Higher education faculty call for virtual fall semester

Published: Jul. 28, 2020 at 8:53 PM CDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - The union representing the faculty at Florida’s twelve state universities and 15 of its state colleges is calling on the Governor to reverse plans to re-open in-person learning for the fall semester. 

The union believes with Florida seeing nearly 10,000 new cases a day, in-person learning cannot be conducted safely.

Universities and colleges had largely completed their plans to reopen this fall by mid June, but since then, the number of new virus cases has skyrocketed.

“College aged individuals are the most likely to catch and spread the disease,” said University of Florida student Marcus Milani.

The United Faculty of Florida reports three out of five schools they represent haven’t updated their plans since July 1st.

The union also found many plans lack adequate testing and contact tracing.

Most don’t have a set plan to respond to a positive case.

“And so what happens when people start getting sick?” said UFF President Karen Morian.

We reached out to FSU which has a plan for testing and contact tracing and is one of the five universities that has revised its plan since July first. 

We were told work on class scheduling and accommodations for high risk faculty continued throughout July.

As of now, two thirds of colleges and universities plan to return at least 20% of courses to in person learning. 

One third plan to conduct more than half face to face.

But the union hopes the Governor will shut down in person learning entirely at higher ed facilities in the fall.

“Flatten that curve again, get those numbers down again. Continue on with the learning that we can do through remote learning,” said Morian.

UFF estimates 2,000 students and 3,000 staff members could die if campuses open.

“These are not numbers. They are human beings. Sons, daughters, mothers, fathers and loved ones of many,” said UFF Vice President Jaffar Ali Shahul-Hameed.

“Universities designed their plans with the agility necessary to respond to changed conditions and enhance the resiliency of each institution,” said Renee’ Fargason, communications director for the State University Board of Governors, in an emailed statement. “As stated in our Blueprint for Reopening Campuses, the foundational priority of each university’s plan will be the health and welfare of all students, faculty, staff, vendors, volunteers, and visitors.”

We asked the Governor’s Office if executive action to keep university and college campuses closed was currently on the table.

“It is not at this time,” said Fred Piccolo, Communication Director for Governor Ron DeSantis.