What’s next for the USF Forest Preserve?

University of South Florida Tampa development Biology

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In the spring, the University of South Florida asked for and received proposals to develop land in the USF Forest Preserve north of the Tampa campus.

Save USF Forest Preserve

Dr. Jeannie Mounger, from the group Save USF Forest Preserve, helped form a nonprofit to assist the preserve and other conservation lands.

Listen to the interview here:

USF Forest Preserve

Some activists at USF are calling on the university to put a conservation easement on the property.

Shortly after news of possible development broke, a documentary was filmed about the student-led effort to save the USF Forest Preserve. It’s called Choke Point.

North Fletcher Property Advisory Committee

Mounger is part of a group formed at the university: the North Fletcher Property Advisory Committee.

In July, USF president Steven Currall announced he was retiring. The new interim president is Rhea Law.

In addition to the USF Forest Preserve, there are other issues that impact colleges and universities, including bills passed or being considered by the Florida Legislature.

Florida bills impacting universities

A Florida statute on teaching history was changed by the legislature recently. It had been a prohibition against distorting facts like the Holocaust. But now it has been modified to add other forbidden topics including that “racism is embedded in American society and its legal systems in order to uphold the supremacy of white persons” and a prohibition on using material from the New York Times1619 Project.

Mounger said her department’s anti-racism group is watching bills about what the legislature is calling “intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity” at universities.

The bill HB233 is concerned with “intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity” at universities. If the bill passes, “The Board of Governors shall require each state university to conduct an annual assessment of the intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity.” Two other bills, HB57 and HB242 forbid mandatory diversity & inclusion training at universities.

Investigation into possible political interference at U.F.

Last week the Tampa Bay Times reported on new concerns at the University of Florida. “Fear of upsetting state officials is pervasive among faculty at the University of Florida, to the point that race-related references have been edited out of course materials and researchers felt pressure to destroy COVID-19 data, according to a report released Monday by a Faculty Senate committee.”

It goes on to say there were “several “challenges” faced by UF researchers who were working on COVID-19 with an unidentified state entity. It describes “external pressure to destroy” data as well as “barriers” to accessing, analyzing and publishing the numbers.”

On Friday, The University of Florida said it has launched an investigation into allegations that some of its researchers faced pressure from outside the school to destroy COVID-19 data.

Here’s the Save the USF Forest Preserve Facebook group

Here’s the Save the USF Forest Preserve Instagram account