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United Faculty of Florida, Summer 2008

May 15, 2008

Where We Are

Last spring, the legislature appropriated about half a billion dollars to USF as operating funds for the university. Well, that's not quite true: some of the money "appropriated" were actually student tuition and fees, and USF got some other money from other sources for other purposes, most notably utility tax money for building buildings. But the half billion in "Education and General" (E & G) funds was what became the problem.

The problem is this. Unlike utility taxes (which tend to be stable), E & G funds come from General Revenue (mostly state sales tax money, which varies a lot), lottery money (which can vary), student tuition and fees, and various odds and ends. When the economy stalls, sales tax revenue plummets, and there is less general revenue to appropriate. Of the half billion in E & G money appropriated last year, about $ 350 million came from general revenue. (Incidentally, USF's budget last year was $ 1.8 billion altogether.)

Typically, the state budgets money in advance, appropriating money that has not been collected yet. 25 % of the appropriated funds are disbursed each quarter, and everybody hopes that the financial projections don't fall flat. Well...

Last June, the legislature sent out a memo saying that the projections were falling, so they would disburse about 24 % of the appropriation rather than 25 %. As the housing and credit crises worsened, the Board of Governors asked universities to start planning for a 10 % cut in E & G funds. That's not quite what happened this year: USF general revenue funding was cut 5.4 %, or about $ 19 million. But the administration publicly worried that the cut over the two academic years could total 15 %, or about $ 50 million altogether in annual funding. But many months of lobbying and political activism by UFF, the universities, the faculty senates, and support from the more respectable press may have had an effect: for the 2008 – 2009 academic year, USF's E & G funds were cut another 5 % (actually more, but on the other hand tuition & fees were raised), so as President Genshaft recently announced, the total cut during the last twelve months is just over 10 %.

Of course, the coming budget also depends on projections. Furthermore, Tallahassee watchers warn that the current budget is designed to limp past the November elections, so we should brace for additional cuts late in the year. Fortunately, USF is in an unusually good financial position: USF had $ 240 million in "unrestricted assets" as of June, 2007, according to the audited financial statement of USF, nearly twice that of the University of Florida and over twice the amount USF had in June, 2003. Of course, the administration has an obligation to act prudently, but it is good to know that there is an unusually large cushion. For details, see Sherman Dorn's analysis.

What We're Doing About It

During the previous month or two, USF has had a discussion about what to do about the budget crunch – and how such decisions should be made. The United Faculty of Florida has an interested in this: the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which is signed by President Genshaft and former President Weatherford, includes a commitment to fostering shared governance.

Facing ugly choices, the administration has responded with an assortment of reorganization plans. Some of these are being discussed with faculty and employees while others...are not. Major decisions will be made this summer, and one way to assure that one will NOT be heard is to not pay attention: during this summer, UFF will continue to watch and report, and even in summer, especially this summer, one can find time to hear and be heard.

The next major event will be a special session of the Faculty Senate on Wednesday, May 21, at 1 pm, in room E at the Westside Conference Center in the Louis de la Parte FMHI. It is a public meeting, and President Genshaft will be there. UFF/USF Chapter President Dorn will have a little budget quiz on the budget, and winners will get a gift certificate to Powell's Bookstore. Everyone is encouraged to prepare for the quiz: see the material for the quiz; supplemental material includes the USF budget, the audited financial statement of USF, and the USF Chief Financial Officer page. It is an ancient principle: when the powers that be see that people are paying attention, they behave better. So we had better pay attention.

How We Got Here

When one has indulged in bad habits for a long time, it is hard to change no matter what the doctor says. That goes for the state of Florida as well, which has long been a boom & bust state and many boosters would like Florida to enter the major leagues. Cattle, citrus, phosphates, and tourism may be all very well, but this is the Twenty-first century, the era of globalization, where the race will go to the culturally adroit and the technically educated. Tampa is ideally situated as America's gateway to the south – but so is Houston. Florida is the ideal location for environmental research – but so is Louisiana. Somewhere, the Chamber of Commerce knows that it wasn't just location that made Florence into the great Renaissance commercial center; it was also a will to act.

