United Faculty of Florida -- USF System Chapter
16 October 2014
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Chapter Meeting Tomorrow Noon at USF St. Petersburg
Tomorrow Friday the Chapter will meet at 12 noon on USF St. Petersburg on Coquina Hall, room 231 (COQ231). All employees of the UFF USF Bargaining Unit are invited. There will be sandwiches and snacks and drinks. Check us out. Join the movement. Bring a colleague.
For the rest of this semester, the Chapter will meet on the Fridays of October 31, November 14 and December 5 at 12 noon at CDB Restaurant, just east of USF Tampa, on 5104 E. Fowler Ave.
Get Out The Vote
This is a very high-stakes election this fall. The two leading gubernatorial candidates are quite different, and it makes a big difference who gets elected (see Inside Higher Ed's article on the gubernatorial race). Many experts expect the vote to be quite close. The Florida Education Association and other unions active in this election believe that the races depend critically on turnout. So please remember to vote this election, and please tell your colleagues, friends, family, neighbors, and acquaintances how important this election is.
Join UFF Today!
Download, fill in, and mail the membership form. Benefits of membership include the right to run and vote in UFF chapter and statewide elections; representation in grievances (UFF cannot represent a non-member in a grievance or litigation); special deals in insurance, travel, legal advice, and other packages provided by our affiliates; free insurance coverage for job-related liability; and the knowledge you are supporting education in Florida. Come and join the movement.
If you have been the victim of a violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, you have thirty days from the time you knew or should have known of the violation to file a grievance. If you are, and at the time of the violation were, a dues-paying member of the United Faculty of Florida, you have the right to union representation. To contact the UFF USF Grievance Committee, go to the online contact form. For more information, see our web-page on grievances.
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IN THIS ISSUE
The Politics of Tenure
Tomorrow Friday, October 17, UFF will hold its first Tenure and Promotion Workshop at 2 pm on USF St. Petersburg campus in COQ 231, right after the chapter meeting. The workshop is open to all UFF members; non-members are invited to join UFF (we will have membership forms) and participate. The workshop will cover the tenure processes at USF (the university is now in transition from one procedure to another) and promotion: how to work towards tenure or promotion, how to prepare the packet and where it will go, and how to protect yourself.
If you can, please let us know you are coming by contacting the Workshop Organizer, Professor (and UFF USF Vice President) Steve Lang.
- Bring your contract (the Collective Bargaining Agreement booklet you should have just received in the mail); we will have extras just in case.
- Your department should have written criteria for tenure and promotion; please bring them along.
Getting into the spirit of these workshops, this is the first of several issues on tenure; tenure is, after all, the make-or-break hurdle. In this issue, we take a bird's eye view.
Speaking of contracts, by now every USF employee in the UFF USF bargaining unit should have received their own copy of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. If you have not received yours, contact the Chapter Secretary.
- What is tenure for? Tenure was intended to protect academic freedom of teachers and scholars. For more, see below or click here.
- Attacking tenure. Recent incidents involving tenured faculty remind us that even with tenure, the protections are not absolute. For more, see below or click here.
- Eroding tenure. What is statistically more important than the attacks on tenure is the erosion of tenure and the replacement of tenured faculty by teachers with little or no protection. For details, see below or click here.
What is tenure for?
Minstrels, prophets, artists, and scholars have enjoyed unusual, if often uncodified, immunities protecting their freedom to say inconvenient things. These immunities could be porous - think of Jeremiah thrown into a cistern or Galileo under house arrest - but they were real. Scholars and artists in particular provide valuable services for governments, so governments seek to attract them, and part of the historical package has been some kind of protection from censorship.
Two centuries ago, the University of Berlin sought to provide the Freedom to Teach (Lehrfreiheit) and the Freedom to Learn (Lernfreiheit). America modeled its new universities after German institutions, and the aspirations came along with them.
Notice that the aspirations were for freedom for teachers and students. Berlin's goal was to kick the local nobility out of the classroom, even though the local nobility had created the classroom to begin with. American faculty were soon fighting to keep boards of trustees out of the classroom.
