Three University of Florida professors are going to be fighting their employer’s order over testifying in a state of Florida election integrity law challenge. UF previously banned them altogether from testifying but backtracked their position and said they would permit the professors to testify if they remained unpaid.

“Prohibiting professors from giving standard expert testimony, and instead only allowing pro bono testimony, undermines their credibility as expert witnesses and chills their speech,” said the attorneys representing the professors.

UF faced numerous public criticisms, including from a notable alumna, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D).

“Today I’m joining alumni from across the country in opposing @PresidentFuchs attempts to curtail free speech on campus,” Fried tweeted. “And I’m calling on fellow members of #GatorNation to withhold donations until he does what’s right.”

In response, UF said it is not suppressing free speech.

“The University of Florida has a long track record of supporting free speech and our faculty’s academic freedom, and we will continue to do so,” the school tweeted.

After the university changed its stance to permit the professors to testify if they remain unpaid, many critics said their decision was not good enough. Michael McDonald, one of the professors, said on Twitter the decision regarding compensation was not part of the reasoning for the initial request’s denial.

“Lots of folks asking what if we do the work pro bono?” said McDonald. “Our compensation was not given as a reason in the original disapproval from UF. That is new language the university added in its PR statement.”

The professors have received backing from the American Association of University Professors where Irene Mulvey serves as president. She also is a professor at Fairfield University in Connecticut.

“The only silencing of speech I see on campuses are the board of trustees trying to gag faculty on this or that — gagging these academic experts from sharing their academic expertise for the common good,” Mulvey said.

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Grant Holcomb is a reporter at the Florida Capital Star and The Star News Network. Follow Grant on Twitter and direct message tips.
Photo “University of Florida” by University of Florida.