If anything demonstrates the impotence or fecklessness of our local boosters, it is the recent report in the Chronicle of Higher Education that "Despite Economic Woes, Many States Spare Colleges From Major Budget Cuts" on May 8. The Chronicle quoted Daniel J. Hurley of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities saying that unlike the past – when cuts in state funding in higher education were usually proportional to cuts in general – "There is an increased recognition that economic recovery cannot be paved with cuts to higher education." Twenty-three states face a combined $ 26 billion deficit next year, but many are protecting higher education as much as possible (although community colleges are often sitting ducks). One of the reasons is that state governments hope and expect the universities to help pull the states out of recession. Among the few exceptions: Alabama, California, and Florida are making disproportionately deep cuts in higher education.

Actually, the business boosterism has had little effect on state funding in the past as well. For example, Florida's State University System has grown 116 % in student FTEs in the last twenty years; yet adjusted for inflation, the funds from state General Revenues has fallen from $ 9500 per FTE in 1987 – 88 to $ 7600 in 2007 – 2008 per FTE, a twenty percent decline (the figures are at http://www.flbog.org/about/_doc/budget/univFundHist82_06.pdf, not adjusted for inflation). Nevertheless, total appropriations have hovered between $ 11,000 and $ 13,000 in 2008 dollars during the last two decades: funding has remained somewhat even thanks to tuition & fee raises and lottery funds, etc. In addition, the universities have gotten money from licensing, vending, and other business ventures, grants and contracts, and good old fashioned donations.

Florida has been at the forefront of a national trend of defunding public education, and when USF makes long-range plans, it must take this into account. The current Long Range Plan is motivated by a desire to join the American Association of Universities. That's not a bad long-range plan: the great mathematician Henri Poincare said that one should work on big problems. Of course, he meant that one's work would facilitate general progress towards that goal: if we desire to join the AAU, that means that we should try to develop in that general direction by incremental steps that are not the equivalent of blowing operating funds on lottery tickets.

With this in mind, the budget crisis (or rather, funding crisis) presents us with a critical time to think about our long-term goals and our long-term strategies for getting there. What strengths do we now have that we can build on? And what are we doing that is of relatively low priority right now? The last point is more subtle than it looks. If we have people here who have spent a lot of time and energy building USF, and their current duties are not our highest priorities, USF may be better off finding higher priority assignments for these people rather than replacing them. One way an institution builds loyalty and commitment among its employees is to show loyalty and commitment to its employees. And during stormy weather, loyalty and commitment is one of the most valuable resources an institution has.

USF will certainly survive this storm, if only because the undergraduates in Tampa demand it. The question is whether USF will develop into the sort of institution we envision.

May 29, 2008

THE CUTS

First, President Genshaft told the press about the cuts, and by 1 pm, when she arrived at the Westside Conference Center to speak to the Faculty Senate about the cuts, the Tribune had already posted the news: USF To Cut About 450 Jobs.

At the Senate meeting, Genshaft read from a prepared speech prepared speech about how the USF administration planned to deal with funding cuts in Education & General (or E & G, which includes operating expenses like academic salaries). Here are the high points of the Budget Reduction Proposal, which it is essentially an outline of how the 2008 – 2009 budget will differ from the natural projection of the 2007 – 2008 budget (next year's budget will appear in a month or so).

The Administration hopes to identify about 380 vacant lines whose funding can be absorbed and expects to identify over seventy employees to be laid off. That includes seven real or potential "non-instructional" faculty layoffs and 26.5 "potential" staff layoffs in the domain of Academic Affairs (including all the departments it oversees). Genshaft said that she will not lay off tenured or tenure-track faculty as long as the total E & G cuts are no more than 15 % over these two years, and just about everyone agrees that laying off non-tenure-track instructional faculty will lead to instructional trainwrecks; nevertheless, the proposal projects laying off two non-tenure-track instructional faculty.

