One revolutionary revelation from public health is that when using science to make plans, one should consider what people will do as opposed to what people ought to do. Much economic and political planning resists this point, and some political and economic planning nowadays consists of making plans based on what viruses ought to do. But viruses and occasionally people do what they like, which brings us to a reality check.
The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida will meet tomorrow Friday at noon on Zoom. On the agenda: a proposed USF policy on Return to Regular University Operations In COVID19 Environment that includes an assertion that all members of the USF community acknowledge the risk, an outline of risk mitigation strategies and responses (including face coverings and testing), and remote work and leave options. And here are the minutes for the previous meeting.
This is the last chapter meeting of the summer (we will set the schedule for fall at this chapter meeting). Any employee in the Bargaining Unit may attend, but you must have an invitation: contact the Chapter Secretary. Meetings and events are posted on the Events Calendar of the UFF USF Website. Come and check us out.
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.
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.
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.
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Florida's colleges and universities, including USF, are preparing for fall. But the situation is not good. The Covid-19 Case Fatality Rate (CFR) varies widely from Italy's 7.7 % to Germany's 0.2 %, but there are patterns, and estimates posted in Our World In Data suggest that the CFR for people less than 50 years old is less than 1 % while people in their 60s face a CFR of 2 - 4 %, with the CFR approaching the double digits in as one approaches 70. Data from China suggests that victims of cancer, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes, and hypertension face a 5 - 8 % CFR, with cardiovascular disease pushing the CFR to 10 %. And many survivors face protracted and problematic recoveries.
The politicians haven't been much help. Back in March, the White House projected that the pandemic would all be over by now; subsequently, reopening colleges has became a political football. And Vice President Mike Pence announced that the CDC would change school reopening guidelines, saying that the president's characterization of the old guidelines as "tough and expensive" was "the reason why, next week, CDC is going to be issuing a new set of tools." Meanwhile, the New York Times posted an internal CDC document stressing the importance of tough and expensive measuresincluding comprehensive and repeated testing. Fortunately, many of the pages in the CDC's site on Communities, Schools, Workplaces, and Events were posted prior to July, but the entire affair is alarming.
Meanwhile, California - one of the other Covid-19 hotspots - is seeing colleges and universities walk back reopening plans, and the Chronicle of Higher Education's July 29 snapshot has 23 % of all institutions fully or primarily face-to-face, 27 % fully or primarily online, 16 % "hybrid", and 33 % undecided or "other." The percentage of institutions going largely online this fall is increasing - and a few that are reopening their campuses are asking students to sign waivers or asking Congress for liability protection.
A number of experts argue that for reopening in fall, the "wild card" is student compliance, which will have to be largely voluntary if it is going to succeed.
So, what we can expect? Pandemic predictions tend to look like hurricane spaghetti models, so the best one can do is try to see where they are trending. The CDC's spaghetti models forecast relatively little change in Florida hospitalizations but but are all over the map on deaths between now and the beginning of classes.
Reopening a major public university is a major operation. Classes, even with six-foot social distancing - and one should recall that those six feet constitute a minimum recommendation, especially for classrooms in which students exhale viral clusters which adhere to desks, floors, walls, etc., while the smaller particles float around for a while. Most masks block droplets that users exhale, but are less reliable protecting the wearer from inhaling smaller clusters; but more formidable masks are scarce. (And one should also protect eyes.) Covid-19 infection in late teens and twenty-year-olds is often asymptomatic, requiring repeated and comprehensive testing to identify people who should self-quarantine; but tests are scarce and labs are backed up with the tests we now have. Meanwhile, whatever the cooperation and enthusiasm during the first week of classes, the precautions will become a drag within a few weeks. We should not be surprised if reopening in August leads to a spike in September.
The specter of a spike in September has moved the union to act. The Florida Education Association (FEA) - UFF's state affiliate that represents K-20 teachers statewide - has filed suit to give local K-12 school districts the discretion to reopen or go online as local circumstances dictate. This suit was in response to Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran's Emergency Order that "Upon reopening in August, all school boards and charter school governing boards must open brick and mortar schools at least five days per week for all students, subject to advice and orders of the Florida Department of Health, local departments of health, Executive Order 20-149 and subsequent executive orders," which many school districts have interpreted to mean that schools must be open five days a week unless the state lets them off the hook.
Meanwhile, United School Employees of Pasco has filed for an injunction against the Emergency Order. USEP is, like UFF, a "union local" of the FEA. Pasco County superintendent Kurt Browing told the Tampa Bay Times that the order looked as if school funding would be jeopardized if schools did not reopen.
At a press conference last week, statewide UFF President Karen Morian said that as the FEA's lawsuit involved K-12 schools, for UFF to join that lawsuit would be "a stretch," and that UFF has no lawsuit - at present. At present, UFF is going public, starting with an open letter to the governor.
FEA's lawsuit followed letters to Florida's Surgeon General and Florida's Chief Financial Officer. Letters appear to be the first step. Thus Arthur Shapiro, President of the USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida, has sent an open letter to USF President Steven Currall saying that because of the pandemic, courses should be online in fall. It is not clear how much leeway President Currall has, but we are looking forward to his response.
Many USF courses are already scheduled to be online, and even if the university reopens with many classes in classrooms, it is quite possible that by the end of September, all classes will be online. With that in mind, it may be wise to prepare to teach online. This fall is different from last spring, when classes moved online with little advance warning; approaching fall, we can see this one coming, and practically all stakeholders expect fall to work better.
In the past, USF's online courses were taught by teachers who had taken a course from Quality Matters or had taken USF's own Online Instructor Certification (OIC) course. The OIC has human instructors, which limits how many faculty can take it, but it has been and will continue to be offered periodically - it is a four-week course on instructor presence (how to present yourself to students), assessment (tests, grades, cheating, etc.), delivering content (synchronous versus asynchronous, etc.), and pulling it together. It takes a few hours a week, and once completed, one is certified.
This being an emergency situation, USF is (temporarily) asking faculty who are not certified by Quality Matters or OIC to take a Designing Your Online Course course, in which participants proceed at their own pace. As with OIC, some of the content is basic pedagogy, but adapting even the basics to go online is a non-trivial operation.
Here are some additional resources expressing different points of view:our website; if you know of additional resources, please let us know so we can share them.
Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, August 7, at noon, via Zoom. All UFF USF members are welcome: for the Zoom link, contact the Chapter Secretary.the Chapter Secretary. 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.