‘UF works because we do’: Faculty, students protest conflict of interest policy and task force

‘UF works because we do’: Faculty, students protest conflict of interest policy and task force
Published: Nov. 12, 2021 at 10:22 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - About 50 University of Florida faculty and students are protesting UF’s conflict of interest policy after three professors were barred from testifying in a lawsuit against the state. Those three professors are also unhappy about the president’s task force formed to investigate the policy.

“U-F works because we do,” Protesters said.

Professors Sharon Austin, Michael McDonald and Daniel A. Smith, who sparked this outcry, sent President Kent Fuchs a letter saying the task force is an effort to save the university’s image, and was not made with faculty’s concerns in mind.

Related story: The question discussed at the second UF task force meeting: What activities are considered a conflict of interest?

They also say two members of the task force, Laura Rosenbury and Terra DuBois are not addressing the issue of freedom of speech but are instead addressing the issue of serving as an expert witness and that neither can fairly serve on the task force.

Full letter to President Fuchs:

UF lecturer Sean Trainor said the task force is inappropriate altogether, as they should not be investigating themselves.

“For me the question of the task force isn’t a question of the composition,” Trainor said. “It’s a question of principle. An institution that has engaged in wrongdoing shouldn’t be investigating its own mistakes.”

Trainor said the United Faculty of Florida (UFF) and UF Faculty Senate will meet on Wednesday to discuss an independent investigation.

“Stand up, fight back,” Protesters chanted.

Regardless, he and protestors agree that the conflict of interest policy needs major improvements.

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

“Also, it’s a large question of principle about what rights your employer has to dictate what you can and can’t do when you’re not on the clock.”

Public Relations for UF College Democrats Rachel Wolfrey is a student of Michael Mcdonald’s and said she doesn’t want any other professors to go through this in the future.

“He would be the most qualified person to testify in the lawsuit that he was originally subpoenaed to testify in and that’s why it’s incredibly appalling that the university is barring him from speaking,” Wolfrey said. “Who else are we going to have who’s that qualified.”

They will continue fighting until demands are met

“Their knowledge is supposed to provide for the public good and they were being denied exactly that,” Wolfrey added.

UF officials declined to comment on the issues addressed at the protest.

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