Last week three University of Florida Political Science professors, Daniel Smith, Michael McDonald and Sharon Austin, were denied permission by the university to serve as experts in a case challenging Florida’s controversial Senate Bill 90 in court. That bill, which was passed by the GOP-controlled Florida Legislature after the 2020 election, ushered in changes that have restricted voting access in the state.
In response to Professor Smith’s request, the dean of UF’s college of arts and science, David Richardson, wrote: “Outside activities that may pose a conflict of interest to the executive branch of the State of Florida create a conflict for the University of Florida,’’
In view of this chilling development, Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz issued the following statement:
“It is clear that DeSantis’ dark, authoritarian hand is behind this worrying decision on the part of the University of Florida. With every day that passes, the rights of Floridians are being further eroded by a cynical Governor with a clear dictatorial bent who will stop at nothing to shield himself and his cronies from scrutiny or accountability.
“This kind of partisan move violates not just the First Amendment rights of professors, it robs our courts of the ability to consistently count on the testimony of some of Florida’s finest experts on matters of great importance to our state. This is a precedent that simply cannot stand.
“I call on the University of Florida to side with our nation’s democratic ideals, reverse its position on these requests and allow these professors to testify freely. Our colleges and universities should not be a party to the silencing of their faculties in this manner, and even less so when it pertains to testimony in a case that could impact voting access for our state’s citizens.”