President Genshaft enumerated a long list of nickels and dimes abstracted from other sources, but with most of the operating funds going into salaries, it was salaries she tried most to cut. One nickel that touched a nerve was her proposal to shut down the campus, dormitories and all, for three days after Christmas and require everyone on work schedules to take those days as mandatory annual leave time. Since many employees build their schedules for their personal lives – from vacations to caring for invalid relatives – using annual leave, this poses a problem, and over the next two days annual leave and layoffs inspired about a hundred email broadcasts on the USF-Talk listserv.

Students will feel the effects in a variety of ways, on beyond the traditional decline in maintenance of the physical facilities. Provost Ralph Wilcox told the Senate that he anticipated 45,000 new students in fall, so with the cuts in funding, classes will be fewer and larger. And services will decline: University Services (which includes a variety of units from the Controller's Office to Environmental Health & Safety to Information Technology to the Physical Plant) is slated to lose 64 positions, including 19 layoffs. Nevertheless, student financial aid will increase, for Genshaft said, "...I'm very concerned about students who are having financial difficulties remaining in college and graduating. Our students face the rising costs we are all experiencing in our everyday lives...," and she said that 30 % of the tuition increase is required to go into financial aid, and that there were private donations for student aid (no doubt including the $ 5 million anonymous donation announced by Provost Wilcox at a recent Senate meeting).

USF has already endured a 10.6 % cut in E & G funding, and we anticipate another 4 – 5 % cut over next winter, so USF will be operating assuming a 15 % ($ 50 million) cut in recurring funds over these two years. Genshaft repeatedly said that she hoped that that would be all. The proposed USF cuts are posted on-line, and the separate (!) list of proposed USF Health cuts are also posted.

DOVERYAI, NO PROVERYAI

After Genshaft's presentation to the Senate, the first question was from Faculty Senate Vice President (and President-elect) Larry Branch (from HSC), who asked about $ 240 million listed in the 2007 audited financial statement of USF as "unrestricted assets." That statement had said that "Unrestricted net assets are available to the University for any lawful purpose of the University." But, Provost Wilcox responded, there are restrictions on the use of these assets, which he partitioned with a pie chart (see http://www.acad.usf.edu/News/2007-07-03-Update-On-Issues/docs/Analysis-of-Unrestricted-Net-Assests-2007-06.pdf). Approximately $ 77 million (as of summer, 2007) was uncommitted E & G funds; the rest were committed. The restrictions discussed there were:

  • $ 27 million was "Research Initiative", which Wilcox identified as Research Overhead (RO) funds, whose use is restricted by law and grant agencies.
  • $ 26 million was a statutory reserve, required by law.
The restrictions on the other categories were not made clear. As for the amount that Wilcox said was truly unrestricted, he explained that one month's payroll at USF was about $ 70 million, and as that was about the amount of available unrestricted funds, it would be prudent to keep at least that amount at hand. In addition, at least one trustee believes that USF should keep two months pay at hand, just in case.

"Doveryai, no proveryai". The late President Ronald Reagan used this Russian proverb, "Trust but verify," whenever he met former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev, to signal that true negotiating partners understand the need to check the information provided by the other side. The same need exists in collective-bargaining relationships. President Genshaft responded to UFF's analysis of the university's unrestricted assets profile with statements about the intentions the administration had for the assets and the value of the assets stash for USF's creditworthiness. UFF intends to check the administration's claims in a thorough, patient manner.

THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES

The first speaker to the Board was USF/UFF Chapter President Sherman Dorn, who started by saying that we agree that we need a stable and reliable source of revenue, and that the legislature has not provided that source. He then turned to the proposal, and enumerated better and worse aspects of the proposal, and some actions taken at other institutions, and proposed three steps:

  1. Set aside 60 days for additional consultation with faculty. The UF board already has taken such action.
  2. Send reorganizations not required by the budget crisis to the Senate for consideration. The FIU board has already taken such action (FIU's plans are posted on-line).
  3. Be more transparent about USF's unrestricted assets.
Of course, the Board didn't do that, but there was a debate: Trustee Sonja Garcia said that she had just received the documents at 8:30 am that morning, and was wary of approving the budget plan at this point. Garcia moved to amend the motion from an "approval" to an "endorsement", but Genshaft said that she had to move on the layoffs and was wary of doing so without "approval." After that, Garcia's motion died without a second, and the Budget Reduction Proposal was approved.

For more on the BOT meeting, see Sherman Dorn't account.

BUDGET CUT CONSEQUENCES

The Budget Reduction Proposal relied heavily on cutting vacant lines, many of which had been kept vacant because the Administration foresaw something like this coming. Chapter President Sherman Dorn said that there were only bad choices and worse choices, and the Tampa Tribune thought that Genshaft had managed to make the best of a bad situation (see their editorial). Genshaft herself expressed concern that faculty and staff would be going two years without a raise: that was a precipitate observation, considering that bargaining is ongoing, but it did reflect the fact that the current inflation rate is about 3 % and academic headhunters are now visiting Florida. Former Faculty Senate president Susan Greenbaum (from CAS) warned that USF's academic programs could deteriorate during the coming year.

Senator Steve Tauber (from CAS) asked Provost Wilcox, "Is the problem that the state government and people don't care about higher ed?" Wilcox's response was that the biggest long-term problem was low tuition, which was low because raising it would cause financial problems for Bright Futures: "As long as we allow Bright Futures to continue the stranglehold on the price of tuition," he warned, students will not get the education they and the state deserve.

That low rumble reverberating across the system ever since is the result of announcing that about seventy people will be laid off, so the question became who and how. Most employees probably do not read the layoff articles of collective bargaining agreements – no one gets a job to think about being fired—but paying attention to those details form an important role of unions. On Monday, May 26, the staff union's newsletter reported that staff members were already being laid off, and in a manner inconsistent with both past practice and their contract. The union, Local 3342 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (a fellow AFL-CIO affiliate) announced that they were filing grievances. Members of the UFF bargaining unit may face similar problems: USF policy (see the "Layoff Timeline") is not consistent with contractual language (see UFF's posting). For example, while the Layoff Timeline mandates ninety days notice for faculty layoffs (with asterisks, of course), Article 13, Section 4 (page 30 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement says that "where circumstances permit", employees will receive six months' notice on layoffs, and one year's notice for employees who have been at USF for at least three years. UFF's position is that $ 240 million in unrestricted assets make circumstances permit such notice. ANY MEMBER OF THE BARGAINING UNIT WHO RECEIVES A LAYOFF NOTICE IS URGED TO CONTACT US IMMEDIATELY: contact our Grievance Chair, Mark Klisch.

Over the next two years, those of us who remain at USF will face pressure for increased class sizes and teaching loads, at the same time that the administration tries to maintain an institutional trajectory towards AAU eligibility. For those who wonder if the two are compatible, there are four truths to recognize: there are only 24 hours in a day, good administrators do know that one cannot gain AAU status with a handful of faculty focused on research, USF already has differentiated staffing, and our de facto differentiated staffing fails to work properly for either faculty or USF. Heroic rhetoric of "academic superstars" (President Genshaft's phrase from October) and the "best and the brightest faculty" (Trustee Sherrill Tomasino) narrows the most important issue facing USF's academic units, which is the ability to retain and motivate hundreds of hard-working faculty. For more on differentiated staffing, see Sherman Dorn's discussion.

