EXCLUSIVE: Professor’s Policy Offering Students ‘Extra Credit’ for Getting Vaccinated Quickly Pulled by University After Being Contacted

'It's not anything we sanctioned or supported,' university official says
By Patricia Tolson
Patricia Tolson
Patricia Tolson
Reporter
Patricia Tolson, an award-winning political columnist and investigative reporter with 20 years of experience, has worked for such news outlets as Yahoo!, U.S. News, and The Tampa Free Press. With The Epoch Times, Patricia’s in-depth investigative coverage of elections, education, school boards, parents’ rights, and COVID-19 mandates has achieved international exposure. Send her your story ideas: patricia.tolson@epochtimes.us
January 13, 2022 Updated: January 14, 2022

An “Assignment Details” post by a Florida university professor that offered 10 “extra Credit” points for students who got COVID-19 vaccines was quickly pulled by the university the day after being contacted by The Epoch Times.

In a screenshot of the Assignment Details posted at 6:17 p.m. on Jan. 10 by Professor Dianna Taylor for her Introduction to Leadership classes at the University of North Florida, obtained exclusively by The Epoch Times, 10 “Extra credit” points were offered to students who get COVID-19 vaccinations by midnight on April 30, 2022.

“Yay! Congratulations on doing the right thing and obtaining your COVID vaccination,” Taylor’s post stated. “A leader is aware of the wellbeing of others and the responsibilities of leadership have taken on an even deeper meaning as our colleagues, families, and workforces find themselves in an unfamiliar environment.” The statement concludes by saying: “I am so proud of your decision to vaccinate and to mask up. Just confirm in the Discussion Board response and I will add your 10 points!”

On Jan. 12, The Epoch Times reached out to Tayor about the offer of 10 extra credit points and to find out if the policy had been approved by the university. On Jan. 13, The Epoch Times received an email from Matthew Ohlson, Ph.D., Director of the Taylor Leadership Institute and Associate Professor in the Department of Leadership, School Counseling & Sport Management at the University of North Florida.

Screenshot of Dr. Dianna Taylor giving a student 10 extra credits on January 10, 2022 for getting a COVID-19 vaccine and "masking up."
Screenshot of Dr. Dianna Taylor giving a student 10 extra credits on January 10, 2022, for getting a COVID-19 vaccine and “masking up.” (Courtesy of Moms for Liberty member)

“We received your request to speak to one of our adjunct/part-time employees regarding a particular extra credit activity,” Ohlson’s email read in part. “Please note that the activity in question has been changed to encourage our students to attend our student-led Taylor Talks (similar to TedTalks) on 3/25, which is aligned with our core curriculum and leadership development activities.”

Ohlson then offered to speak to The Epoch Times, confirming that Taylor’s offer had not been sanctioned or approved by the university.

“It’s not anything we sanctioned or supported, not only as an institute but as a university,” Ohlson confirmed as he spoke candidly about the incident with The Epoch Times by phone. “The intent was around aligning with some of the university-based incentives in support for encouraging vaccines, which is great. But the activity was immediately changed to one of our events, Taylor Talks, which is more aligned with our core curriculum and that professor understood completely. The intent wasn’t to push an agenda. It was really just to highlight opportunities on campus where they are free, and I had a conversation with her, and we immediately agreed all course activities will stay related to our core curriculum.”

Dianna Taylor’s LinkedIn profile confirms her position with the Taylor Leadership Institute at the University of North Florida.

Screenshot of a second LinkedIn profile page for Dr. Dianna Taylor confirming her position as an adjunct professor at the University of North Florida.
Screenshot of a second LinkedIn profile page for Dr. Dianna Taylor confirming her position as an adjunct professor at the University of North Florida. (LinkedIn)

Her experience shows she has been part of the North Florida Taylor Leadership Institute for 23 years. A second LinkedIn profile—with the name Dr. Dianne (Dawood) Taylor—also confirms her status is now as an “adjunct professor with the University of North Florida.” Her profile also reveals “she is a TED Talk coach for TEDxJacksonville.”

Screenshot of Professor Dianna Taylor's experience at The University of North Florida.
Screenshot of Professor Dianna Taylor’s experience at The University of North Florida. (LinkedIn)

According to reviews posted on Rate My Professors, Taylor is known for handing out easy credits with no expectations for attendance or completing assignments on time.

Of the six reviews, 100 percent say they would take her class again and gave her course an average of 2.2 percent rating in difficulty.

Screenshot of review on Rate My Professors regarding Dianna Taylor.
Screenshot of review on Rate My Professors regarding Dianna Taylor. (Rate My Professors)

“There is 1 paper, and the midterm consist [sic] of answering 3 questions fairly easy,” reads a review dated Dec. 1, 2016.

“This class was the easiest class I’ve ever taken,” reads another post from Dec. 7, 2017. “I got a 100% in it. I would recommend taking it online. The class is made up of 5 discussions, 2 quizzes, and a final paper that [sic] only 1 page.”

“She also genuinely cares about your success and gives an unlimited amount of extra credit in form of essays,” reads a review from Oct. 11, 2018.

“Her class content was interesting, and she was very understanding when it came to deadlines and other obligations,” states a review from May 3, 2021.

Ohlson spoke enthusiastically about the new student-led Taylor Talks program, explaining “leadership is the number one skill employers are looking for.” Students who “do an exceptional job” are featured at events where the students can be celebrated for their accomplishments. According to Ohlson, “this is more in line with our core curriculum.”

With her experience as a TedTalks coach, The Epoch Times asked if Taylor was involved in coaching students in the new Taylor Talks program. “She did in the past,” Ohlson said. However, as Taylor “has transitioned to adjunct, she is not doing that anymore with us.”

Despite the wording of Taylor’s offer of 10 extra credit points to students who get COVID vaccines, a statement from the office of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said they “highly doubt that they mean giving out ‘credit hours’ for a course.”

“The giving out of credit hours isn’t something that a professor has any possible way to do,” DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw told The Epoch Times. “Professors don’t give out credits. Credits are earned through completing courses that exist in the institution’s course code directory, and there’s no way for a professor to alter that. In the
unfathomable event that the professor does mean that, this must be a truly unknowing professor, making a promise that cannot be delivered upon. Again though, we highly doubt that is what the professor means.

“What is more likely is that the professor probably means giving out extra credit towards earning a higher grade in that course,” Pushaw suggested. “Giving students extra credit as an incentive to make a personal medical decision is highly unprofessional and a basic violation of the ethics of the teaching profession, regardless of whether it is or is not a violation of the institution’s policies. If a professor decides to give extra credit in a course, it should always be tied to learning the course content, which this is clearly not.”

Patricia Tolson
Patricia Tolson, an award-winning political columnist and investigative reporter with 20 years of experience, has worked for such news outlets as Yahoo!, U.S. News, and The Tampa Free Press. With The Epoch Times, Patricia’s in-depth investigative coverage of elections, education, school boards, parents’ rights, and COVID-19 mandates has achieved international exposure. Send her your story ideas: patricia.tolson@epochtimes.us