College football is underway and more conferences are allowing fall seasons with shorter schedules, despite COVID-19. But faculty union leaders in Florida are questioning whether it’s safe to allow fans in stadiums.
The United Faculty of Florida, a statewide union representing full-time faculty, sent a letter Monday to State University System of Florida Chancellor Marshall Criser, expressing frustration over Florida universities allowing people to attend football games and lack of fans’ adherence to safety protocols.
“It is too late to send students home but the Florida Board of Governors and Governor [Gov. Ron DeSantis] directly bear responsibility for this situation. Why are fans even allowed at the games?” Marshall Ogletree, UFF’s executive director, said in the letter.
For instance, Florida State University played its first game of the season against Georgia Tech last weekend in Tallahassee and many fans were seen on television at Doak Campbell Stadium not wearing face masks.
The stadium was at limited capacity but not everyone in the crowd followed safety measures for attending games required by the university, according to a Tallahassee Democrat report.
“I just watched sports coverage of the FSU game on the 6:00 news. I was appalled at the fans lack of concern for safety not to mention the parties associated with the game,” Ogletree continued.
Meanwhile, another conference, the Big Ten, reversed its decision to postpone football in the fall and announced Wednesday that teams will begin playing in October.
According to a USA Today column, October and November “are predicted to be some of the worst days of the pandemic.”
That column also said the conference plans to administer daily antigen tests for COVID-19 for teams only and rapid tests for football players.
The union hasn’t received a response from the Florida Board of Governors regarding safety concerns at colleges. And a spokesperson for the Board of Governors hasn’t responded to a request for comment from the Florida Phoenix.
Ogletree said in an email to the Phoenix that he has “never gotten a response from Criser ever since COVID began,” and “some universities are doing well with COVID but others are not.”
Ogletree also criticized Gov. Ron DeSantis for permitting Florida bars to open at limited capacity.
“It is incomprehensible that higher education institutions, operated by political appointees, cannot make academic and science-related decisions to reduce the scourge of this tragic pandemic. And while you repeatedly have said the plans are agile…that agility lacks credence with fans and students attending games and the reopening of bars without any adjustments being considered,” Ogletree said in the letter.