The Volokh Conspiracy

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Academic Freedom

Academic Freedom Alliance Letter on the University of Florida Situation

The university's effort to suppress expert testimony in a lawsuit against the state is contrary to academic freedom and the First Amendment


The Academic Freedom Alliance has released its public letter on the situation at the University of Florida. The administration of the University of Florida has attempted to block three political science professors from serving as expert witnesses in a lawsuit against the state over the recently enacted voting law, as discussed by co-blogger Eugene Volokh here. This is an egregious violation of academic freedom and the First Amendment. If accepted in this case, it would have broad ramifications for how state universities operated across a host of other cases.

From the letter:

I write on behalf of the Academic Freedom Alliance to express our firm view that this decision is a serious violation of the academic freedom principles to which the University of Florida is committed. The university is mistaken in thinking that this decision is consistent with the principles of free speech and academic freedom and has construed the potential conflicts of interest in this case in a manner that is incompatible with maintaining academic freedom in the future. It has long been a central feature of academic freedom in the United States that when university professors "speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline." Whatever interest a state university might have in preventing members of its faculty from acting as political partisans when operating within their duties as state employees, that interest cannot be understood to extend to restricting the speech activities in which professors might engage when operating outside their university duties and acting as private citizens.

You can read the full letter here.