Fuchs is leaving UF – will censorship remain?

Back on November 1, 2021, we first posted about president Ken Fuchs at the University of Florida and his rationale for preventing three political science department faculty members from testifying against Florida’s unconstitutional voting restriction law, which was that “despite the economic challenges faced by the State of Florida due to Covid, our elected officials invested even more in the University of Florida this past year, for which we are incredibly grateful.

We continued on by commenting that

So “incredibly grateful” is UF that it is paying back the favor by refusing to allow its faculty to testify against state voting policy. This inevitably leads one to wonder if that state financial support for UF was predicated on the State of Florida’s understanding that the gift would make UF (even more) unwilling to criticize any state laws. Fuchs has made no secret of his own sense of being a figurehead, saying in the same August 26 address that he could not issue a mask mandate: “I literally don’t have that power… within hours, another message would go out from someone to everyone, again saying we’ve been informed that there will be no such mandate. We’re part of the state government.”

There was intense outcry against this censorship, but outcry from academics generally has very little or no impact on politics. This time, however, due to whatever behind-the-scenes actions may have been going on along with academic outcry, UF reversed its policy on November 5. And due to that, perhaps, and whatever else might be going on behind the scenes at UF, President Fuchs announced on January 5, 2022 that he will be stepping down “in about a year”.

He’s claiming victory:

“When I was appointed in 2014, I was asked to make three commitments to the Board of Trustees and the Board of Governors,” Fuchs said in the video. “First, that I would work to raise the stature of UF to be among the nation’s top 10 public universities. Second, that UF would launch and complete a $3 billion fundraising campaign. Third, that UF would not increase its tuition while I served as president. Those promises were made and those promises were kept.”

It seems that Fuchs, like many other people, defines “stature” as “rich” – a university with $3 billion is a university of high stature. But a university is supposed to be measured by the learning it makes possible, and its fidelity to objective investigation and free debate. It’s depressing to read that he will remain at UF as faculty in the engineering department.

Let’s hope this is a victory, and that the next UF president will be dedicated to the traditional definition of stature.