(CNN) – The University of Florida has told three professors hired to testify as expert witnesses in a voting rights case against the state that they cannot participate.
The University of Florida told professors “they are not authorized to serve as experts on behalf of plaintiffs in this case as part of their” outside activities “,” court documents filed in court on Friday say. of the US District of the North District of Florida, Tallahassee Division.
The case challenges parts of Florida Senate Bill 90, which, according to an attorney for the plaintiffs, “places substantial and unjustifiable restrictions on the ability of eligible Floridians to vote and register to vote.”
The law added restrictions such as new identification requirements for postal voting, limiting who can return a completed postal ballot, prohibiting the use of nonprofit and private funds to hold elections, extending the power of partisan observation when compiling ballots and creating additional restrictions for the abandonment of the box.
The university told Dr Smith that “outside activities which may pose a conflict of interest to the executive branch of the State of Florida create a conflict for the University of Florida,” and provided similar explanations to the Dr McDonald… and Dr Austin, ”the court document reads.
According to his page on the University of Florida website, Dr. Sharon Austin is an author and expert on “African American rural political activism” and “African American political behavior”, while Dr. Michael McDonald studies elections, methodology and has researched voter turnout. . Dr. Daniel Smith studies how “political institutions affect political behavior across and within American states”.
“We will not back down from this attack on our academic freedoms to speak at our own pace, on matters of great public importance,” McDonald said in a statement.
“The assertion by the governor’s office that the decisions of the University of Florida regarding the involvement of its employees in this litigation involve ‘legislative privilege’ is absurd,” the motion said.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the University of Florida said the university “has a long history of supporting free speech and academic freedom in our faculty, and we will continue to do so. “.
“It is important to note that the university has not denied the First Amendment rights or the academic freedom of Professors Dan Smith, Michael McDonald and Sharon Austin. On the contrary, the university has refused requests from these full-time employees to undertake outside paid work that is contrary to the interests of the university as an institution of the State of Florida, ”said the spokesperson. lyrics by Hessy Fernandez.
Governor’s office says policy is in place before SB-90
Gov. Ron DeSantis’s office responded to a request for comment on Monday.
“UF, like many institutions, has a long standing conflict of interest policy. UF policy states that professors must receive approval for paid outside work. Requests to undertake paid outside work that UF considers contrary to the interests of the institution may not be approved, ”press secretary Christina Pushaw wrote in an email.
Pushaw said the university’s policy was in place before the SB-90 was passed.
“For the record, the UF policy was last updated a year ago, before SB 90 – so the university policy could not be a reaction to this trial. The governor’s office has not developed UF’s policy, and there is no evidence to suggest otherwise, ”she said.