Great expectations

I’m pleased to report that, as of today, it’s all systems go for Saturdays at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Full capacity, no mask mandates, no vaccine passports: David Whitley, sports columnist for the Gainesville Sun.

I have a dream. Oh, a fantasy really.

In my dream University of Florida Kent Fuchs appears before the Alachua County School Board as it’s deciding whether to extend its mask mandate in defiance of Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state Board of Education.

And he says something like this:

“Board members, I am here to give you support and encouragement in your determination to do what is necessary to protect the health and lives of our children, teachers, school employees and other living things.

“You are doing the right thing. The science says so. Our vast army of UF health professionals say so. Stay the course, board members.

“I only wish that we in Tigert Hall were free to do the right thing. But we are not. We are captives of the state and must blindly follow Gov. DeSantis, no matter how lethal, irrational, insane, anti-science and anti-public health his presidential ambitions may prove to be.”

Seriously, does Fuchs need his job this badly?

I have been a member of the Gator nation since 1973. And I cannot remember a time when I was ever so embarrassed by – no, ashamed of – Florida’s “flagship” university.

In this age of COVID resurgence – when even UF Health’s considerable resources are being stretched to the limit – the university’s leadership is spewing more Great Expectations than a Dickens novel.

The University of Florida “expects” students to wear masks in class. But it will not require masking.

UF “expects” everyone on campus to be vaccinated. But it will not mandate vaccinations.

The University of Florida expects to pack Florida Field on game day Saturdays with as many human bodies as possible. And they expect to open the campus to tailgating like it’s 2019 again.

And they no doubt “expect” those fans to be duly vaxed and masked.

But, you know, this is all for the love of the game, after all. Not to mention gate receipts.

Meanwhile, back in the academy…

“The university must take immediate action to develop a plan for Fall 2021 that attends to the concrete and immediate risks facing our community. The plan to move classes back to face-to-face format without a requirement for masks or vaccines, when our medical facilities are already at capacity will endanger lives, and specifically the lives of children, unnecessarily.”

This in an “open letter” to Fuchs signed by hundreds of UF faculty and staff.

And Tigert Hall’s response: Great Expectations…

And so, once again, I have to ask WWRMD?

Robert Marston – physician, scientist, academician – was President of the University of Florida when I was editor of the Alligator, back in 1975. Before that he was director of the National Institutes Of Health, but he was fired for refusing to go along with Richard Nixon’s meddling in public health policy.

Marston began the slow and steady transformation of the University of Florida from backwater southern football school to the world class graduate research institution that it is today.

And I have to wonder what Marston would have said if he had gotten a call from a Ron DeSantis telling him that the games must go on, that classes must be unmasked and that vaccines are for timid liberals.

No, I don’t have to wonder. I know.

Marston would have said the same thing he said when ordered to get behind Nixon’s party line or else.

Hell no.

What if Kent Fuchs had told DeSantis hell no?

Is it better to be remembered as the fired president who did the right thing?

Or the team player who turned a blind eye to science, the academy and the public welfare?

As it is they will be celebrating up in the President’s Box on Game Day Saturdays. But make no mistake.

This year, of all years, Gator Fever will literally be contagious in our little backwater southern football town.

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