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After months of back and forth between University of Florida (UF) and three of its political science professors who were blocked from participating in a high profile lawsuit against Florida’s new election law, UF President Kent Fuchs approved a report Tuesday that called for that decision to be reversed.

In a separate report sent to an accrediting organization, UF denied that its Board of Trustees or any outside forces influenced their previous decision to prevent professors, Sharon Austin, Michael McDonald and Daniel Smith, from testifying against the law that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis approved during the 2021 legislative session that ended in April.

As stated in the report that was approved by Fuchs and sent to The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), “The University of Florida Board of Trustees ensures that the institution is free from undue influence by external persons or bodies through clear and consistently enforced policies and procedures.”

As for addressing how the university’s decision led to national media outlets highlighting the issue due to concerns that the decision was politically motivated, the report to SACSCOC also stated:

“The decisions that have led to the media reports were all made internally. … The university’s established governing board, the Board of Trustees, was not involved in the decision-making process in any way, and entities and/or individuals outside the university’s established governing system had no effect on the recently reported institutional action.”

In addition to the report approved by Fuchs, another report from the university released on Tuesday cited “strong presumptions” by a seven-member task force that was created in order to give recommendations to UF’s Board of Trustees and Fuchs in determining the actions necessary in dealing with allowing the professors to testify.

However, even with the university backtracking its decision, attorneys for the three professors, David A. O’Neil and Paul Donnelly, released a statement on their behalf, which was provided by WLRN Miami:

“We are disappointed but not surprised that a task force created as a public relations tool has returned with window-dressing recommendations,” they wrote; adding, “The proposed changes address only the narrow issue of expert testimony, and even on that limited topic, they fail to cure the constitutional problem with the university’s conflict of interest policy. That policy still allows the university to restrain the faculty’s free speech based on impermissible reasons and at the university’s discretion. We will continue to press the university to make the real change that the Constitution requires.”

The three professors have filed a federal lawsuit against the university, arguing that it violated their First Amendment rights by blocking their ability to testify against the law.

– – –

Casey Owens is a contributing writer for The Florida Capital Star. Follow him on Twitter at @cowensreports. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Kent Fuchs” by the University of Florida. Background Photo “University of Florida Campus” by Spohpatuf. CC BY-SA 3.0.





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Tags: daniel smith florida governor ron desantis michael mcdonald university of florida professors testifying the university’s the university’s the university of florida the university of florida with the university the university board of trustees against the law lawsuit against the decision decision

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COVID Test Confusion After Suburban Family Believes They Got False Result from University Of Illinois SHIELD Program

CHICAGO (CBS) — There’s a big spike in COVID-19 cases in Illinois.

There were more than 11,500 new COVID-19 cases since Wednesday. That’s the highest daily count this year, and it’s more than double Wednesday’s number.

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CBS 2 has learned a record number of tests were done in the past 24 hours. But one northwest suburban family said a recent test done in their son’s school turned their life upside down.

The test was provided by the University of Illinois covidSHIELD program, which is in hundreds of schools across the state and close to a quarter of a billion dollars had been spent on the testing program.

CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey sat down with the family, who said tracking down answers was harder than it should have been.

The family said they opted into the voluntary testing program through District 15 in Palatine and it ended being more of a headache than a help.

“The teacher was great. She would have the kids come in every day go over and say hi to Theo,” said Heather Marros.

She said she and her husband were confused by their six-year-old son’s positive covidSHIELD test back on Oct. 27 – especially after multiple follow up tests turned up negative.

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“Our school said the SHIELD test was being used as a diagnostic test and no other test would be accepted,” Marros said.

Ten days of quarantine for both Theo and his older sister, Abigail, were very difficult on the family. But Marros said tracking down answers about the test and providing their feedback was even more frustrating.

“Because it was so hard to get in contact with a live body,” Marros said. “In terms of over the phone even via emails or anything like that. In a an email we received, they said they’d look into and get back to us and nothing ever came from that.”

Nearly 2.5 million University of Illinois SHEILD tests have been administered over the last year, in part, thanks to the help of a whopping $225 million in federal funding. The family pointed to the test’s Food and Drug Administration authorization letter, which said they “must maintain customer complaint files.”

A SHIELD spokesperson said, “Patients’ ability to report concerns about the accuracy of their results is available through our patient support phone number and on the SHIELD Illinois website.”

The company claims that patient support line has received over 36,000 calls since July. But Marros said she was only offered tech support when they called. No one could help with questions about testing accuracy. They’re speaking up because they’d like for other families in the future to have quicker access to answers.

“I think just a better partnership with the families if they decided to opt into the SHIELD program,” Marros said. “That if there is a positive, that they can follow up with a family doctor to ensure that there is an actual positive, not just a false positive.”

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The family was never able to definitively say it was a false positive. A spokesperson for District 15 said they’re aware of the situation and have been in communication with this family and assisted the family in providing their feedback directly with the contacts that they work with at SHIELD.

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