The Legislature is in session, and already they want to help us. Some local legislators propose to unify the USF System - one university, one administration, one accreditation.
The Chapter will meet tomorrow Friday at 12 noon in EDU 150, on USF Tampa. There will be sandwiches, snacks, sweets, and drinks: lunch is on us. The agenda includes two problematic bills before the Florida Legislature:
The remaining meetings this semester will be:
UFF invites everyone to a Spring Social this Thursday evening, starting at 6 pm, at Ferg's Sports Bar & Grill at 1320 Central Ave, St. Petersburg, northwest of USF St. Petersburg. We will be in the upstairs room. Come talk to union bigwigs about the hot issues, like summer school assignments and the proposal to reorganize USF.
The USF Chapter of the UFF will award five $ 500 Travel Scholarships for next spring and summer (a sixth will be awarded to a UFF member who votes in the chapter election). This will be for travel for participation in a professional activity. All applications are due by April 18, and only UFF members are eligible. In addition, no recipient of the Summer or Fall 2017 cycles of travel grants is eligible to apply. The five recipients shall be selected by lot at the April 20 chapter meeting. For more information, see the Travel Scholarship Flyer.
This initiative is part of our membership campaign. If you would like to become active in the UFF USF Membership Drive, contact the Membership Chair, Adrienne Berarducci (click here).
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; see also the main article (left).
Visit the United Faculty of Florida at USF Facebook page. This page is a place where UFF members can exchange thoughts and ideas. The page is "public", but only dues-paying UFF members are eligible to post items on the page. If you are a UFF member, ask to join on the page, or contact the Communications Committee. The Committee will invite every UFF member that asks to join. So check us out. UFF members are welcome to join, and non-members are welcome to look.
For nearly two decades, the University of South Florida has been simultaneously a single entity - one system (whose faculty, professionals, and graduate students are represented by one union) - but also three (originally four) independently accredited universities. The Florida Legislature is now considering a proposal to return to USF to the status quo ante, a single university with multiple campuses but a single accreditation. This proposal is tucked inside An Act Relating to Higher Education - and that's not all that's tucked inside (more on that below).
This seems to be about USF St. Petersburg, which started out five decades ago as the Bayboro campus of USF. As a campus of the University based in Tampa, it had limited authority over its own affairs, and as it grew, voices in USF St. Petersburg and the surrounding community called for more autonomy, especially during the 1990s. St. Petersburg and Tampa have a history of ... political noncooperation ... on many issues from water and public transportation to baseball and tourism, and many local boosters in Pinellas County wanted a university of their own. Enter State Senator Don Sullivan, who pushed to make USF St. Petersburg into an independent university, an effort that ended in a compromise creating the University of South Florida System, with four independently accredited universities at Lakeland, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, and Tampa. (See the Tampa Bay Times archive and Mark Greenberg's book for details.)
But there was a harsh reminder that this is also about Tallahassee. USF Lakeland, later renamed USF Polytech, was stalked, taken away, and renamed Florida Polytech University in a particularly brazen power play (notice that Governor Scott took USF Lakeland away at the same time he cut our retirement). Last year, FPU finally got accreditation, a reminder that accreditation takes time (and should not be taken for granted).
The Legislature is back and, they insist, they are here to help us. Representative Ray Rodrigues entered a bill whose first version would do 61 things. Somehow, requiring the University of South Florida to adopt and submit a plan to phase out the separate accreditations of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and the University of South Florida Manatee/Sarasota by a specified date got into the bill. The bill's backers apparently didn't give the university or the community advance warning, but Rodrigues assured everyone that consultations could come later. University leaders assured everyone that USF would weather this, and USF President Judy Genshaft said, "at no time, will any of our institutions risk losing accreditation or their distinct identities." The Tampa Bay Times reported that USF St. Petersburg interim chancellor Martin Tadlock said, "This is not a USF Tampa move. This was not a system takeover," while USF St. Petersburg Board of Trustees chair Stephanie Goforth said, "We will not, and I will not, let USF St. Pete go back to what we were in 2001."
The issue appears to be enrollment, or more precisely, the enrollment component of the state pre-eminence metrics. Representative Chris Sprowls of Palm Harbor told the Tampa Bay Times that "It's an opportunity for St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee to have a preeminent university in their community." Currently, USF Tampa is classified as pre-eminent, which entails millions of dollars, because of its ratings of USF Tampa; Sprowls' theory seems to be that all three institutions together would be classified as pre-eminent and share the pre-eminence money and prestige. Curiously, there do not seem to be many assurances that the consolidated university would meet those standards, although Genshaft did say that USF "may" remain on track for pre-eminence. Well, as one USF Board of Trustees member told the Tampa Bay Times, the legislators have good intentions.
Editorial comment. One might legitimately complain that Rodrigues' proposal does not address the real problem, which is performance funding. Rather than fund universities based on projected costs, Tallahassee allocates some money via this Hunger Games system in which universities are rewarded based on how they have performed on an array of fashionable criteria. Rodrigues' proposal looks like a shenanigan intended to game the system. As long as performance funding continues, we can expect more such shenanigans.
Meanwhile, Rodrigues added an amendment requiring that, "The Board of Governors shall annually report ... on the intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity at each institution." Rodrigues told The Palm Beach Post that the survey mandated by the amendment would determine "whether students and faculty feel safe and secure in expressing their own individual viewpoints." Representative Carlos Smith of Orlando responded that the amendment might pressure state universities to invite more performance artists - er, controversial speakers - while Panhandle Representative Richard Stark said, "I'm not really hearing it from the universities or the students or the general public that we really do have a problem on the campuses." Well, it's election year, after all.
The UFF Office in Tallahassee, which - er - educates legislators about higher education, has asked the USF Chapter for guidance on this bill. USF faculty and professionals who feel strongly on this issue are invited to come to tomorrow's Chapter meeting, Friday, 12 noon, in EDU 150, to help formulate the Chapter's response. If you cannot come, please send a message to the UFF USF Chapter President, Art Shapiro, via the email form. (Or visit the social this evening in St. Petersburg: see the above announcement.) And as this is election year, this may be a good time to watch what your legislators are doing. Incidentally, the Chapter is scheduled to meet on USF St. Petersburg campus on February 9, at 12 noon, time and place TBA.
The United Faculty of Florida represents faculty and professionals in all of Florida's public universities, twelve of its public colleges, one private college, and represents graduate students at four universities. There is a president and a vice president, elected by UFF members throughout the state, as well as senators representing UFF members in separate institutions.
Last year, Elizabeth Davenport of Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University was elected president of UFF. Professor Davenport arrived at FAMU in 2002 from the University of Texas-Kingsville, and entered the Department of Educational Leadership. She has been active in UFF for a long time, and became president of the UFF Chapter at FAMU in 2008.
Professor Davenport is leaving Florida for a position at Alabama State University, and so has resigned as UFF President. We wish her well on her further adventures. Meanwhile, Catherine Leisek will serve as interim president until a new president is elected (by UFF members, so members, watch the mail). Professor Leisek is in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts at Broward College in Fort Lauderdale, and will chair the UFF Senate meeting next month.
Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, January 26, in EDU 150 on USF Tampa.
Membership: Everyone in the UFF USF System Bargaining unit is eligible for UFF membership: to join, simply fill out and send in the membership form.
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