No travel to 'terrorist' countries for Florida state universities: court
A challenge to a 2006 law banning state university-funded travel to countries the US deems sponsors of terrorism was struck down Tuesday. Florida-based international scholars say the decision will disrupt studies.
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“No federal statute or regulation expressly requires states to pay for foreign travel for state university employees,” the decision says. “No federal law says states cannot differentiate among foreign nations when it comes to spending for academic travel.”Skip to next paragraph
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Word of the decision spread quickly among Florida-based scholars.
“The implications are really quite devastating,” says Carmen Diana Deere of the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Florida. “It means that scholars in Florida cannot use grant funding or federal funding to carry out research in Cuba. It also means people’s research programs will be undermined.”
She said that Florida-based scholars could still receive a federal license to travel to Cuba for research, but they would have to use their own funds to pay for it.
“It is really sad,” said Noel Smith of the Institute for Research in Art at Tampa’s University of South Florida. She said the ruling puts an end to a series of planned exchange programs between the institute and Cuba.
The Cuban Museum of Fine Arts had invited her to organize an exhibition in Cuba. And she was planning a 10-week program for American students to study in Cuba next summer. Both of those programs will now be canceled, she said.
Last week, the institute opened a show by Cuban artist Carlos Garaicoa. It will run through December 11. Since the show is already paid for, it won’t be canceled. But there may not be any opportunities for similar exchanges in the future, Smith said.
Smith said preventing scholars from traveling and studying is counter-productive for Florida and the US. “The more the people of Cuba get to know us and the more we know Cubans, the better the future is going to be,” she said.
The ban doesn’t just disrupt the research of Cuban scholars.
Houman Sadri, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida, has just returned from a research trip to Iran. Now he’s worried about how he’ll pay for his next trip.
He says the restriction is counter to America’s interest in knowing all it can about places like Iran and organizations like Al-Qaeda.
"My area of specialization is revolutionary states,” he said. “With this law I cannot use state funds for research in Iran, Libya, and Cuba – basically all the countries I study.”
Professor Sadri added, “This is my life.”
One possible solution for researchers is suggested in the appeals court ruling itself. The judges wrote in a footnote on page seven of the 12-page decision that there are no legal impediments to private research foundations finding a new way to deliver funding to scholars that bypasses the Florida state university system.
“Although grantors may need to modify their grant disbursement and management procedures to work around the Act, the grantors are free to do so; the state is exerting no coercive pressure – economic or otherwise – on the grantors to discourage them from doing so,” the court said in Footnote 9.