The University of Florida has ordered its professors not to participate in a case that challenges voting rights restrictions, and said it would put them on a collision course with the state government.
The plaintiffs want to question Governor Ron DeSantis about the university’s decision, but his lawyers have declined, claiming that any discussion he had about it would contain privileged information.
The case seeks to overturn Florida’s new law restricting voting rights, similar to the legislation in Georgia and Texas, which severely restricted ballot papers.
According to a proposal filed Friday in a federal court, university officials sent an email to Professor Michael McDonald in October 2020 informing him that he could not be involved in the case, as “lawsuits against the state are detrimental to UF’s interests” . ”
Around the same time, professors Dan Smith and Sharon Austin received similar messages. “External activities that could pose a conflict of interest for the executive branch of the state of Florida are creating a conflict for the University of Florida,” the email read to Smith.
McDonald’s researches election and turnout and has assisted the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, according to his university biography. Smith, chairman of the college’s Department of Political Science, researches suffrage and elections, and Austin studies African-American political behavior.
The three professors have testified as experts in cases that both challenged and upheld state law. Smith testified in a case that forced the state to issue ballots in Spanish in 2018.
A lawyer for the plaintiffs, told the racing justice organization Florida Rising Together New York Times that the exclusion of professors from testifying “contradicts the essence of what the University of Florida should stand for in terms of academic freedom.”
McDonald tweeted a link to the story Friday night along with a gif of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers singing, “Well, I do not want to back up / No, I do not want to back up.”
The university – which said it does not comment on pending lawsuits – has strong ties to DeSantis.
Morteza Hosseini, the leader of the UF board, was co-chair of DeSantis’ transition team in 2018 and has made major donations to the Republican Party. Hosseini was behind the hiring of Joseph Ladapo at the university, just before DeSantis appointed him general surgeon.