Protesters speak out against in-person classes at UF Board of Trustees meeting

Published: Dec. 4, 2020 at 7:27 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - The decision to return to in-person classes is one that has already been finalized. Protesters tell say that won’t stop them from protesting.

Students, former students, teachers, and other Florida group members took their turns at the podium during public comment at UF’s Board of Trustees quarterly meeting. They claim that the university has become too business-minded, referring to the university’s opening to keep up with funding as well as the number of staff members who were denied the ability to work remotely despite underlying conditions.

“It seems like they have more or less made up their mind,” said UF alumn Eli Barrett. “It is very clear from this and their past actions that they couldn’t care less about the lives of the community and members of UF. They have shown time and time again they are willing to kill god-knows-how-many people in order to keep their financials lined up ... and we are at least going to make them have to confront that publicly.”

According to UF spokesperson Steve Orlando, all of the university’s decisions have been made in consultation with medical experts at UF Health. He said that transmission on campus being virtually nonexistent played a major role in the decision to return to more in-person classes.

In addition to their current COVID precautions such as social distancing and masks, Orlando said there will be extra COVID tests for students returning to the classroom.

One of the major issues protesters brought up at the podium was that several teachers were denied the ability to work remotely.

In response, Orlando said out of the 1,100 teachers that returned to the classroom in the Fall, only two tested positive throughout the semester -- neither identified as transmitted in the classroom. He said the positivity rate on campus is virtually non-existent.

“We certainly understand the concerns people have about faculty members coming back ... which is why we are taking certain precautions. For instance, issuing faculty members protective equipment -- roughly 50,000 N95 masks ... we will be doing physical distancing in all the classrooms ... all of those things are precautions we feel are necessary to make it as safe as we possibly can.”

Orlando said the university’s main priority is the students.

“Now that we are offering some in person classes ... roughly 40% of undergraduate students have registered for in-person classes ... so there is clearly a desire among our students and their families to have that in-person experience. We feel like it’s important to provide that to the students because at the end of the day, everything we do is for our students.”

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