June 12, 2008

USF UPDATE: WAITING ON THE ADMINISTRATION

By now, the 2007 – 2010 contract should have been in place since last year, and the UFF and administration bargaining teams should have been wrapping up the 2008 "reopener" negotiations on 2008 salaries (along with other articles requiring tweaking). Instead, we are still bargaining the 2007 – 2010 contract itself (complete with 2007 salary raises and bonuses). We’ve been bargaining over a year now.

Last week, the UFF Chief Negotiator and the UFF Chapter President circulated a memo on Collective Bargaining for 2007-10 agreement outlining our proposals for the 2007 – 2010 contract. On June 11, we formally presented proposals, and the administration team said that they would get back to us. They had no proposals of their own, but promised to present some (including responses to our proposals) in the next bargaining session.

So we expect to see the administration's bargaining proposals at the next bargaining session. In the meantime, UFF is aware of two layoffs in the bargaining unit: one instructor and one research professional employee. The contract requires that UFF be notified of layoff notices, and we will update the numbers as we have additional news.

Finally, this afternoon, Provost Wilcox announced a wholesale reorganization of departments. Nothing was said about this at the Board of Trustees meeting that morning, and we have little additional news at this point.

THE CRUNCH ELSEWHERE

USF plans to cut its budget by over $ 50 million during this academic year. Other Florida universities are going through similar pain. FSU cut $ 32 million from its budget and plans to enroll five-sixths as many students this fall in comparison with the last. On May 8, the Tallahassee Democrat grumped that the LeRoy Collins Institute had predicted the current mess way back in 2005 (the editorial is posted on-line; an updated version of the Collins report is posted on-line), and the Institute itself grumbles that "For now, Florida’s higher education policy amounts to wing it and wither." Meanwhile, the St. Petersburg Times looked at recent high-profile departures in its June 6 report on how "Florida's shrinking university budgets create brain drain"), while today Howard Troxler’s column began with the headline "As long as they don't cut football…").

One of the problems with a crunch is that tempers get short. The University of Florida entered the crunch with troubled faculty-administration relations: readers may recall that the UF Administration fought far longer and harder than any other university in Florida against UFF certification. Not surprisingly, UF has had some unusually public problems with its faculty, staff, and students during the crunch.

In early May, UF President Bernie Machen announced that the University of Florida would be cutting its budget by $ 47 million (on top of $ 22 million already cut), and that each college and administrative unit would cut its own budget by six percent. This involved eliminating about 430 faculty and staff positions, of which nearly three hundred were vacant: they planned to lay off about 118 staff members and twenty faculty (see http://www.president.ufl.edu/budget-reduction/proposal.html). Machen proposed merging some programs and eliminating others, especially in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, where he proposed, among other things, eliminating the graduate programs for German, Philosophy, and Romance Languages and Literatures with Concentration in French: altogether, the college would lay off 17 staff members and 16 faculty.

The changes were controversial: UFF/UF Graduate Assistants United President Deeb Kitchen told the Gainesville Sun that some of the proposed cuts were similar to previously proposed cuts in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, saying, "It seems they're using this budget situation to make changes they want to make anyway." On May 28, the Sun reported that "UF made cuts with $ 131M left over from 2007 funding"). The first reaction of the UF administration was that these funds were for equipment purchases and planning for new programs. Nevertheless, the Gator editorialized that "Over the past couple of weeks, we have dedicated copious editorial real estate to defending President Bernie Machen’s [proposal] ... It now appears that we have been duped" (see the posted editorial).

By June 6, 1200 people had signed a petition set up by the UFF/UF chapter opposing the layoffs (see the link on the main FEA web-page). The administration tacked a bit and decided to lay off only thirteen staff members and ten faculty from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and to merely suspend admissions to German, Philosophy, and Romance Languages for three years (the other mergers and eliminations are still slated); no changes in layoffs elsewhere have been posted.

That is where UF stands at the moment. One editorial comment: UF would benefit by having the members of the UF community willing and able to cooperate in dealing with the legislature and communicating with the public. Unfortunately, the UF administration has shown more interest in concentrating its own power on campus than forging alliances: this is reminiscent of a political debacle a century ago, when a party boss was blamed for reducing his party to "rubble" by his controlling style, and he responded, "At least I will be king of the rubble."

