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Thursday, May 19, 2022

We chose UF — would we choose it again?

UF’s lack of COVID-19 safety protocols encourages students to choose between safety and academia

Opinions generic
Opinions generic

I didn’t choose The Alligator Opinions Editor position for the money. It’s shocking, I know. 

I took this job because I think the Opinions section is underrated. The submissions on this page are a measure of what people in our community care about, what they believe in, what makes them tick. 

Right now, our community cares about COVID-19. Students and faculty are sick, scared of getting sick or sick of the situation in general. And there’s no end in sight. 

Despite widespread symptoms of pandemic burnout, UF continues to implement a laissez-faire leadership style when it comes to the virus. UF leaders expect masks but won’t mandate them, online class alternatives are rarely offered and simple social distancing protocols in classrooms seem to be a thing of the past.

To mitigate the danger students face every day by going to school, UF representatives roll up their sleeves and continue to do what they do best — send out vague, insulting emails. 

And on Jan. 14, they outdid themselves. 

Vice President for Student Life Dr. D’Andra Mull sent out an email with the intention of helping students “navigate COVID-19” with “healthy behaviors.” The intention? Lovely. The application? Not so much.

First, Mull recommends the obvious: staying home and self-quarantining if you’re sick. If you have COVID-19, you should report your positive test to DOH COVID Operations “for further guidance” (I said it was vague). 

The email goes on to say professors don’t have to use this information to provide accommodations for missed classes. If they want to provide “additional attendance options,” they can, but only if they want to. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t very comforting considering many professors allow for one to two absences before your grade begins to suffer. 

So we’re going to campus to pack into lecture halls full of masked people — if they feel like it that day — for hours at a time, several times a week. If we want to graduate, we have no choice in doing this. 

And then when we — almost inevitably — contract COVID-19, we’re not allowed on campus. While doing the right thing and staying in quarantine, we’re potentially missing class without the ability to attend virtually or catch up on work. We could miss entire lesson plans, assignments — even exams. 

Another frustrating aspect of this is that the infrastructure for online classes already exists — we’re just not utilizing it. But if your professor won’t accommodate you, what are you supposed to do? Is UF expecting students to choose between keeping others safe and maintaining their GPA? 

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With these policies (or lack thereof), UF is indirectly pushing students to attend classes knowing they have COVID-19, if not avoiding testing altogether. 

I worked hard to get here, and I know you did, too. We deserve to feel safe on our own campus. We deserve more than patronizing emails and policies that force us to endanger each other. Students pay thousands of dollars and go into massive debt for their education, and we chose UF for a reason. But the bond between UF and its students means nothing if the college’s leadership can’t prioritize our safety over profit — over “Top Five” status. 

We chose UF to be our school. Let’s hope we’re not made to regret it. 

Sara Lindsay is the Spring 2022 Opinions Editor for The Alligator and a senior journalism major. She is currently a Pulitzer Fellow at the CJC and spends her free time at the park with her dog Sequoia. 

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