President’s message: UFF-UF and UF-GAU’s pandemic demands

Dear Colleagues,

As a third generation military veteran, I salute each and every one of you for the courage, creativity and corazon (heart) that you have demonstrated during this stressful semester. Many of you have been forced to change your teaching modalities several times since last March. Those of you who are librarians, counselors, classroom teachers and unit administrators have faced epic challenges in reconfiguring work spaces, resources and service to the people of Florida in ways that keep students, staff, and faculty safe and sound. 

To echo Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, who honored us with her presence at yesterday’s joint UFF/GAU virtual speak out, it did not have to be this way. Unfortunately, the University of Florida has chosen to make decisions that have made our work lives more stressful and less safe. However, it is not too late for UF to change course, to listen to reason and to rediscover the joys of shared governance at all levels. 

At this week’s speak out titled  “Faces of the Pandemic,” we insisted that teachers, instructors, counselors, librarians, researchers, etc., etc., are the ones most qualified to make decisions related to their ability to engage in teaching, research, and service in the most effective and safe modes possible. This powerful message was amplified at “Faces of the Pandemic” by UF undergraduates, graduate students, numerous faculty and members of the broader community. 

Apropos of “Faces of the Pandemic,” I am writing this message to share with you the five joint demands that UFF-UF and GAU-UF made during this week’s virtual speak out. I hope that you will join me in sharing these ideas and their rationales with colleagues, administrators and members of the public. 

These demands are based in the work experiences of UF instructors and staff who are risking their lives and health this semester. As most of you know, UF has decided to act contrary to all other universities in our state—and against the example of most other universities in our nation—and has been trying to forcing many of our colleagues with preexisting health conditions into teaching F2F. Demand Number 1 flows from this fact and it is: 

Instructional faculty and staff should be scheduled for vaccination immediately. UF has a moral obligation to do this because the administration has forced instructional staff and faculty into F2F situations. Courses that can be taught online should allowed to remain online until a majority of faculty, staff, and students are vaccinated. Teaching faculty and student-facing staff should be prioritized for vaccination, as has been done for public school instructors and staff in other states.

Allow faculty to teach in the modes that work best for their own courses. Instructors can make more informed choices on the best modalities in their discipline than administrators, and their expertise should be respected.

Expand accommodations to work remotely based on known predisposing factors. Accommodations should be based not on disability but on factors related to negative outcomes from Covid-19, such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, and advanced age. Consideration should also be given to applicants whose spouses or dependents have such predisposing factors.

Use the UF Safety App for safety, and the evaluation and grievance systems for instructional concerns.  Through decades of joint governance, we have established, vetted systems for reporting student concerns with teaching; it is inappropriate to bypass these procedures with an anonymous, unilateral, and unvetted “snitch” function, designed to effect neither safety nor quality.

Restore the proper role of faculty in shared governance, per the UF Constitution and our collective bargaining agreements. Decisions regarding instructional modes must be made jointly with faculty, and rationale for administrative directives must be transparent and provided in writing. The spring f2f mandate was neither, and is a violation of trust between administrators and faculty/staff.

In closing, I assure you that we are not alone in our struggle for a safe campus. At “Faces of the Pandemic,” people came from across the state and nation to express their concern and solidarity with us. Becky Pringle, president of the largest labor union in the United States, the National Education Association, was our key note speaker. Karen Morian, president of the statewide United Faculty of Florida, read testimony from our faculty impacted by UF’s actions during the Global Pandemic. Our dear colleague Bonnie Effros, former director of the UF Center for the Humanities, and now a faculty member at the University of Liverpool in the UK, sent a message of solidarity delivered unanimously by the University and College Union at Liverpool. 

Please let UFF-UF know how we can best serve the interests of our members and the broader community. I encourage you to get involved in one of the union’s many committees. Staying active in defense of each other’s lives and livelihoods is a great way to state connected with colleagues and new friends. Finally, I invite you to attend UFF-UF’s next Council meeting on Monday, February 8 at 1pm.

In Solidarity,

Paul Ortiz

Want to get involved?

1. Contact President Kent Fuchs and the Board of Trustees
Phone: (352) 392-1311
Phone: (352) 273-0569

Copy UFF so we can track our campaign! (

2. Share your outrage over UF’s decision to risk the lives of faculty, staff, and student on social media, with the hashtags:

3. Make a video detailing your experience with COVID and UF and share it on social media, tagging: