UFF-UCF Reminders

UFF-UCF Reminders

Bargaining Today (9-1-2021)

We will hold a bargaining session on Wednesday, September 1, from 1:30 pm-3:30pm. During the first 45 minutes, we will discuss the fall COVID MOU proposal. You can  join us by emailing Briannis Weston [Briannis@ucf.edu] and ask her for the Zoom link.

UCF COVID Policies

Many of you have been reporting to us that university COVID policies were confusing and contradictory especially when an instructional faculty or one (or more) of their students disclose they have tested positive for COVID. Exactly what we are to do to mitigate any negative health outcomes for ourselves or our students remained unclear. UCF has heard your complaints and our complaints about this. Notice that Interim Provost Michael Johnson has circulated a Faculty Guidance Page.


We have distributed N-95 masks with the cooperation of Academic Affairs. Those who were missed in this distribution we were able to cover since. If you did not receive one of your N-95 masks please let me know, or if a group of you have not, let me know the number of masks you need and we will get them to you ASAP. Remember we want to also cover adjuncts and Graduate Teaching Assistants so please include them in your count.

UFF-UCF Podcast

Also check out our latest episode of the UFF-UCF Podcast. The title episode is “HB 233 or a Horrible Solution in Search of a Non-Existent Problem.” I spoke to Yovanna Pineda about the Commentary she wrote about HB 233 for the Orlando Sentinel.

The Podcast link is here

YouTube link is here

Join Us on Social Media

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter. If you are a member and on Facebook join our private group here. If you are not a member follow our public Facebook page here.

In Solidarity,

Robert Cassanello,
President, UFF-UCF

UFF-UCF Reminders

Follow Up to Impact Bargaining

Mask Distribution

We purchased 2,000 N-95 masks to give to every instructor of record for each class taught in person this fall. This includes all faculty, adjuncts and graduate assistants. It is a mammoth task to distribute these masks quickly, and we want to thank VP Jana Jasinski and her staff in Faculty Excellence for helping us in distributing these masks to the various colleges. Please be patient as the masks are distributed. Your colleges should have already received these masks or will soon. You can coordinate with your chair or ask your dean to distribute however many masks are needed per department/school/unit. Since we may not have an exact count, your college may run out of masks. If so, please contact me [president@uffucf.org] and we will get masks to you as soon as we can. We have a second batch of masks on their way to cover anybody who is not reached initially.

COVID MOU #4-Fall 2021

On Wednesday August 25 our bargaining team again asked to negotiate a new COVID MOU for fall 2021. We asked many of you to attend and we had about 70 people show up interested in a potential COVID MOU. You can hear the discussion at this link.

We did not reach an agreement. Thus far, other FL state universities, including the University of North Florida, FSU,  and the University of West Florida have completed bargaining fall 2021 COVID MOUs on behalf of faculty. At UCF, we too need to negotiate COVID policies to ensure public health, such as the right to hold virtual office hours. Interim Provost Michael Johnson said this is the case, but it is not official policy and could be overturned at any time. An MOU will ensure it cannot be changed on a whim during the pandemic. Stay sate, informed, and contact us with any queries.  We will hold a bargaining session on Wednesday, September 1, from 1:30 pm-3:30pm. During the first 45 minutes, we will discuss the fall COVID MOU proposal. You can join us by emailing Briannis Weston [Briannis@ucf.edu] and ask her for the Zoom link.

COVID Feedback Survey

Our union has created this form for you to give us feedback on what we can do to assist the Bargaining Unit during the current pandemic. Use this form to share your thoughts and any suggestions you may have for union leadership or for the bargaining team.

In Solidarity,

Robert Cassanello,
President UFF-UCF

UFF-UCF Reminders

COVID-MOU #4-Please Join Us

UFF-UCF wants to welcome everyone to the fall semester and we hope for everyone’s continued health and safety during our most recent turn in the pandemic. The New York Times is reporting over 200 hundred deaths as an average for the state of Florida with over 23,000 daily cases still. Right now Orange County’s daily average COVID cases are 1,278 and Seminole County is 428. The Orlando Sentinel also reported yesterday that we are fast approaching peak daily cases of COVID for Florida.

