The UF administration promised students there will be face-to-face teaching this Spring. You will soon discover this is not quite the case.
In order to please our state’s leadership and assure continued funding, President Kent Fuchs and Provost Joseph Glover have mandated that there will be as many face-to-face classes this Spring as last Spring. However, because of social distancing guidelines, about 15% of the seats in these classes will be live while the rest will be online.
It gets worse. Because these seats are not being equitably distributed to students, those who register last and are most in need of the face-to-face experience — first years — will likely have the fewest number of seats available to them. As students now register for classes, they are seeing that the promise of face-to-face teaching is hollow.
Even for those who get a class with face-to-face teaching, the university has not protected students or professors from the greater risk of getting COVID-19. Without hiring more staff to clean and sanitize, upgrading ventilation systems, or supervising mask wearing or social distancing, the university is assuring students and faculty in live classes that they are at little risk of getting the virus.
Many faculty who are at greater risk of getting the virus because of their age and/or pre-existing conditions have been ordered to teach these live classes. However, the majority of the students taking these classes will be simultaneously instructed online.
Both live and online students in face-to-face classrooms will be asked to adapt to a situation where professors must divide their attention between both live and online students. Faculty are only right now being trained in this new and experimental HyFlex technology.
This is a disaster that is now unfolding at the same time that the number of COVID-19 cases at our university, in Gainesville, the state and the nation are climbing upward to higher and higher levels of infection and death.
Why this trainwreck? Why is the university telling students, their parents and the legislature that undergraduates can take live classes this Spring just like last year? None of the other Florida public universities treat faculty lives so cheaply.
Why is human suffering being bartered for economic gain? Is the fear of losing funding and the drive to top-five status behind this? By choosing to accommodate the legislature, the administration is not being honest with students and putting all of us at greater risk.
At the beginning of the year, President Fuchs sent out a video asking that we be especially kind to each other this year. Is this kindness?
David Hackett is a professor in the department of religion