THE ECOLOGY OF THE CRUNCH

An economy is like an ecosystem, with all sorts of connections in the web of daily living, so when a major player suffers a loss, the effects ripple through the entire system.

On June 8, the Tampa Tribune reported one anticipated effect: USF's waiting list is now of record length. The Board of Governors instructed universities to cap or cut admissions, and USF's response was to admit 45 % of the applicants for this fall (five years ago, the acceptance rate was 70 %). This effect was no surprise, and USF has been moving in this direction for several years anyway. But a related development – cutbacks in summer school – may have a less anticipated effect.

On June 8, the St. Petersburg Times reported that this may be the worse summer for teen jobs in decades. One reason for the problem, as one local employer who will not be hiring this summer told me: their college student employees will be filling more hours during the summer because they will be taking fewer hours in summer school.

USF has been compared to six superbowls, and a major cutback on a local employer with a nearly two-billion dollar payroll will ripple through the economy. And sometimes it will not be so much a few big waves as a vast array of smaller ripples that affect huge numbers of people in many different ways.

The interests of many people are tied to USF in ways they may not realize. Many of them might support USF if they saw how the university affects them. This may be the time to spread the word, by letters to the editor or by newspaper columns, by talking to politicians and to community activists, by whatever medium is available. Florida is one of the few states whose political establishment is letting the educational system take the brunt of the economic downturn, and changing that may mean going over the politicians' heads and making our case to the people.

ACADEMIA AND THE ECONOMY

During the last few decades, pundits have written many obituaries for traditional higher education. With the proliferation of vocational schools, for-profit institutions, and distance learning, traditional institutions would have to adapt or die of irrelevance. More recently, demographers started warning that the supply of students will dwindle by 2020. And now we are in a global economic crisis which has some indicators at the lowest levels since the 1940s (including the world food supply per capita).

And how Academia is doing depends on where you look:

  • Some of the old elite institutions are doing very well. So well that they are receiving lots of unsolicited advice about what to do with their money. Some institutions are offering generous financial aid packages to students, some are enticing new faculty with generous offers, and some are investing in real estate.
  • Many of the small private institutions are in trouble. The efforts (still ongoing, but increasingly forlorn) to save Antioch College has overshadowed the more quiet disappearance of many lower-profile institutions.
  • Public institutions from community colleges to research universities are making do with reduced funding by cutting back on maintenance, reducing hours, laying off and outsourcing staff, and letting faculty salaries stagnate while converting old faculty lines into new non-tenured lines. Then these institutions watch faculty depart for private elite institutions or for industry.
  • For-profit institutions are making money for executives and shareholders. (Well, some are.) For example, the University of Phoenix, which had 1,263 full-time and 22,176 part-time faculty as of November, 2006, made $ 2.7 billion over the 2006 – 2007 fiscal year, a 9 % increase over the previous year. Nearly two thirds of that money ultimately came from federal grants.
In other words, private money is pouring into a small number of private institutions, where it is mixing with some public money. Other public money is increasingly going into for-profit enterprises. The "traditional" institutions are having financial problems not because they are being abandoned by their traditional clientele – the established or aspiring middle class – but because money and power over money is increasingly concentrated in the hands of people who are inclined to support elite institutions and for-profit corporations.

This is happening in Florida as well, a major difference being that as Florida has a weaker tradition of upper class philanthropy, even Gainesville goes begging. Historically, Florida's colleges and universities have relied heavily on state funding, and so they suffer when funding falls.

Trends are ultimately results of choices that people make. The choices are made by politicians and by voters, and we can influence these choices by political action. We have a message: the Twenty-first century has many challenges, and Florida will need a broad-based educated public to deal with them. That doesn't mean just the technical training required to continue Tampa's position as the city of back offices, but the scientific and technological training to build an I-4 technology corridor, and the cultural education required to run it. The institutions that can provide this education and scholarly support are the same institutions that are being starved right now.

