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Wednesday, December 01, 2021
COVID 19  |  UF

UF backtracks on proposed online start to Fall semester

Hours after the initial proposal, UF announced classes will follow the original in-person format for the start of the semester.

A university-wide email sent Friday afternoon indicated some Fall 2021 classes may start the semester online. Hours later, the university reversed course.

“The mode of delivery for your courses may be changed to a virtual environment for the first three weeks of class,” UF's Vice President for Student Life D’Andra Mull, Ph.D., wrote in the first university-wide email sent Friday. Mull asked students to check Canvas on Aug. 16 to see if their courses would be taught online. 

However, a few hours later, an email sent to the UF faculty by President Kent Fuchs reversed this message — UF classes will maintain the originally planned format and be held in person the first weeks of Fall.

“In efforts to manage the pandemic’s effects on university life, there have been discussions about moving some courses online for the first three weeks of the semester,”  Fuchs wrote late Friday night. “The decision was made today that UF will not pursue that option, nor will any other university in the State University System.” 

Multiple UF faculty members who received the email confirmed that instead of a full-online option for the first three weeks of the Fall semester, professors could instead add a HyFlex option to their course with departmental approval.

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UF Brain Cognition and Development Lab director and professor Lisa S. Scott, Ph.D., expressed her disappointment with the university on Twitter Friday evening

The outcry from UF faculty on social media was immediate.

“Monday morning I’ll be sending a request to our representative in the faculty senate that they bring forth a vote of No Confidence in our leadership,” Emilio M. Bruna, Ph.D., a professor at the UF Center for Latin American Studies and the Director of the Florida-Brazil Linkage Institute, wrote on Twitter Friday night. 

On Saturday morning, Mull sent an email to students in Fuchs’ words. An explanation of why the change was made was not offered in the email and the university did not clarify. 

One UF faculty member expressed frustration they saw among other staff about the back-and-forth.

“Many of my friends had spent a lot of time first preparing for in-person safely, then started preparing for online class for the three-week period,” the faculty member wrote in an email, “and tonight, at nine p.m, (President Fuchs) sent that email.”

UF’s announcement follows a spike in cases in the state of Florida with the emergence of the Delta variant. 

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The week of Aug. 6 showed a spike with over 150,000 new reported cases, 13 times more than the week of June 4 — reporting under 12,000 cases. 

Florida reached more than 16,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations as of Aug. 14 — a spike 33% higher than its last peak in July 2020.

Sixty-three percent of Alachua County residents over the age of 12 are reported to be vaccinated in the Florida DOH report. In May, UF Health estimated that between 70% and 80% of students had been vaccinated, based on informal polls, conversations, and its own vaccination numbers — UF could not provide supporting data for this estimation.

Contact Christian Casale at christiancasale@ufl.edu. Follow him on Twitter @vanityhack

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Christian Casale

Christian is a third-year history student also pursuing a certificate in international relations. In the past, he’s served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Valencia Voice. He’s now a University General Assignment reporter for the Alligator. 


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