Faculty union is not happy about UF's spring reopening plan

A University of Florida faculty union filed a grievance against the university for its spring 2021 reopening plan.

The university’s reopening plan includes more in-person classes than the fall semester.

Faculty and graduate students protested against this plan and created a petition as well.

Faculty at the University of Florida are pushing back against the university’s plan to have more in-person classes during the upcoming spring semester. 

The United Faculty of Florida at UF (UFF-UF) filed a grievance against the university for its spring 2021 reopening plan. The grievance asks that the university “cease and desist from requiring bargaining unit members to perform work face-to-face which can be performed remotely,” citing that “the University of Florida is requiring them [faculty and staff] to work in unsafe workplaces. 

The faculty union demands that the university “immediately adopt a policy whereby all courses that can be taught in remote mode be scheduled for online delivery.”

They are also demanding that the university “increase transparency regarding the mandate to maximize face-to-face teaching/learning/working; and, reveal to the public where this directive originated along with the reasoning behind it.”

Chapter Grievance with Signatures Watermarked.pdf by Campus Reform on Scribd

This comes after the University of Florida released its plan for the spring 2021 semester. According to an email from UF Vice President for Student Affairs D’Andra Mull, “the classes offered will include a similar number of in-person class sections as was offered in Spring 2020.”

University of Florida President Kent Fuchs said in a separate statement how this would help the university return to a normal setting.

“Although we are justifiably proud of the effectiveness of UF’s online instruction, the full experience of a residential university includes in-person instruction,” he said.

“The next step we must take is to significantly increase the opportunity for students to experience in-person, face-to-face learning, “ Fuchs said. “Our students deserve this opportunity.  More importantly, we have learned over the past several months how to keep our faculty, staff and students as safe as possible with in-person teaching and learning.”

Sarah Pickett, a fourth-year journalism major at the University of Florida, has mixed emotions about the university’s reopening plan.

“I think that they should not require students to attend in-person classes. Some classes will still be online and have the option for students to attend in person or online,” she told Campus Reform.

“Even the faculty union is filing a grievance and I don’t blame them. Students nor faculty should be forced to attend in-person in the spring,” Pickett said. “Yes, we need to get back to normal, but let’s wait another six months, at least until there’s an optional vaccine and we no longer have to wear masks.”

Pickett isn’t the only student who feels this way. 

A petition was also started for community members to sign in response to the university’s reopening plan. The petition has been signed by more than 3,000 faculty members, students and staff.

The petition states that “the demand for partial face-to-face teaching is both poorly conceived and reckless. It offers no pedagogical advantages and presents additional challenges that will have adverse effects on teaching and learning.”

It goes on to say that the plan for the spring semester “should be dropped immediately.”

In a statement made directly to Campus Reform, UFF-UF President and professor of history Paul Ortiz said the health of the university community is the number one priority. 

“We are trying to protect the health and well being of our faculty, staff and students. Many of our faculty, staff and students at UF have preexisting conditions that make F2F teaching a grave risk to their health,” Ortiz said. “We have been teaching effectively in remote modalities, and hope to continue doing so in the spring semester.”

Ortiz also attended a protest on Nov. 1 organized by UF Workers for a Safe Reopening, United Faculty of Florida at UF, and other organizations. The protest was held in front of Fuchs’ house. One attendee dressed up as the “Grim Reaper,” according to The Alligator.

In August, Campus Reform reported on how the United Faculty of Florida said it was too soon for in-person classes in the fall semester. 

Campus Reform reached out to the United Faculty of Florida but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @opheliejacobson