UFF Home
UFF Biweekly
United Faculty of Florida -- USF System Chapter
12 March 2020
Email not displaying properly? View it in your browser


Coronavirus and Dame Rumour

Although a recent op-ed in Science claimed that "The coronavirus seems unstoppable" and asked "What should the world do now?" it is not clear exactly what we are facing. In the United States, as victims turn up all over the country, some campuses are shutting down and moving classes online - including ours, as the Florida State University System Board of Governors have just decided to move all classes online at least until April 5 in a statement that managed to avoide the word "online".

But the virus itself is not the only problem we face. Outside of the problem of safety measures inspiring risky behavior, there is the Internet.

  • Of Germs and People. A new coronavirus reminds us that reality (like, facts) matter - but (alas) facts are not the only things in play. For details, see below or click here.
Meanwhile, as we are moving online, here are...
  • A Few Resources. For a few links to advice, guidance, etc., on suddenly moving a course online in the middle of a semester, see below or click here.
The UFF USF Biweekly continues to run short accounts by recipients of the travel scholarships.
  • Graphic Novels as Biography. Cecil Greek of the Department of Sociology conducted a workshop at the 2019 meeting of the American Sociological Association. For more, see below or click here.
The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida represents all 1,600+ UFF USF faculty in bargaining. It is a democracy, but only dues-paying UFF USF members may vote for officers and representatives in the annual election. It is Election Season, and the ballots are out! Ballots are due Friday, March 27. If you were a UFF USF member as of February 28, you should receive a ballot by Saturday: if you do not receive a ballot by Monday, contact the Chapter Secretary. Meanwhile, the candidates' statements can be accessed via the Chapter website.

But the election is not all that we are up to: we are planning an organizing campaign this fall, and we can use all the help we can get. If you are interested in helping build the union, please contact the Membership Chair. We urge everyone to get involved.

Chapter Meeting Tomorrow on USF Tampa at noon in SOC128

The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida will meet tomorrow Friday at noon on USF Tampa in SOC128. Lunch is on us. On the agenda: the recruitment campaign, election mechanics, meetings on the St. Petersburg and Sarasota / Manatee campuses, and the spring election.

We will be using Zoom so union members may attend virtually. If you wish to do so, contact Susan Ariew for an invitation. And we will discuss how to run chapter meetings for the rest of the semester. Meetings and events are posted on the Events Calendar of the UFF USF Website. Come and check us out.


We are now bargaining in earnest, and the UFF USF Bargaining Committee - which represents you in bargaining - would like your input on what you would like to see in the next or future contracts. If you have not already filled in the survey, please go to the survey website and fill it in. The Committee will look at the results after Spring Break, so please fill in the survey by then.

$ 500 Travel Grants for UFF Members

The USF Chapter of the UFF will award six $ 500 Travel Scholarships for next spring and summer. This will be for travel for participation in a professional activity. All applications are due by April 22, and only UFF members are eligible. In addition, no recipient of the Fall or Spring cycles of travel grants is eligible to apply. The six recipients shall be selected by lot at the April 24 chapter meeting. For more information, see the Travel Scholarship Flyer.

This initiative is part of our membership campaign. If you would like to become active in the UFF USF Membership Drive, contact the Membership Chair, Debra Sinclair (click here).

Join UFF Today!

In order to be a member of UFF, one has to join. To join, download, fill in, and mail the membership form. Benefits of membership include the right to run and vote in UFF chapter and statewide elections; representation in grievances (UFF cannot represent a non-member in a grievance or litigation); special deals in insurance, travel, legal advice, and other packages provided by our affiliates; free insurance coverage for job-related liability; and the knowledge you are supporting education in Florida. Come and join the movement.


If you have been the victim of a violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, you have thirty days from the time you knew or should have known of the violation to file a grievance. If you are, and at the time of the violation were, a dues-paying member of the United Faculty of Florida, you have the right to union representation. To contact the UFF USF Grievance Committee, go to the online contact form. For more information, see our web-page on grievances.

We are on Social Media

Yes, we are on social media.

If you want to help with media matters, contact the Communications Committee chair.

Of Germs and People

The Nurses and Health Professionals division of the American Federation of Teachers (one of UFF's national affiliates) has just sent out a Guidance paper, Is Your Workplace Ready for Coronavirus? As our provost explained to the USF Tampa Faculty Senate on February 26, USF is getting ready for a wide range of contingencies. Meanwhile, USF has launched a Coronavirus Updates page for a general audience, and another aimed at faculty. These two pages point to three main sites for reliable information:

And USF has page of updates for professionals.

Meanwhile, some of the more ... responsible ... organizations are also providing information. For example:

So the old high school forensic debating solution to fake news is available: rely on reliable sources. But a sideways glance at The Conversation's page on Fake News shows that not only do we face a Coronavirus pandemic, we face a Coronavirus Nonsense pandemic. Especially as many of our students (and some of our colleagues) rely on social media feeds (and even posts) from platforms like Facebook, 4Chan, Reddit, Twitter, and other known haunts of Dame Rumour.