June 26, 2008

THE REORGANIZATION: MOVING ON TO PLAN B

On June 12, the Provost announced a reorganization of the College of Arts and Sciences and other college-level units. Unlike the previous proposal announced in April (see the May 1 Biweekly), there were no open sessions with faculty, no intimations of a new plan under consideration, just a sudden announcement of a decision already made.

The reorganization differed from the April proposal in several respects. Natural Science would not be merged with Engineering, and four high profile units – Africana Studies, the Institute for Black Life, ISLAC, and Women's Studies – would not be merged. The new plan divides the College of Arts & Sciences into several Schools along lines eerily reminiscent of the old Colleges of Arts & Letters, Humanities and Fine Arts, Natural Sciences, and Social and Behavioral Sciences; these colleges had been merged to form the current Colleges of Arts and Sciences and Visual and Performing Arts in 1990.

Oldtimers at USF may recall the protracted process that led to that reorganization. The St. Petersburg Times reported that after five years of "discussions", a committee of thirteen professors spent three months composing a report that was presented to Provost Gerry Meisels in April, 1989, and the reorganization was approved by President Frances Borkowski that July. The Times summarized the rationale with: "Borkowski hopes the union [of the colleges] will build ties between professors, foster interdisciplinary approaches and boost morale." (Nevertheless, in the "University of South Florida: The First Fifty Years", Mark Greenberg described the merger as a cost cutting measure.) The reorganization itself did not come into effect until the following year.

The new initiative roughly recreates the four colleges as Schools within a new, improved College of Arts & Sciences, except that several social science and clinical departments are to be merged with the Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institution to form a College of Name To Be Decided. On paper, the primary change appears to be that CAS is acquiring another level of bureaucracy, and one controversial departmental merger has disappeared: Africana Studies, Black Life, ISLAC, and Women's Studies remain separate units. The rationale for the reorganization, as given in the announcement and in the Provost's June 12 letter to the faculty, enumerates many expected benefits, including Borkowski's building ties between professors and interdisciplinary approaches – and of course, savings – but not a word about morale.

Morale is becoming an issue. On June 18, two professors wrote a letter (which was posted at a Tampa Tribune Blog) to CAS Associate Dean John Cochrane declining a counter-offer from USF and announcing their intention to move to the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. "...we do believe that you personally support such progressive intellectual programs," they wrote. "But the commitments and performance of Provost Wilcox lead us to believe that, even with significant budgetary stability, this will not happen under the current administration."

Outside of the problem that hastily wrought and poorly vetted plans often go awry, such a sudden imposition of a sweeping reorganization is a clear violation of the spirit if not the letter of Article 5, Section 4 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The CBA states that the administration is committed to adhere "to principles of shared governance, which require that in the development of academic policies and processes, the professional judgments of employees are of primary importance." Considering that the first plan was presented as a proposal in successive meetings with affected faculty, while the second was simply announced as a fait accompli, the faculty's share of governance at USF is in danger. In response to the Administration's announcement, on June 13, the USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida resolved that: "The USF Administration and the Provost have egregiously violated the principles of shared faculty governance by failing to consult fully with the elected faculty bodies and the faculty union before promulgating the reorganization." For more on that chapter meeting, see the minutes.

It is not clear who actually is in the loop. The reorganization was not announced at the Board of Trustees meeting on the morning of the announcement, and no draft was circulated to the Faculty Senate or the Senate Executive Committee (which are supposed to oversee academic issues – like mass reorganization of academic units). Nevertheless, the Administration did give some reporters off-the-record briefings days before the announcement. Considering that the Administration does have the ability, under Florida law, to confidentially if verbally inform trustees of initiatives like this reorganization, it seems likely that faculty and the public were the last to know.

