Univ. of Florida Accused of Renaming 'Critical Race' Study Over Fear of Offending Lawmakers

An associate professor at the University of Florida has revealed that administrators are barring faculty members from using the words "critical" and "race" together, the Associated Press reported.

Christopher Busey, an associate professor at the university's School of Teaching and Learning, filed an academic freedom complaint against the school. He and other faculty members claim that fellow professor and associate dean Paul Duncan was asking the College of Education "to change the name of a proposed concentration titled 'Critical Study of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture in Education' presumably to a title less offensive to the Florida legislature," according to a statement. They would, however, encourage a name change that did not emphasize "critical race" in its title, the AP reported.

Busey also said that he was told discipline against him could be implemented if he used the term in his curriculum. According to local news outlet WCJB 20, the United Faculty of Florida is arguing that such a request "discriminates against faculty on the basis of the content of the material."

Critical race theory is a framework for educational curriculum that teaches systemic racism and how it influences politics and society, according to the AP. This framework has, however, been accused by conservatives of being purposefully divisive and "anti-white." Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, whose role allows him to appoint the university's trustees, has been a vocal critic of critical race theory.

This controversy is another regarding academic freedom that has followed the university this year. Newsweek previously reported that the U.S. House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties opened an investigation into UF after originally denying three professors from testifying against a state-supported voting rights bill. While the university did reverse its decision and created its own separate task force to investigate the matter, it did spark discussion on freedom of expression in relation to politics.

For more reporting from The Associated Press, see below.

University of Florida
Faculty members claim that fellow professor and associate dean Paul Duncan was asking the College of Education "to change the name of a proposed concentration" to remove the phrase "critical race". Above, the University of Florida. irinka-s/Getty Images

The grievance is seeking to stop the university's attempt "to eliminate and/or whitewash" critical race theory from the curriculum.

In a response to an inquiry over the matter by an accrediting agency last week, the university said it wasn't subject to external influences when making the decisions on the professors' testifying, including from the school's Board of Trustees. More than half of the university's trustees are appointed by the governor.

"These actions were not affected by entities or individuals outside of the university's established governing system," the university said.

The tension between College of Education faculty and university administrators had been brewing for months, with administrators from the Provost's Office having discussions with the professors about two recent bills from the Florida Legislature, the complaint said.

The first bill, which was signed into law by DeSantis last summer, requires state universities to conduct yearly assessments on whether there is "viewpoint diversity" and intellectual freedom at their schools. The second bill, introduced in September by a Republican lawmaker from the Space Coast, would ban the use of critical race theory at all levels of Florida government.

In September, Associate Provost Chris Hass met with faculty members to discuss curriculum initiatives on race and antiracism that had "drawn the attention of university officials." Hass told the faculty members that the college was viewed favorably by the state and that administrators were recommending "avoiding any issue that might jeopardize the relationship," the complaint said.

In a statement, after being provided Busey's complaint and supporting documents by the Associated Press, the university said any grievance is confidential and the school was unable to publicly acknowledge whether one has been filed.

"However, the information in the documents you provided contains a number of inaccuracies, and we will address them through the appropriate processes," the statement said.

W. Kent Fuchs
University of Florida administrators told faculty members they couldn’t used the words “critical” and “race” together in describing a new study concentration, out of fear that it would antagonize state lawmakers who are contemplating a bill to ban critical race theory in state government, according to a grievance filed by the faculty union last week. Above, in this Oct. 15, 2014, photo, University of Florida President-elect W. Kent Fuchs speaks during a press conference at Emerson Alumni Hall in Gainesville, Florida. Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun via AP, File