While there is some official concern about, say, coronavirus-inspired xenophobia, most preparations concern public health and medical treatment. But planning for the public safety of a community the scale of USF has to take the Internet into account. Al Jazeera observes that there are a lot of conspiracy theories floating around, along with fake cures and imaginary threats, all of which have inspired efforts to fight the impending pandemic of fake news.

This may be a teachable moment, especially in light of studies indicating that young people do not get news from, ahem, journalists, and in fact, often from news feeds on Twitter, Facebook, or similar platforms. Considering that a recent study concluded that a quarter of all tweets on climate change are generated by bots, it is reasonable to anticipate a pandemic of unhelpful tweets on coronavirus.

Recalling the anti-tobacco Truth Campaigns, and anticipating another invasion of malignant tweets as Election Day approaches, systematic countering of fake news about coronavirus may be less effective than some basic education about business models on the Internet. Social media sites live off of advertising, one way or another. They attract visitors with clickbait - You could catch COVID-19 from your computer; click here to find out how - and then, for $ 39.95, purchase software for disinfecting your computer from COVID-19. A more subtle approach is to attract visitors so to a site that will attach "cookies" to visiting browsers to find out where there browser visits (and thus what advertisements to present to the browser's user). A sideways glance at software stocks shows the enormous amounts of money that can be made this way.

And there are governments and other organizations spreading disinformation in order to advance their own agendas.

The moral to present to students is that one has to understand the business model of a site. Different platforms have different agendas, and some (like the CDC and WHO) have to maintain their credibility in a community of colleagues with long memories. The same is true of major news platforms, whose bias is often reflected in what they regard as news (and whose reportage consists largely of genuine facts of some kind or other). If we can teach our students what a news source is, we will not only prepare them for the oncoming pandemic of fake news, we will also prepare them for similar pandemics that they can expect during their adult lives.

Meanwhile, Wired magazine observed that Coronavirus memes and jokes are already ricocheting through the internet. A psychological research thread suggests that "... humor permits one to cope better with the aversive experiences of life," although it seems to work only if the psychological distance between the audience and the aversive experience is neither too great nor too small. So we should also be prepared for this sort of thing.

All of us are susceptible to fake news, especially when someone familiar tells it or if the surrounding crowd seems to buy it. In dealing with a material threat like coronavirus, we have to think more critically. And our mission being education, we can help by teaching our students to think more critically.

A Few Resources

The USF Administration has put up an Academic Continuity Resources page, with links to a Faculty Toolkit and a Student Toolkit. There will be several training sessions during Spring Break on available software. These are the Faculty Information Sessions, Module X, Comprehensive Training of Canvas Basics, Live Online (synchronous) Support Sessions, and One-on-One Consultations and Support; some of these will be at particular locations, some will be online, some will be both, and we recommend checking the schedules to see which ones you can attend.

Yesterday, the USF Tampa Faculty Senate was advised of the Administration's concern that relying on other software and platforms may not be compliant with the American with Disabilities Act and that the software providers were confident that their bandwidth was sufficient to run USF's courses during this crisis. The Senate was also advised that faculty should ask if they have questions - but also that USF has the same number of IT employees handling the inevitable spike in questions, and they asked for patience. The reality is that some of us will have to rely on the assistance of more technically proficient colleagues - and we might have to get creative (but stay responsible).

And here are some links to advice about how to do take a classroom online. (Unfortunately, some of the Chronicle's articles are behind walls.)

One commentator said that we can make lemons out of lemonade by using this crisis to determine if online education is actually comparable to classroom education.

Graphic Novels as Biography

Cecil Greek is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology (and a UFF USF senator). He received a $ 500 travel scholarship to attend the 114th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association last year in New York, where he presented a workshop on Creating an Illustrated Graphic Novel on the Life, Theories, and Resurrection of a Classical Theorist. This is his account.

Cecil Greek presented a teaching enhancement workshop on student projects in his classical sociological theory class. The group projects involve developing graphic novels focused on the lives of classical sociologists. Within the novels, the careers and concepts of the sociologists are dramatized. A truly creative part of the projects is the sociologists' "resurrections," which allows them to come back to investigate contemporary society and to retest their theories and concepts. Working collaboratively in small groups is essential to completing these projects through assigning roles, creating timelines, and adhering to a group created contract. The workshop was positively received with lots of questions addressing how to best facilitate such projects.


Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, March 13, at noon, on USF Tampa, in SOC128. We will have lunch at the meeting. All UFF members are invited to attend. Non-members are also invited to come and check us out. Come and join the movement.

Membership: Everyone in the UFF USF System Bargaining unit is eligible for UFF membership: to join, simply fill out and send in the membership form.

NOTE: The USF-UFF Chapter website is http://www.uff.ourusf.org, and our e-mail address is uff@ourusf.org.

About this broadcast: This Newsletter was broadcast from uff.ourusf.org, hosted at ICDsoft.com, and is intended for all members of the UFF USF Bargaining unit (USF faculty and professionals at most departments). A (usually identical) version will be broadcast to USF-News and USF-Talk from mccolm@usf.edu.

If you do not want to receive the UFF Biweekly, you can unsubscribe below or by e-mailing a message to gmccolm@tampabay.rr.com. If you do not receive the Biweekly, but want to, e-mail a message to gmccolm@tampabay.rr.com.