U. of Florida Dean Says He Was Directed to Reject Professor’s Request to Testify Against the State

Emma Pettit
Chronicle of Higher Education

Excerpt: The University of Florida (UF) dean who rejected a political scientist’s request to offer expert testimony because it may “pose a conflict of interest to the executive branch of the State of Florida” said this week that his decision was made at the direction of senior administrators. Daniel A. Smith, Michael McDonald, and Sharon Wright Austin, all UF scholars, were each told in October that they would not be allowed to be expert witnesses in a voting-rights lawsuit against the state. News of the rejections provoked international outcry, and a week later the university reversed course.

David E. Richardson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, handled Smith’s request, and on Monday, suggested that the decision to bar professors from testifying against the state may have come from the top of UF. And it comes amid persistent questions about how the campus thrust itself into the center of a fiery debate about the limits of academic freedom.