Fear the Inquisition

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition: Monty Python.

When he was UF’s Vice President for Academic Affairs, Bob Bryant told me a story about Mike Gannon, communism and Florida political paranoia.

Gannon, of course, was the renown history professor who literally wrote the book on Spanish colonial rule in Florida. But Mike had a logistical problem: When the Spanish finally pulled up anchor and sailed off, they took their records with them.

To Havana.

Gannon, of course, did what any diligent scholar would do. He followed the paper trail.

(BTW, Gannon once told me about the time he was buzzed by Soviet MIGS while approaching Cuban airspace in his Piper Cub. But that’s a story for another day.)

Anyway, long story short, Bryant, got the inevitable legislative inquiry demanding to know why one of his profs was collaborating with the commies.

“I told them ‘you’ve gotta understand,” Bryant recalled. “‘Mike lives in the 15th Century.’”

These days, of course, it’s not UF faculty but their administrative overlords who are living in the 15th Century.

Like compliant village headmen so terrified of the Inquisition that they dare not utter a single phrase, nary a word, that might betray them as heretics.

God (GOP) forbid that a UF faculty member should use the words “critical” and “race” in the same sentence in a College of Education curricula!

That might lead the Grand Inquisitor of Florida’s official new religion – The Church of DeSantis – to suspect that UF is teaching (gasp!) “Critical Race Theory.”

That is surely a burning offense in this inflammatory age of political retribution. As we all know, CRC flies in the face of official Florida Public Education Doctrine because it teaches our children to hate America.

So much for learning from history.

“We do not want to inflame Tallahassee,” UF Education Dean Glenn Good is reported to have said in keeping those two most offensive words, “critical” and “race” from appearing in the same sentence.

Thus the filing of a faculty grievance alleging – what else? – an academic freedom infringement.

One might be tempted to give Tigert Hall the benefit of a doubt on this latest complaint…an overreaction by one timid dean perhaps.

Except that over the past several weeks UF has exhibited such an obvious and odious pattern of faculty-suppressing behavior that it has become a laughing stock in American Higher Education circles.

As Paul Ortiz, United Faculty of Florida president, wrote in an email to the Gainesville Sun, this grievance is “one of many examples of how political ‘external influences’ are working on UF.”

“Most importantly, the grievance illuminates the everyday level of harassment that faculty of color in particular are facing during this time at our university. This is why our faculty union is demanding an independent, impartial and external investigation of the state of academic freedom at UF.”

But wait a minute: Didn’t UF President Kent Fuchs just implement new task force-drafted guidelines supposedly protecting academic freedom on campus?

Sure, and he can nail it to the Church of DeSantis door in true Martin Luther style for all the good it’ll do.

No, the fault isn’t in our guidelines, dear Brutus. Something is rotten at the University of Florida. It is a rot that begins at its head – on the Board of Trustees and in the President’s office – and is slowly but surely spreading throughout the academe.

Nobody expected this inquisition. But at this point it’s going to take a determined and prolonged faculty uprising – call it an Academic Reformation movement – to set right this badly listing Flagship.

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