Teresa Schuster / Asst. News Director
Five FIU faculty members recently signed a letter urging the Florida Board of Governors to require students, faculty and staff to wear masks and receive COVID-19 vaccines. The BOG oversees Florida’s state universities, including FIU.
The letter, which garnered over 170 signatures from faculty of various state schools, suggests Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ prohibiting of vaccine and mask mandates blocks public universities in Florida from doing so. Some private institutions exempt from this, such as the University of Miami, currently require masks.
FIU’s administration strongly recommended students to wear masks and get the vaccine, and recently announced a $150 incentive for any student, faculty or staff member who does the latter.
The faculty members who signed the letter believe this is not enough, calling the BOG’s current policy unscientific and unethical.
“By implementing policies that fail to protect the lives of university students, faculty and staff, we are showing that we have no ethical center, and we place no moral value on the lives and well-being of people in our community,” states the letter. “By ignoring CDC recommendations, we are sending the message that universities in our state do not value science.”
The letter also argues the BOG should allow faculty to teach remotely if they wish. This was allowed last year, but professors were asked to return to campus at the start of the fall 2021 term.
This came after months of discussions between FIU’s faculty union, UFF-FIU, and FIU administrators. Previously the union had negotiated a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the university which prohibited them from forcing faculty to return to campus. That MOU expired after the spring 2021 semester.
Under pressure from the BOG, FIU required professors to return to campus this fall, a decision some protested. PantherNOW previously reported FIU faculty’s increasing concerns about returning to campus.
At a faculty senate meeting months ago, professors criticized FIU’s policy, arguing it was premature and compromised their safety.
“We’re forcing staff to go into a bunker to serve what conceivable purpose?,” asked professor Clarke Wheatley during the meeting.
UFF-FIU President Martha Meyer, who recently signed the letter, previously told PantherNOW she felt requiring faculty to return to campus was unsafe.
“There are definite concerns about personal safety and health about returning physically,” said Meyer. “Most faculty that I’ve heard from are concerned about their safety and their health.”
She reiterated those sentiments after signing the letter.
“We don’t want to put ourselves at risk if we don’t have to,” Meyer told the Miami New Times. “We want to do what’s in the best interest of our students, faculty, and our staff.”