UFF Home
UFF Biweekly EXTRA
on a Letter to the Governor
on Reopening Florida Colleges and Universities
United Faculty of Florida -- USF Chapter
31 July 2020
Email not displaying properly? View it in your browser

UFF Calls on the Universities to Go Online in Fall

As of this morning, Florida had 6,966 deaths from Covid-19 and 470,386 cases (that the authorities knew about). According to Johns Hopkins, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas, and Sarasota counties alone had 1,044 dead. While the World Health Organization advises not to reopen until the test positivity rate falls below 5 % for at least two weeks, Florida's test positivity rate is 12.9 %. Florida is a national hotspot, second only to California.

In May, 74 % of colleges and universities polled had intended to reopen in fall, but now only 49 % still intend to do so.

Covid-19 is more difficult to deal with than expected. For example, USF's Plan for Reopening, posted in mid-June, relies heavily on cleaning surfaces. But Covid-19 is particularly dangerous airborne, which means that for prolonged periods in enclosed rooms, masks and face shields are probably insufficient, which is why some institions are adding ultra-violet light filters to their ventilation systems.

Reality check. The infrastructure does not exist: not only do many USF buildings lack anti-viral filters, but there are not enough test kits to enable testing on campus (and the labs are backed up even with the tests now extant). And with nearly half of all Covid-19 cases being asymptomatic, testing is the only reliable way to detect infected individuals. Turning to human nature, after a few weeks of energetic compliance with precautions, some people will become lax.

Even now, WTSP 10 of Tampa Bay reported that Florida colleges report hundreds of coronavirus cases among faculty and students - Most universities say the positive cases have been from those working remotely or students not on campus currently; perhaps, but imagine those faculty and students coming to class. And the National Education Association Today reported that Educators Prepare for Reopening with Living Wills and Life Insurance.

Imagine what will happen if USF reopens at the end of August with face-to-face and hybrid courses. By mid-September there may be a spike in cases. This means a lot of student and faculty absenteeism, and a number of people seriously ill. The university would be in the same spot that it was last March: going online, and figuring out what to do with all the students on campus.

UFF Sends a Letter to the Governor

On Monday, statewide United Faculty of Florida (UFF) President Karen Morian and Florida Education Association (FEA) Vice President Andrew Spar held a press conference to announce that they were sending a letter to Governor Ron DeSantis strongly urging him "to issue directives to transition all of Florida’s Institutions of Higher Education to remote learning ... until public health conditions improve ..." to a level of safety. Professor Morian conducted the press conference, in which she was joined by Spar, UFF Vice President Jaffar Ali Shahul Hameed, and six members of the higher education community from around Florida. In addition to the nine speakers,there were 154 attendees.

FSC Jacksonville Humanities Professor Karen Morian
FSC Jacksonville Humanities Professor Karen Morian

Morian began the conference by noting that many plans for reopening Florida colleges and universities were developed before the pandemic reached current levels (on Wednesday, the New York Times reported that as of then, USF had 182 Covid-19 cases - the seventh highest number of all public four-year institutions in America). Morian noted that UFF had developed Re-Opening Guidelines, and lamented that Tallahassee had taken a different approach. (The Chronicle of Higher Education has published a warning on one critical component of any reopening: The Bad Science of Reopening - Many Campuses' Testing Policies Fall Short.)
FGCU Mathematics Professor Shahul Hameed
FGCU Mathematics Professor Shahul Hameed

Morian and Spar stressed that the priority was safety, and Shahul Hameed warned that reopening could lead to the deaths of thousands of members of Florida's higher education community, students and teachers alike. Florida State College Jacksonville Nursing Professor Debbie Ferrari warned that there was not enough personal protection equipment for nurses, much less for students, and University of Florida student Marcus Milani was concerned that "UF is ignoring the science."
FSC Jacksonville Nursing Professor Debbie Ferrari
FSC Jacksonville Nursing Professor Debbie Ferrari

The pandemic is hitting marginalized populations harder both directly and indirectly. USF Graduate Assistants United Grievance Chair Matthew Eckel said that graduate assistants are financially stretched, and cannot afford to get sick, while Miami-Dade Community College adjunct Felicia Reynolds said that what higher education teachers need is help with health care and child care. UFF FAU Chapter President Deandre Poole said that Covid-19 has killed disproportionately more people of color and warned that politicians were ignoring the human cost in their plans.
FAU Communications Professor Deandre Poole
FAU Communications Professor Deandre Poole

UFF Makes the News

The press conference got some local, state, and national coverage, for example: It would be best if the USF Administration could announce now that classes are online so all faculty could prepare. Meanwhile, UFF will continue to press for safe and realistic plans for teaching in fall.


Join UFF Today!

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.

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.


Chapter Meeting Friday, August 7 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.

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