Gubernatorial candidates react to UF Faculty Senate report which claims COVID-19 data was destroyed

Democratic gubernatorial candidates are criticizing the university after allegations faculty...
Democratic gubernatorial candidates are criticizing the university after allegations faculty were pressured to destroy COVID-19 data.(WCJB)
Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 8:50 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -University of Florida policies are now a central issue in the Florida governor race — as UF officials are accused of violating the academic freedom of professors to appease state leaders. Democratic gubernatorial candidates are criticizing the university after allegations faculty were pressured to destroy COVID-19 data. Those allegations were made in a report published by the UF Faculty Senate this week.

The report details numerous ways in which the academic freedom of professors has been infringed upon. It summarizes accusations that when UF staff worked with the state on collecting COVID data, they were told to delay and destroy some information.

UF professor Danaya Wright said it seems as if they have reached a point where the line has been crossed.

“When we heard on the committee that there was actually pressure to destroy COVID data, I think everyone’s jaw dropped,” explained Wright. “That crossed a line that we couldn’t, could not remain silent any longer.”

Faculty were also reportedly told not to criticize Gov. Ron DeSantis. Gubernatorial candidate and Rep. Charlie Crist said this is a critical issue to everyone in the state during a press conference.

“What has been revealed here is troubling and disturbing. I’m glad to have had the conversation with my colleague Debbie Wasserman Schultz who is on the oversight committee in the House of Representatives that is already taking a look at this issue,” said Rep. Crist. “I’ve, as I said earlier, sent a letter to the Board of Governors. Hope to hear back from them shortly, and hope that they take their responsibility seriously.”

Another gubernatorial candidate, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, also criticized the university and said the UF board of trustees Chairman needs to be removed. She said, “It’s clear that the Chairman of the UF board of trustees, Mori Hosseini, needs to be removed from his position. Under his leadership, UF has fallen from a world-class learning institution to a school that censors its faculty — and the truth — to further the radical political agenda of the Governor and his appointees on the UF board of trustees.”

When asked for comment, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office dismissed the accusations saying the report contains, “The UF report contains plenty of unsourced allegations and innuendo, but zero evidence that Gov. DeSantis or anyone connected to the Governor’s office has exerted or attempted to exert improper influence on UF. This is because it did not happen.”

UF officials declined to comment on this story.

The report also details the controversy over the university’s conflict of interest policy and a grievance filed by a professor who claims he was barred from using critical and race in his curriculum.

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