‘They should treat us like professionals’

I counted more bodies on campus in the last ten days than in all of Fall 2020: clumps of students basking in the crispness of a January morning, few of whom dicknosed their masks. Following a fall term held mostly online, the university, perhaps fearing a smack from Governor Ron DeSantis, increased the number of undergraduate in-person classes, though not as much as University of Florida upstate: more than 600 percent this semester, even as Covid-19 conditions in Florida (and across the nation) deteriorate.

Experimenting with a hybrid model unveiled last semester, I met a face-to-face class on January 13; when six hardy souls out of fifty sat in a room set up for socially distanced education, I felt my chest swelling. “This is my first time in a classroom in front of you since March 10,” I said. A couple clapped. However, dat’s dat: we returned to remote Zoom-ed learning two days ago. Point made. Case loads are too high.

However, a different scenario has unfolded at UF, which, despite reporting almost 6,000 COVID cases since March, added a button to its app allowing students to rat out faculty who cancel in-person teaching:

More than 25,000 students are attending classes on campus in Gainesville, with a roughly equal number taking courses online.

Faculty complain of pandemic teaching burnout, but they also increasingly voice concerns about a lack of appreciation from their bosses. The university’s ramp-up to additional in-person classes came as more than 50 faculty members were denied health-related requests to teach remotely.

Then last week the university made headlines for what critics called a “tattle” button on the Gator Safe mobile app. The button allowed students to report a “course concern” if their professor changed a scheduled in-person class to online.

UF has scotched the tattle button, the Chronicle reports, but the chilling effect remains, for as the flagship of the Florida (the state with the prettiest name!) university system, UF is beholden to a traditional school’s revenue streams. Students registered for remote learning aren’t paying for housing or eating on campus. By contrast my university’s done okay because, despite the pre-COVID push to emulate UF and FSU’s campus life, we remain a commuter school. Happily.

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A wee thing, but it pleased me to read that the NYT’s health site endorses my practice of double masking during the right circumstances:

One big advantage of double-masking that I’ve found is that it creates a better fit and closes the gaps around the edge of your mask. I like layering my masks. When I walk the dog or exercise outdoors, I wear a regular mask to comply with area mask rules. When I want more protection for short errands, I wear a better mask. When I’m in a taxi or on a train, I double-mask.

With morning lows averaging in the very low sixties — unusual for South Florida — I wear my mask for a half hour before sunrise against the chill, not protection (the joggers and bikers I used to spot have either reneged on their fitness regimens or have put them off until the morning warms p). When I need to hail a Lyft vehicle, I double mask. For every other piece of my routine, including while tapping this post at the Coral Gables Public Library, I wear a single medical mask.

Take care of each other.

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