While Faculty Excellence reminds us we “Teaching in a Pandemic… Again,” we want to alert everyone in the Bargaining Unit that we will be meeting with UCF to negotiate a Fall COVID MOU. UCF has been reluctant to agree to negotiate a new COVID MOU since the summer one expired, however we have agreed to an impact bargaining session for this Wednesday August 25th from 2pm-3pm. We are asking everyone who can to join us by emailing Briannis Weston
[Briannis@ucf.edu] and ask her for the Zoom link. You do not have to be a union member to watch impact bargaining, it is a public meeting.

Last week I alerted you to revisions made to the COVID Decision Triggers behind closed doors, so that the triggers can no longer trigger an actual COVID Decision. Public Schools Boards around the state are electing to require a mask mandate indoors. We are asking UCF to put the popsicle down and bring solutions to the problems and concerns of the Delta Variant that the Bargaining Unit faces. We need you to join us. Email Briannis Weston [Briannis@ucf.edu] and ask her for the Zoom link.

In Solidarity,

Robert Cassanello

Time to Get Serious About COVID Policy on Campus

Time to Get Serious About COVID Policy on Campus

It is time for UCF to get serious about campus COVID policies. I spoke to the Board of Trustees this morning during the public comments portion of the meeting. In the spring of 2020 when COVID cases were a fraction of what they are right now, UCF moved us to remote learning. Interim Provost Michael Johnson has told us throughout that time and since that “masks were effective” in preventing us from getting COVID on campus. Yesterday Governor Ron Desantis said publicly that masks are “not proven to be effective.” We have been following the lead of our state government concerning COVID policy even when our state political leaders contradict the CDC and their guidance. Instead of the CDC, we take our guidance from the Board of Governors. Some brave executives and school boards around the state are openly defying state mask mandate policies in the face of threats to budgets and removal from office. The union demands that UCF create some meaningful contingency plans for when it becomes necessary for UCF to change campus COVID policies to comply with the science of the pandemic.

On Monday I emailed everyone in the Bargaining Unit that UCF returned and revised the COVID Decision Triggers webpage on Friday August 13, 2021. Although we in UFF-UCF applaud the initiative UCF made to return the Triggers page, we have since learned that those triggers were again revised (without a new revision date, the old revision date remains). What was removed were some of the more definitive benchmark triggers for both the campus and community. You can see the original Trigger page here from August 13 and compare it to the revised one here we have documented in case it gets revised again. I personally am troubled by this because this all lacks transparency. Why were the triggers revised and revised to be more meaningless? On Monday I questioned why the original triggers from August 13th had a 10% increase measure in cases but no baseline figure to measure against the increase. In response, the solution was to take any quantitative triggers out of the policy so to have no definitive benchmarks. Instead we have vague statements with no way of knowing when we do or do not reach a benchmark.

With our governor moving further away from the science of the pandemic we need meaningful triggers. Instead we have a trigger policy that remains as an excuse to maintain the status quo. We need quantifiable benchmarks. We also need transparency in how these policies and decisions are made. I am not instilled with confidence in how the Trigger page was launched, communicated and revised. UCF can do better and UCF should do better. The health and safety of our university community is in our leaders’ hands, we expect clarity not confusion.

We have seen UCF respond when you directly communicate with the President and Provost. Please let them know your feelings about the triggers, tell them “clarity not confusion.” Contact the President or the Provost [provost@ucf.edu] if you wish to share your concerns, we know they are listening to us.

In Solidarity,

Robert Cassanello,
UFF-UCF, President

UFF-UCF Reminders

Press Release Fall COVID-Return and Triggers

Press Release Fall COVID-Return and Triggers
For Immediate Release
UFF-UCF Calls on the UCF Board of Trustees and the UCF Administration to Take
Meaningful Action to Protect Our Community

On August 16, 2021, the elected council of the United Faculty of Florida at UCF, our faculty union, held a meeting. In the wake of recent news regarding rapidly declining capacity at local hospitals, including ICU beds and ventilators, and in light of the recent re-appearance of the University’s “COVID19 Triggers” webpage, the UFF-UCF council agreed on the following statement:

It is clear at this point that even fully vaccinated individuals can become ill and transmit SARs-CoV-2. At the same time, this “epidemic of the unvaccinated” places children under 12 and people who cannot be vaccinated at special risk. As UCF is not requiring masks, vaccines, or social distancing on campus, and as the delta variant appears to be orders of magnitude more transmissible than the alpha variant, we are increasingly concerned that the University’s lack of action will lead to illness and death of these vulnerable populations. The climbing rates of child hospitalization and PICU hospitalization due to COVID-19 further supports this concern. We, the members of this campus community, have a responsibility to protect UCF’s students, faculty and staff, and their families, and the wider community, and to help limit the spread of the virus. UCF’s plan for “back to normal in the Fall” was made in the spring, before this dangerous and highly transmissible Delta Variant was a concern. UCF should be a model organization, in being willing to revise our plans based on new evidence.

