On a Violation of Academic Freedom Within the Florida State University System
In reference to the recent denial by the University of Florida of several faculty members’ requests to testify as paid expert witnesses in court, the University of Central Florida Faculty Senate supports the following resolution of the Florida Board of Governors’ Advisory Council of Faculty Senates:
The State University System of Florida Advisory Council of Faculty Senates, representing the faculty of all twelve public universities in Florida, have united to express our grave concerns over the recent events taking place at our member institution, the University of Florida. Together, we express deep alarm about what appears to be a serious breach of academic freedom.
In its 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, based on its original 1915 Declaration of Principles, the American Association of University Professors set forth clear professional norms regarding faculty participation in civic discourse: “College and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline…” Recognizing their obligations as representatives of their disciplines and universities, the AAUP further notes that faculty have an obligation in such circumstances to speak with accuracy and respect for others, and as individuals rather than institutional speakers. This is precisely what the faculty at the University of Florida were attempting when their public participation was blocked by the university.
When faculty are invited to participate in policy processes through their speech or research, they do so as objective experts, prepared by academic training to focus on evidence over bias. When they are denied the right to participate, not only does it undermine both freedom of inquiry and the independence of the university, it denies the citizens of the State, to whom the university is ultimately responsible, access to the most current and independent knowledge available on the issue under consideration.
In these recently publicized instances, faculty in a variety of disciplines attempted to engage in professional activity consistent with the principles of academic freedom that have been protected in the United States for over 100 years. As fellow faculty and stewards of the academy, we rise to defend these principles, especially when they are challenged in what appears to be a systematic way. We urge the University of Florida to reconsider these decisions, and we urge the State University System to reaffirm its commitment to academic freedom and freedom of speech as core values of all public institutions of higher learning.
- Approved by the Faculty Senate on November 4, 2021
- Transmitted to Interim Provost Michael Johnson for information on November 12, 2021
Continuing UCF Seed Research Funding for Faculty into the Future
Whereas, UCF is considered a highly innovative institution of higher education in part because faculty are encouraged to expand their solo and multi-disciplinary research collaborations in innovative and novel directions through new, high risk, high reward projects and interdisciplinary convergence activities, and
Whereas, the UCF Office of Research has partnered with the Office of the Provost by making an investment of one million dollars in competitive Seed grant funding for faculty each year for the past 3 years as an institutional commitment to the success of our faculty with the goal of facilitating these types of highly visible research across the university, and
Whereas, there has been a positive return on investment (ROI) from this Seed funding in terms of subsequent external funding, with the ROI from funded external awards based on Seed grants from the first year of the program exceeding 600% (faculty self-reported: $7.6 million received; additional $54 million in submitted proposals), and
Whereas, the overhead generated from the funded external awards from first year awardees exceeds the cost of the program (over $2 million in overhead generated if 52% overhead), and
Whereas, the majority of Exploratory Research funded projects have been awarded to tenure-earning Assistant Professors (56% averaged over 3 years), therefore
Be it Resolved that the Faculty Senate urges the UCF Office of Research and Office of the Provost to continue to provide Seed grant opportunities for faculty at the current or higher funding levels in all future years.
- Approved by the Steering Committee on March 3, 2022
- Approved by the Faculty Senate on March 17, 2022
- Approved by Provost Michael D. Johnson on April 8, 2022
“I approve in principle. While I view this as a priority, I cannot commit the university in all future years to fund this program. The provost and the vice president for research will determine when to fund it. It will be important to continue to check how effective seed funding is in helping initiate research programs and obtain external funding.”
Bylaws Amendment to Bylaws Amendment Procedure
Resolution failed at Faculty Senate Steering Committee meeting on February 3, 2022.
Faculty Exit and Stay Interviews
Whereas, the University of Central Florida (UCF) is committed to attracting and retaining a diverse faculty, supported by a framework of inclusive excellence; and
Whereas, UCF has already invested in studies of faculty satisfaction and institutional responses to these, both of which could be usefully complemented by additional information about why faculty stay or exit; and
Whereas, UCF does not currently have a standardized and systematic process of exit interviews or resources for supporting stay interviews for faculty; and
Whereas, the current exit interview system does not adequately enable the consideration and use of information in faculty retention and other relevant efforts; and
Whereas, exit and stay interviews that follow national best practices and are integrated into the university’s faculty retention and recruitment efforts have shown strong potential elsewhere for informing institutional inclusive excellence efforts, therefore
Be it Resolved that UCF explore the development and implementation of a university-wide process for exit interviews that includes the following elements:
- Collaboration among key faculty-supporting units, including Human Resources, Faculty Excellence, the Provost’s Office, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and Faculty Senate;
- Exit interviews in which faculty are encouraged to participate before they leave the university;
- Exit interviews conducted by individuals who are not direct supervisors of interviewing faculty;
- Appropriate training for individuals who conduct the exit interviews;
- Exit interview instruments and questions informed by national models and relevant literature, and tailored to different groups of faculty leaving for different reasons;
- Mechanisms for regularly storing, merging, analyzing, reporting on, and responding to exit interview information; and
Be it Further Resolved that UCF explore the development of resources for supporting voluntary stay interviews that consider the following elements:
- Appropriate training for individuals who conduct the stay interviews;
- Stay interview resources informed by national models and relevant literature;
- Regularly occurring stay interviews in which faculty are encouraged to participate and are not part of the annual evaluation process.
- Approved by Steering Committee on March 3, 2022
- Approved by Faculty Senate on March 17, 2022
- Approved by Provost Michael D. Johnson on April 8, 2022
“Faculty Excellence will explore the development and implementation of exit interviews in the near future, and as time and resources permit will also exam the possibility of ‘stay’ interviews. The latter may vary in approach across campus.”