The UFF Senate is the policy-making body of the United Faculty of Florida. Twice a year, faculty from colleges and universities across the state meet in central Florida to hear reports and set policy. This spring, over the February 24 - 25 weekend, 136 senators met in Tampa. As reported in the 8 March 2018 Biweekly, Karen Morian was elected president (to complete UFF President Liz Davenport's term after her departure for Alabama) by acclamation when the other candidate, UCF Chapter President Scott Launier, stepped aside.
Here are two highlights from the Senate meeting.
The Chapter will meet tomorrow Friday at 12 noon on USF Tampa in EDU 150. There will be sandwiches, snacks, sweets, and drinks: lunch is on us. Topics from the agenda include planning for the fall, teaching loads, and dealing with the Florida Legislature's mandates. The remaining meeting this semester will be the Spring Social on April 20, on USF Tampa, at the Marshall Student Colleague.
The USF Chapter of the UFF will award five $ 500 Travel Scholarships for summer and fall (a sixth was be awarded to a UFF member who voted 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 (& social). 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).
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At the Senate meeting, Sachiko Tankei-Aminian, Professor of Communication at Florida Gulf Coast University, gave a presentation on Understanding Micro-Aggressions, Privilege, and Color-Blindness.
As the Biweekly observed in the 23 July 2015 article on Micro-Aggressions, we are creatures of habit, and we are often unaware of (or minimize) our unhelpful habits. One unhelpful habit is the micro-aggression, which could be defined as an action or statement that tends to reinforce the marginalized social status of its target. (I.e. "putting someone in their place.") Professor Tankei-Aminian said that the micro-aggression problem is often more unawareness rather than intention, and she showed a video on Micro-Aggressions on Everyday Life composed by Columbia University Education Professor Derald Sue, who described micro-aggressions as expressions of an unconscious worldview of superiority and inferiority. Getting out of the habit of micro-aggression involves some of the usual approaches to bad habits (e.g. vigilance and mindfulness), but also, since one may not be aware of one's own micro-aggressions, taking other peoples' perspectives seriously.
Social privileges are like micro-aggressions: people can take them for granted and not recognize that they're there. Professor Tankei-Aminian gave as an example her husband, who is an Iranian-American while she is Japanese-American. It is her husband who is scrutinized more closely by TSA when they fly. She played a video on white privilege that had an example of an African-American gardener whose employer had to assure the neighbors that yes, he belonged there. Once again, the fundamental problem was a lack of awareness of the problem.
She concluded with the War on Drugs, in which she contrasted overt and intentional racism with "color-blind ideology," in which policies that disproportionately disadvantage African-Americans (like the choice of which recreational pharmaceuticals to criminalize, and by how much) are not seen as racist because they have no (official) racist intent. She concluded with a clip on White Privilege and the Drug War.
A lot of this is unconscious, for the human mind is rather like Hogwarts, with shifting stairs, strange passageways, and who-knows-what in the Chamber of Secrets. If you do not master whatever lurks in those depths, it will master you.
Gun violence is a significant public health problem in the United States, with 4.2 deaths per 100,000 people in 2015, according to a posting in the Journal of the American Medical Association. This includes accidents and suicides overlooked by the media as well as occasional mass shootings that get lots of coverage. Mass shootings may be a negligible public health problem (as compared to, say, suicides), but they are traumatic and they have been getting worse. There is now a major movement, especially among young people, to do something about gun violence in general and especially mass shootings in particular.
But what to do? Unlike other major public health problems, gun violence research has been severely limited by Washington politics. In 1996, Congress passed the Dickey Amendment, barring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from spending money on advocating gun control. In ensuing years, Congress made it clear that gun violence research was advocacy, and gun violence research has been very spotty ever since.
As a result, solutions proposed - from arming teachers to banning "assault rifles," are based on ideology as much as science. Prohibition is an example of what can happen when ideology drives public health policy, so what the U.S. needs is science.
In 2012, Jay Dickey (the author of the amendment) and Mark Rosenberg (a leading opponent) co-authored an opinion piece calling for the repeal of the amendment, and calling for more gun violence research. Again, the amendment does not actually ban the research, but its passage had that effect, and the hope is that repealing it would have the effect of encouraging and funding gun violence research.
In the aftermath of the Stoneman-Douglas shooting, the USF Chapter of the UFF resolved that the UFF USF Senate Delegation shall move a resolution condemning and opposing the Dickey Amendment's effect of restricting CDC and NIH supported research into gun violence. The motion was presented to the UFF Senate, which approved it, and now a similar resolution is to be presented to the fall Assembly of the Florida Education Association.
More recently, an omnibus spending bill "clarified" the restriction on gun violence research (on page 22 of a legislative report on the "Fix NICS" language, it says that "the Secretary of Health and Human Services has stated the CDC has the authority to conduct research on the causes of gun violence"). But Politifact said, "Was the change ... momentous ...? Yes and no." The reality is that it is the political situation, not the language of the Dickey Amendment, that is the problem. It is likely that much more remains to be done, so the USF Chapter's endeavor to move the resolution at the Assembly will proceed.
Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, April 6, at noon, on USF Tampa, in EDU 150.
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