University of Central Florida removes some anti-racism statements

Comment

The University of Central Florida this week removed statements condemning racism from the websites of several university departments, prompting some faculty members to worry that school officials were self-censoring in the purpose of maintaining compliance with a new state law limiting what can be taught about race and identity.

Shelley Park, professor of philosophy and cultural studies at UCF, said her department’s statement, released amid the 2020 National Race Reckoning, “stands behind diversity, equity and inclusiveness – which wasn’t such a radical thing to say.”

Park said she understands the provost contacted the deans and the pages were temporarily taken down, with advice to come when faculty members return in August. Provost Michael D. Johnson did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment on Wednesday.

“The university recently removed certain departmental statements that could be considered potentially inconsistent with our commitment to creating a welcoming environment – ​​an environment where faculty objectively engage students in solid, scholarly discussions that expand their knowledge and enable them to ‘freely express their views and form their own perspectives,’ Chad Binette, a university spokesperson, wrote in an email Wednesday.

“UCF is committed to building a culture that values ​​respect, civil discourse and creating a sense of belonging,” Binette said. “In an effort to more clearly communicate this commitment, we will work with departments to ensure that statements better align with our university’s values.”

Binette did not specify in the email what in the statements might be “potentially inconsistent.”

In Florida, DeSantis’ plans for colleges rattle some academics

On Wednesday, some links on ministry web pages – including those for the anthropologyphilosophy and physics departments – seemed to be broken or deleted.

The philosophy statement read, in part, “We recognize the university’s key place as a site of struggle for social justice and we are committed to solving the problem of anti-blackness, white supremacy and of all forms of implicit and explicit racism in our professions, wherever we find it, even in our own department.

The changes were first reported by the Orlando Sentinel.

A June 2020 statement by UCF President Alexander N. Cartwright, titled “Our Future is Inclusion,” outlining the university’s commitment to being actively anti-racist, remains accessible.

Park said some faculty members are “upset about issues of academic freedom and freedom of expression, as well as our institutional values.”

Park said her scholarly expertise is in the areas of social justice and political theory. “I think most of us are worried,” she said. She said she feared the university was self-censoring.

“Everything is going very fast,” she said.

The ‘Individual Liberty’ Act, which Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (right) called the ‘Stop WOKE Act’, went into effect on July 1, regulating what schools and workplaces can teach about race and identity.

In his fight against ‘woke’ schools, DeSantis tears at the seams of a diverse Florida

A UCF professor is a plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the law, arguing that it is unconstitutional and threatens academic freedom.

DeSantis said he wants to prevent what he describes as intellectually repressive environments at public universities, and his administration has pushed for changes in higher education that include changing tenure and accreditation.

Binette shared tips given to the faculty about the new state law, informing them that it states that educational institutions “shall not subject any student or employee to any training or instruction that ’embraces, promotes, advances, inculcates or compels such student or employee to believe’ in any of the eight ‘specified concepts’ “based on race, color, sex or national origin because such action would be discriminatory under the amended law.

One of the “frequently asked questions” cited by the university was, “Can I discuss topics or teach concepts in my class that may make people feel uncomfortable?” The answer: “Yes. … However, you cannot tell students that they should or must feel guilty because they belong to a particular race, color, national origin or sex. And you don’t have to tell students how they feel or that they have to admit that they feel a certain way about these topics. The stated purpose of the legislature in passing this law was to prohibit coercing students and employees into particular beliefs.

Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.

Comments are closed.