendation of how UF should respond to faculty who want to be expert witnesses in litigation with the state.

UF Levin College of Law Professor Kenneth Nunn was once denied the opportunity to join an amicus brief challenging the state.

“I’m glad they listened and changed that decision,” Nunn said.

He said among other people, there should be more freedom of speech experts on the task force.

“People who have connections with the union and who represent faculty as a whole and not necessarily faculty that have close and perhaps cozy relationships with the administration,” Nunn explained.

Nunn hopes they also revisit their policies on faculty joining briefs in the future.

Fuchs also says in his statement, “I look forward to reporting back on the task force recommendations and my decision on how UF will apply the Conflict of Interest and Conflict of Commitment policy in future requests for approval of similar outside activity.”

The force is required to have a preliminary recommendation ready by Nov. 29.

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