TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Members of Florida's university faculty union are calling for all of the state's colleges and universities to transition to remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The officers of the United Faculty of Florida announced the push in a virtual press conference via Zoom Monday afternoon. UFF officers and members were joined by Florida Education Association Vice President Andrew Spar.
"When you are an 18, 19 year old, 20 year old going off to college and want to experience college life, very often that means gatherings," Spar said. "And we know that those gatherings are set up in such a way that we would have widespread COVID19 situations."
Many of Florida's colleges and universities announced reopening plans for the fall semester some six to eight weeks ago, UFF says, and fewer than 40% of the institutions where UFF represents faculty members have revised those plans despite the recent surge in COVID-19 infections across the state.
"There's a lot of problems with some institutions plans for tracking and tracing," Dr. Karen Morian, President of United Faculty of Florida. "There's a lot of problems with some of the social distancing measures that are lacking."
According to UFF First Vice President Jaffar Ali Shahul-Hameed, a projected 2,000 students could die and 25,000 could be hospitalized based on data from May 2020, which preceded the spike in cases.
"We saw the wrench that it was in the spring to close things down mid semester, and we don't want to do that to the students again. We don't want to do that to the faculty again," Morian said. "We want everybody to know what this semester's going to look like for the entire semester. And we think if we open it up, we know we're gonna have cases."
Most institutions' current plans fail to address sick students, sick faculty members, on-campus housing in the event of an outbreak, testing or tracing, UFF says.
"We love face-to-face teaching and miss our students, but as much as our faculty and students fervently wish to get back to our classrooms, the steadily rising COVID-19 infections and deaths warn against it," UFF President Karen Morian says. "If our institutions become hot spots due to early reopenings, closing campuses mid-term once again would do real harm, mentally, physically and economically."
UFF is urging Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, the Board of Governors and Florida College System Chancellor Kathryn Hebda to "not send us down this path of uncertainty.