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UFF Biweekly EXTRA
United Faculty of Florida -- USF Chapter
4 January 2022
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An Open Letter to USF President Rhea Law

As the Omicron variant surges, many colleges and universities are adjusting their plans for the next term, and some are even going online for the first few weeks. But in Florida, where Omicron is hitting Florida hard, many public universities are planning to teach face-to-face classes; it is a sign of the political pressures on Florida's public universities that a number of Florida's private institutions are initially going online. The United Faculty of Florida is concerned about an upcoming surge, and has asked USF President Law to take aggressive preemptive steps. Here is the letter that USF Chapter President Arthur Shapiro has sent her asking for action:

Dear President Law:

I trust that your Holiday Season has gone well.

I am writing, as president of the USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida, about the upcoming spring semester at our university. As you may be aware, the Omicron variant is proving highly infectious: hospitals - including pediatric hospitals - are experiencing surges in patients. Both the immediate and long-term severity of Omicron infections are uncertain, and projections for our region and for our state in general are rather grim. We are facing a likely explosion in COVID infections between January and March.

In view of recent and longstanding CDC recommendations in confronting this pandemic, the UFF strongly recommends that the University of South Florida embark on an all-hands-on-deck public relations campaign to urge members of the USF community - students, staff, and faculty - to take reasonable precautions during the spring semester. This campaign should include signage outside and inside of buildings, social media posts, and regular messages from you and the Office of the President encouraging our campus community to come together to fight the scourge of COVID-19. This means loudly and repeatedly urging everyone who can to receive vaccinations (or if they have already been vaccinated, boosters) as soon as possible. This means loudly and repeatedly urging everyone to wear N95 masks - and making N95 masks readily available on campus.

And I am writing to offer the assistance of the United Faculty of Florida in this campaign. In fact, I am writing to urge a more aggressive approach, and to offer UFF’s support for such an approach. We recognize that USF has been under intense external pressure to treat the pandemic lightly, but our primary concern is the health and safety of the USF community, and we believe that USF should take the following steps:

  • First, as the one thing we are sure of about Omicron is that it is highly transmissible, but that other factors are uncertain, we recommend that USF join Columbia, Harvard, Yale, and numerous other institutions and hold the first few weeks of classes online. This would reduce transmission on campus and give us more time to assess the behavior of the variant - and decide how to deal with it during the rest of the semester.
  • Second, as people will be on campus whether classes are face-to-face or online, we recommend that vaccination for eligible people, periodic testing, and masks be mandated. Again, we would support such mandates.
Finally, UFF requests that USF respect the right of faculty with preexisting health conditions or who are caring for people with preexisting conditions, to seek teaching and work accommodations as well as medical leave or leave to care for family members affected by COVID. A statement from your office on this matter would be greatly appreciated as we hope to lessen the stress of our colleagues as much as possible as we continue to work together to fight the pandemic. The last thing we want is a replay of the conflicts of the past over these issues.

The United Faculty of Florida stands ready to assist our university in keeping our campus as healthy and safe as possible during these challenging times. Please feel free to call on me at any time with concerns and ideas.

Again, I wish you a Happy New Year and I look forward to working with you on this common cause,

Sincerely Yours,
Professor Arthur Shapiro
President USF/UFF

For more information on the pandemic, see:

The Florida Department of Health also maintains a Covid-19 website with deliberately unhelpful weekly reports on the pandemic in Florida.

Chapter Meeting Next Week on Zoom

Our next chapter meeting will be on Friday, January 14. Any employee in the Bargaining Unit may attend, but you must have an invitation: contact the Chapter Secretary to get one.

Meetings and events are posted on the Events Calendar of the UFF USF Website. Come and check us out.

Join UFF Today!

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. Here is the membership form. Come and join the movement.

Get Involved!

Get active in the union! UFF is a volunteer organization, and it is only as strong as its membership.

And chapter elections are coming up, and all elected offices and representative seats will be open. If you are a UFF member and are interested in serving in an elected post, stay tuned, and a call for nominations will soon be forthcoming. But you must be a UFF member to run and / or vote, so join today.

USF United Support Fund for Food Pantries

Many of our students are struggling during this crisis, and the USF Foundation is supporting the USF Food Pantries to help out. They are accepting non-perishable donations, but one can also make monetary donations for the pantries at St. Petersburg, Sarasota / Manatee, and Tampa.


Next Chapter Meeting Friday, January 14, at 12 noon, via Zoom: for an invitation, contact the Chapter Secretary.

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 UFF USF members.

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