During the Depression and World War II, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) persuaded many institutions to adopt tenure as a device for protecting academic freedom. In 1940, the AAUP published a Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. The primary concerns were:
Then came the mechanics. After a probationary period, a teacher who has met the standards of their institution should be granted "tenure", which means that they cannot be dismissed summarily, but only for cause (or laid off during a financial crisis) and only then with due process.
- Teachers should be free to research and publish, although profits should be shared with their institutions.
- Teachers should be free to teach, although they should focus on the subject of the course.
- Teachers are citizens, and should be free to exercise their rights as citizens, although they have a moral obligation to do so responsibly.
The intent of this Statement was clear: faculty with tenure shall have the freedom to teach, publish, and say things that their administrations and boards find inconvenient.
The AAUP Statement had no force of law, so tenure had had to be written into contracts, regulations, and case law. The price of liberty, wrote Wendell Phillips, is eternal vigilance.
And there is a steady drip, drip, drip of these stories of boards and administrations evading or simply violating tenure protections. For example...
- The College of the Mainland, in Texas, fired a tenured professor for insubordination and violating the college code. David Smith was a longstanding figure in the news, and had organized a quasi-union. The president of the Texas AAUP wrote that "...it is disturbing when a good and popular professor is terminated, not by his faculty peers passing judgment on his competency, but by a board of officials using the language of 'insubordination.'"
- Walter Stroup, a professor of education at the University of Texas, has been visiting state legislatures and criticizing standardized exams, including exams produced by a major corporate benefactor of his college. He recently came up for post-tenure review, and he was rated "unsatisfactory" because his poor "scholarly activity and productivity" - despite the activity and productivity that was irritating his college. Two successive unsatisfactories are grounds for dismissal. The story has hit the newspapers, so now anything can happen.
- Steven Salaita was hired for a tenured position by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Salaita frequently tweeted ferocious comments about Israel and Gaza, and when community leaders found out about the tweets and Salaita, they pressured the UIUC Administration to un-hire him, which they did (just before classes, after Salaita resigned from his previous tenured position). This has become a major controversy, and appears heading for the courts.
USF's tenure is defined in the contract, so many shenanigans practiced elsewhere would not work here. But it is wise to remember that there are powerful people who would eviscerate or eliminate tenure if they could. For example, in 2011, just after Governor Scott's election, the state legislature tried to eliminate tenure in state colleges as an encore to gutting due process rights for K-12 teachers. Whether they try that again next year may depend on the election returns.
A more insidious problem was the assumption hidden in the 1940 Statement's description of the mechanics of tenure: a teacher will either achieve tenure or not be continued in service. Institutions now hire teachers who are to be continued in non-tenured service indefinitely, and Academia is becoming a two-class society.
During the 1980s and 1990s, many pundits foresaw a huge demand for new faculty as old faculty retired just as baby boomlets hit the campuses. But that isn't what happened. A few years ago, the American Federation of Teachers (one of UFF's national affiliates) conducted a study of faculty during 1997 to 2007, and found that at "public research / doctoral-granting" institutions, while the total faculty had increased 34 % from 471,000 to 629,000, full-time tenured and on-track faculty had increased 13 % from 161,000 to 182,000 while full-time nontenured off-track faculty had increased 37 % from 66,000 to 91,000. Part-time faculty and graduate assistants also increased.
The majority of students take the majority of classes from teachers off the tenure track. Outside of the problems for the students and the institution (if the institution refuses to make the commitment to faculty, why should it expect a reciprocal commitment from those faculty?), this means that those faculty do not have the freedom to teach without retaliation.
If tenure is not to disappear, academicians will have to solve the problem of a protection for teaching, learning, and scholarship that does not cover most teachers and scholars.
Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, October 17, at 12 noon on USF St. Petersburg campus in COQ 231.
There will be sandwiches, snacks, and drinks. All UFF members are invited to attend. Non-members are also invited to come and check us out. Come and join the movement.
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