ORLANDO, Florida — The University of Central Florida has removed anti-racism statements from departmental websites, a move a professor has decried as an “attack on academic freedom” following the passage of a Republican-backed law that restricts how race can be taught.
Ann Gleig, a professor of religious studies, said in an email Wednesday that the anti-racism statement on the philosophy department’s website and those of other departments had been removed. The philosophy department’s statement was written in the summer of 2020 following the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis, she said.
“This is a complete violation of academic freedom,” Gleig said. “The statement was written over a period of time with dialogue and input from about 20 people plus faculty trained in philosophy, religion and cultural studies and the humanities.”
Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law what he called the “Stop WOKE Act” last spring. Restricting how race is discussed in schools, colleges and workplace training programs, the law prohibits teaching that could make students or workers feel like they bear personal responsibility for historic wrongs in because of their race, color, sex or national origin.
The law, which went into effect on July 1, prohibits the instruction that “an individual’s moral character or status as privileged or oppressed is determined by his race, color, sex, or national origin. “.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, UCF’s Department of Anthropology website said, “We recognize that many of us are born with unearned privilege, while others are denied basic human rights. ‘man.”
“We denounce this history, pledge to rectify it, and support those working to build an anti-racist future for our nation,” the statement read.
In an email, UCF spokesperson Chad Binette said the school recently removed statements from the department that could be seen as “potentially inconsistent with our commitment to creating a welcoming environment – an environment in which faculty objectively engage students in solid, scholarly discussions that expand their knowledge and empower them to freely express their views and forge their own perspectives.”
When asked in a follow-up email what was “potentially inconsistent” with the statements, Binette did not immediately respond. He said the university would work with departments “to ensure the 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, criticized the move on Wednesday.
“The DeSantis regime has made the anti-racism mission my alma mater AGAINST THE LAW,” Smith tweeted. “It’s a consequence of HB 7 and the Governor’s runaway censorship program. It is not freedom.