ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The University of Central Florida has removed anti-racist statements from departmental websites, a move that one professor has decried as an “infringement on academic freedom” in the wake of the passage of a Republican-backed law that restricts how race can be taught.
Ann Gleig, a religious studies professor, said in an email Wednesday that the anti-racist statement on the philosophy department's website and those of other departments have been taken down. The philosophy department's statement was crafted in the summer of 2020 following the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis, she said.
“This is a complete infringement of academic freedom," Gleig said. “The statement was crafted over a period of time with dialogue and input across a twenty person plus faculty trained in philosophy, religion and cultural studies and the humanities."
Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis last spring signed into law what he has called the “Stop WOKE Act.” Restricting how race is discussed in schools, colleges and workplace training programs, the law prohibits any teaching that could make students or workers feel they bear personal responsibility for historic wrongs because of their race, color, sex or national origin.
The law, which took effect July 1, bars instruction that an individual’s “moral character or status as either privileged or oppressed is determined by his or her race, color, sex, or national origin."
According to the Orlando Sentinel, the anthropology department's website at UCF said, “We acknowledge that many of us are born with unearned privilege, while others are denied basic human rights."
“We decry this history, commit ourselves to rectifying it, and stand with those working to build an antiracist future for our nation," the statement said.
In an email, UCF spokesperson Chad Binette said the school recently removed departmental statements that could be seen as “potentially inconsistent with our commitment to creating a welcoming environment — one where faculty objectively engage students in robust, scholarly discussions that expand their knowledge and empower them to freely express their views and form their own perspectives."
Asked in a follow-up email what was “potentially inconsistent" with the statements, Binette didn't immediately respond. He said the university would be working with departments “to ensure statements better align with our university values.”
“UCF is committed to building a culture that values respect, civil discourse, and creating a sense of belonging," said Binette, the school's assistant vice president of communications.
But Democratic state Rep. Carlos G. Smith, a UCF graduate, slammed the move on Wednesday.
“The DeSantis regime has made the anti-racist mission of my alma mater AGAINST THE LAW,” Smith tweeted. “This is a consequence of HB 7 and the Governor’s out-of-control censorship agenda. This is not freedom.”