UF students & staff hold protest against in-person classes

Published: Nov. 19, 2020 at 7:47 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Students and faculty met on the University of Florida campus to protest against UF President Kent Fuchs’ plans to bring back in-person classes for the upcoming spring 2021 semester.

“I am out here today because I love teaching, I love my students, and I want to live to teach in-person when it’s safe,” said UF teaching assistant Fi Stewart-Taylor.

The protest was hosted by Young Democratic Socialists of GNV, Unite Faculty of Florida at UF, and Alachua County Labor Coalition.

Weeks ago President Fuchs claimed a return to in-person classes will be the best chance the university has to keep their full funding and protecting university jobs.

Some students and staff are saying the statement shows that the university is considering money as more important than lives and health. Some speeches from the protest included students or staff saying they personally know individuals who are at high risk for COVID and were denied the ability to work remotely for the spring 2021 semester.

“That means people with pre-existing conditions, those with COVID? Those have been denied,” Stewart-Taylor said.

According to data released by UF, over 60% of requests by staff to work remotely were not approved. As of right now, the university has reported more than 5,000 positive cases since March and has reported that more than 900 of those individuals are currently in isolation.

“We are going to keep fighting and we are going to fight together,” Stewart-Taylor said.

In response, UF released a statement saying they are taking the appropriate precautions and that they will be conducting mandatory testing for students in campus housing, greek life, or those returning to face-to-face classes this spring. Read the full statement below:

The University of Florida is taking appropriate precautions for the spring semester, guided by UF Health and CDC guidelines to create a safer environment and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

It is worth noting that we have seen no evidence thus far of the transmission of infection in classroom or laboratory settings during the fall semester. Furthermore, the university announced today its plan to conduct mandatory testing for students who live in campus housing, fraternity and sorority housing or will be in face-to-face classes this spring.

In addition, UF also announced today that UF Facilities Services recently evaluated the air change per hour rates of more than 350 instructional spaces across campus. The results show that these spaces meet or exceed commonly accepted standards of air changes per hour. Further, these results were reviewed by a team of medical experts at UF Health, who concluded that the levels of air change found within the instructional spaces across campus do not put students or faculty members at risk for COVID-19.

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