We are writing to communicate the understandable frustration of our faculty at Florida International University for the lack of a coherent response from the FIU administration regarding the rise of the Delta variant and hospitalizations across Miami-Dade County and throughout the state of Florida.
Despite numerous overtures from UFF-FIU, the FIU administration has chosen to not openly consult the faculty union about a safe return to campus for our entire community. Given the rapidly developing situation, we believe this status-quo is no longer tenable. Shared governance, which is essential to the university community, enables faculty to be confident that decisions regarding the health, safety, and reputation of the university are made collectively. Consistently making crucial decisions about university operations without the input of faculty not only violates the spirit of shared governance, but undermines the faculty’s confidence that these decisions are being made in the best interests of the entire university community.
In the past few weeks, the administration has worked to address some of the concerns voiced by the faculty. Elements of the administration’s proposals are unfeasible or would violate faculty’s academic freedom. We are concerned about the policy requiring faculty to make specific changes to course design in the form of ‘make-up’ assignments, as it is untenable and not in the interest of student success. Restrictions on academic freedom undermine both the right of faculty to make effective pedagogical choices, and the right of students to have access to the course materials necessary for their success.
We believe the interests of the university community, administration, students, and faculty are all aligned in our desire to balance the ongoing health risks, student success, and economic hardships. However, at this time we are compelled to raise these issues as we believe the current repopulation plan endangers our members, members of the university community and their families, and the long term health and reputation of our institution. Northern Illinois University has modelled how campus administration and faculty unions can address our current COVID-19 spike and work collaboratively. As Dr. Aileen Marty recently noted in a letter, “the situation in Florida is grave and getting worse; it would be IRRESPONSIBLE to add ‘fuel to fire’ by sending people to school without using the available means to reduce risk, including vaccinating all eligible people and the use of masks for all capable persons […] whether they are vaccinated or not, and maximum high-quality ventilation.”
We implore FIU’s administration to reflect on the success FIU has had throughout this pandemic in balancing these interests with the input of UFF-FIU. We’d like to continue to be a national model of shared governance. Let’s do this together. Let’s do this right.
UFF-FIU Executive Committee