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Sunday, November 28, 2021

UF Faculty Senate pushes back vote on COVID-19 ‘no-confidence’ resolution

As only 16 senators ruled in favor of voting to make the resolution an action item on Thursday, the vote will be held at the faculty senate’s November meeting

UF Faculty Senate members vote to delay the COVID-19 no-confidence resolution in the Reitz Union Chamber on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021.
UF Faculty Senate members vote to delay the COVID-19 no-confidence resolution in the Reitz Union Chamber on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021.

UF faculty and staff have expressed their dissatisfaction with the university’s COVID-19 response through petitions and demonstrations since August. On Thursday, they took another step by voting they have no confidence and security in the administration.

UF Faculty Senate held a meeting Thursday afternoon, introducing the COVID-19 no-confidence resolution which is scheduled to be voted on Nov. 18.

If voted in favor, the COVID-19 no-confidence resolution would formalize the faculty and staff’s disappointment in both the state and university leadership’s COVID policies. The vote does not fire anyone in the administration.

The resolution of no-confidence was first drafted in August as they were concerned about the university’s COVID-19 pandemic protocols.

The original resolution asked the UF administration to reconsider the Fall 2021 plan and work closely with the Senate to make plans and events transparent to the university community.

As changes were made to the resolution, it now includes another vote of confidence aimed at the leadership of Florida State University Systems Board of Governors regarding its handling of COVID-19 in schools.

Despite plans of discussion, the resolution was not heard in neither August nor September senate meetings due to conflicts with Senate Steering Committee approval and calls to redraft the proposal. The committee felt there were some inaccurate statements, such as the faculty providing no input to the policy.

The original no-confidence resolution was inspired by Penn State University’s faculty senate no-confidence resolution against its administration’s COVID-19 plan. UF’s Faculty Senate states the university’s Fall COVID plan falls short of faculty expectations and does not create a sense of safety and confidence among faculty, staff and students.

The resolution states the plans lack flexibility and accommodations with no vaccination, masking or testing mandates, and in-person teaching requirements without social distancing, upsetting many faculty members.

Delaying the vote to November would mean that the faculty and staff issues with UF’s COVID policies would further be postponed despite several petitions and demands made to mandate masks and vaccines since late August, when campus reopened amid the surge of the Delta variant. Now, with cases going down, some senators argue the resolution is no longer relevant. 

Now, finally introduced Thursday, faculty senators will vote on the resolution Nov. 18.

Maureen Long, a faculty senator and professor for the comparative, diagnostic and population medicine department said there needs to be autonomy in the decisions made from the UF administration to the faculty because COVID-19 is not going away.

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“I really believe that it does need to move and the reason it needs to move, whether it fails or passes, there needs to be a good talk about it as an action item,” Long said. “It’s been discussed everywhere, but there’s really been no action for us, and that’s how we felt the whole time during COVID.”

Other faculty senators said there was no need to vote on the resolution as Florida COVID-19 cases and infection rates have decreased.

As the senate came to vote on making the resolution an action item Thursday, only 16 senators ruled in favor of the motion.

Mark Hostetler, a professor and extension specialist in the UF Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Department, said he hopes the resolution will pass in November. But he believes the Senate Steering Committee had minimized the language and effect of the original resolution which he presented.

“The original resolution just said we’re not confident in the Fall COVID policy and here’ some of the reasons,” Hostetler said. “This one went overboard to point the finger at the state.”

He said the university continues to claim that its hands are tied when it could have banded together with other Florida institutions to​ defy​ the state government​, ​following​ the science for the wellness and safety of their faculty, staff and students.

What is also at stake is academic freedom, Hostetler said. He thinks UF needs to take a stand on this issue.

“Managers do things right, leaders do the right thing,” he said. “And what is happening is our leadership, our managers, are not showing leadership. They’re just managing what the state is trying to do.”

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

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Camila Pereira

Camila is a third-year journalism student and the administration reporter on the university desk. When she is not reporting for The Alligator, Camila is always listening to music and probably drinking honey milk tea.


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