Of the triggers specified on UCF’s COVID Decision Triggers page, some have already been met, or could be argued to be a concern:

  1. Local hospitals are at capacity and are short on ICU beds or ventilators (“a significant, sustained increase in Orange and Seminole County hospital admissions”, “insufficient ICU beds and respirators in the region”).
  2. Community transmission is rampant, and is overwhelming the community’s ability to trace contacts and limit exposure “degradation of robust testing capacity in the community, including screening and contact tracing for symptomatic individuals.”

Our community’s ability to contain the spread of the Delta variant has been seriously degraded. Many more of these triggers will likely be met, with potentially tragic consequences, once the Fall semester starts without reevaluating our plans. It would be irresponsible to continue with the assumption, one that seemed reasonable in the Spring, that vaccination would make all other protective measures moot in the Fall

The CDC clearly recommends layered protections, including vaccines, masks, limiting exposure to crowded indoor spaces when we don’t know who is vaccinated and where community transmission is high. Face to face classrooms, especially large classes that are close to the room’s capacity, are precisely the situations that the CDC recommends people avoid when community transmission is high, as it is in Central Florida right now.

Last year, UCF demonstrated that we know how to handle a pandemic responsibly. Many instructors have also demonstrated that they have very effective methods for teaching classes in modalities other than face to face.

We call on the UCF Board of Trustees and the UCF Administration to take meaningful steps to protect the health and safety of its students and employees. This could be accomplished by moving to remote instruction for a limited time, moving larger classes online, and moving smaller classes to larger rooms to enable physical distancing. It can also be accomplished through enforcing a mask mandate and social distancing on campus, and by requiring students and employees to be vaccinated to come on campus.

The time to act is now.

United Faculty of Florida-UCF Council

Please contact:

Robert Cassanello, President, UFF-UCF

Beatriz Mireya Reyes-Foster, Vice President, UFF-UCF

For a PDF version of the official press release, please click here.

Time to Get Serious About COVID Policy on Campus

UFF-UCF Updates

I just wanted to share a few quick updates while we wait for the fall semester to begin.

HB 233 Lawsuit

UFF has signed onto a pending lawsuit against HB 233, the Intellectual Diversity Legislation. You can read about it here. It is in Federal Court which could delay any implementation of the legislation, we will have to wait and see. Remember we have been telling everyone in the Bargaining Unit all along the survey will be voluntary. WLRN noted the following, “House sponsor Spencer Roach, R-North Fort Myers, said completing the surveys would be voluntary for people on campuses.” If someone tells you the survey will be mandatory please correct them.

New Mask Mandate News

On Monday (8-2-2021) we learned that Valencia College and Seminole State College have instituted a mandatory indoor mask policy without fear of backlash from the Governor and State Legislature. Now we learned that many public school systems are reversing course and instituting an indoor mask mandate and some parents across the state have gotten together to file a lawsuit against the Governor’s Executive Order (21-175) that threatens to cut education funding to school districts that are non-compliant with the order’s restrictions on any mask mandates. CNN reported that some legal experts say this executive order is just bluster and there is no mechanism to follow through on the threat within the order.

UCF’s recent email telling us that vaccines are available for us and asking us to wear masks indoors because the Delta variant is highly transmissible is a step in the right direction. However UCF can do more in this messaging. Look at the University of Florida’s COVID update page here. While UCF asks us to wear masks indoors, UF expects people to wear masks indoors. These directives are not as definitive as Valencia College or Seminole State College, but it is an improvement. While UCF is moving in the right direction please take in how UF is speaking and messaging about masks and vaccines. Please encourage our campus leaders to move us in the right direction and tell our campus community that UCF expects us to wear masks indoors. I’m told your feedback is helpful and emails are welcomed. Contact the President or the Provost [provost@ucf.edu] if you wish to share your concerns.

In Solidarity,

Robert Cassanello,
UFF-UCF, President