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Thursday, June 24, 2021

UF lifts hiring pause as it shifts to pre-COVID-19 operations

From 2019 to 2020, there were 30% fewer new faculty members hired at UF.

Graphic by Shelby Cotta
Graphic by Shelby Cotta

UF will resume faculty and staff hiring and employee business-related travel this Summer.

The university announced May 13 it will lift the hiring pause, along with all other COVID-related restrictions on travel and visitors put in place at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The update is effective immediately as UF’s campus prepares to return to full capacity for Summer B and Fall.

The hiring pause was announced on March 27, 2020, and the non-essential travel ban on March 16, 2020, as precautionary measures to limit the spread of COVID-19. Only essential travel relating to university business was permitted and had to be approved by the dean of a college, senior vice president or vice president.

Although travel is now permitted, the university will be monitoring the situation as restrictions lessen throughout the year and more so in 2022, Chris Cowen, senior vice president and chief financial officer at UF, wrote in an email.

The UF cabinet decided to enact the hiring pause to address the possible economic impacts of the pandemic, such as funds needed to fill staff positions, Jodi Gentry, vice president for Human Resources at UF, wrote in an email.

The pause allowed departments to save funds on recurring expenses from vacant positions, anticipating potential difficulties caused by COVID-19. Members of the UF cabinet decided to lift the pause based on the changing COVID-19 restrictions and a more stable financial situation that allows for hiring.

UF’s overall staff was reduced by 6% during the pandemic as most of the staff positions were reduced due to the inability to fill temporary positions, Gentry wrote. 

In 2019, UF hired 571 new faculty members. In 2020, there were only 395 new faculty members hired, Gentry wrote. 

This represents a 30% decrease in new faculty members being hired over the pandemic.

Faculty hired within the past year were required to go through three additional steps within the hiring process to receive approval for exceptions to the hiring pause.

Exemptions to the hiring pause were handled through a form that had to receive approval from the dean of the college or vice president, or the provost and senior vice president for academic affairs Joe Glover, senior vice president for UF Health affairs Dr. David Nelson or Jodi Gentry.

New faculty hires no longer need to go through these additional approval steps to apply to work at UF.

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UF lifted these restrictions for some graduate assistants, student assistants and adjunct faculty as early as last July

Faculty positions are tailored to the individual; members can personalize their approach to the job more than graduate assistant positions, which already have a set structure and receive guidance from their mentors, 24-year-old Graduate Assistants United committee chair Bryn Taylor said.

Taylor said she, unlike many of her friends, was hired through a less rigorous process in the middle of the pandemic — August 2020 — as a research assistant. 

“I know my friends who were not GAs but just looking for staff and admin positions at UF, they’ve definitely had a harder time getting any kind of response back when they applied for those kinds of positions at UF,” Taylor said.

Stephen Beale, a 23-year-old mailroom clerk who planned to go back to school for his master’s degree, applied to administrative assistant and receptionist positions May 2020 to February of this year but was set back by COVID-related hiring freezes and funding decreases.

Although UF is slowly easing COVID-19 restrictions, Beale is cautiously optimistic as he is worried about a spike in cases. However, he is glad UF will have more job opportunities if he decides to change positions, Beale wrote.

Taylor said UF should consider the possibility of new virus variants reaching UF from places like India and Brazil, which are experiencing new COVID-19 outbreaks.

“I think that is important to consider when making these reopening decisions, but, I mean, I don’t think I can necessarily blame UF for wanting to try to return to normal operations,” Taylor said. 

Contact Camila Pereira at cpereria@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @CamilaSaPereira.

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