Stuck in a months-long contract negotiation with the USF administration, the union for USF graduate assistants tells ABC Action News they feel the school is putting student safety in jeopardy by not paying "fair" wages and providing adequate training on how to handle emergency situations like if there was an "active shooter" on campus.
USF Police offer information on their website about how to handle different kinds of crisis situations, including an "active shooter" situation, and even offers free regular classes in how to handle these types of emergencies.
Some graduate assistants say they were never directed to that information, and fear it doesn't go far enough to protect students and teachers.
Recent news that the Florida legislature is considering a bill that would make it legal to carry a concealed weapon on campus has the union's leader, Megan Flocken, extremely concerned for the safety of people on campus, and believes crisis management training should be worked into pre-semester training seminars, and that the teachers should be financially compensated for that work time.
"As an instructor you would walk into a classroom without any emergency training, but also with the potential that your students are armed with concealed weapons," says Flocken, imagining a future in which permitted concealed weapons are permitted on campus. She also points out it could soon be illegal to smoke on campus, but legal to carry a handgun.
Graduate Assistants United of USF represents about 2,200 graduate assistants on the Tampa campus; their roles include teaching classes, running lab experiments, research, and administration assistance. According to the union, GA's are paid about $10,000 per year and aren't supposed to have a job outside of the campus work.
Most GA's take out student loans to get by.
USF's spokesperson says USF Police would alert all faculty, students and staff in case of an emergency by phone and email and would include directions on how to handle the situation. They would also alert everyone when a threat has passed.