ANOTHER FOUR PERCENT

When the legislature wrapped up its budget and went home last spring, neither the United Faculty of Florida nor the USF Administration believed that the cuts were over. UFF statewide President Tom Auxter said that the legislature had cobbled together a budget with the hope of making it through the November elections.

Well, their budget didn't make it through the summer: on June 12, State University System Chancellor Mark Rosenberg emailed the university presidents saying that the additional cuts were already in effect. What happens is that the state money comes in quarterly installments, 25 % of the total allocation each quarter. In the coming installment next month, USF is getting only 24 % of the allocation, and (1) it is likely that the other three quarterly allocations will also be cut and (2) the money will not be made up. The total cut in (recurring!) funds for the coming year will probably be just a little less than the $ 15 million the Administration anticipated.

Complicating planning is a new funding formula the State University System is toying with, which would fund universities based on how many students they have and what those students are majoring in. As the Tampa Tribune explained, the rationale is that since engineering students cost more to educate than liberal arts students (and presumably someone has actually costed this!), universities will get more money per engineering student than per liberal arts student. The effect of this new formula can easily be imagined.

A lot depends on what happens in November, when a new legislature is elected and several referenda affecting taxes and educational funding are on the ballot. Florida is one of the few states putting a disproportionate burden of the economic downturn on education (education's share of the state budget is at a historic low), and a sea change in the next election could change that.

SOME QUESTIONS ABOUT THE UNRESTRICTED ASSETS

USF had $ 240 million in unrestricted assets as of June 30, 2007. When comparing the statements made on May 21 and the audited financial statements and other documentation, the UFF-USF chapter leadership noticed several anomalies and asked the administration to address the following issues:

  1. Unrestricted asset commitments that do not appear to fit the unrestricted category. The May 21, 2008, budget reduction plan from Academic Affairs describes commitments that include "faculty research initiative accounts; auxiliary debt service and operations; [and] the Florida Institute of Phosphate Research [FIPR]," totaling more than $37.8 million (the Research Overhead (RO) and FIPR sum from the May 21 pie chart). The federal government places external restrictions on F&A [Facilities & Admnistration] fund expenditures, debt service is an external obligation, and FIPR pass-through funds come with statutory obligations. Since these funds are tied down with external obligations, how can USF claim these as unrestricted assets?
  2. Commitments that do not appear in budget documents. With one exception, UFF-USF officers could not identify the asserted commitments in any budget documents for 2007-08. Is there documentation of these commitments as of summer 2007?
  3. Commitments that are inconsistent with assets trends. When there is an asset commitment for operating funds ("auxiliary… operations") or for an important institutional commitment such as financial aid, one would expect that it comes from an operating deficit and a pattern of declining assets. But USF’s assets have consistently grown over the several years, and the 2007-08 budget had an increasing fund balance for financial aid. Why would there need to be any commitment from unrestricted funds for auxiliary operations and financial aid if there was no operating deficit?
  4. Commitments from university assets (not component-unit assets) for auxiliary/DSO [Debt Service Operations] operations. The May 21 pie chart listed more than $73 million for auxiliary "debt service and operations" and for athletics and financial aid. But auxiliary/DSO operations (excluding financial aid) are supposed to be independent and not create a net draw on university assets. For the portion of asserted commitments regarding auxiliary/DSO operations, why are university assets being committed for units that have to operate from a position of financial independence?
  5. Compensated absence obligations that are treated differently in the May 21 statements and in the audited financial statements from USF. On May 21, USF asserted that part of the unrestricted assets were to cover compensated absences (annual and sick leave). However, in the audited financial statements of USF, compensated absences are treated as paper liabilities. Not only would they not be counted as net assets, but the audited financial statement clearly states that USF expects current operating revenues to cover compensated absences when they occur, and they are treated as liabilities because that is not a legal assurance. How can USF treat compensated absences as a partial commitment from the unrestricted assets when they are treated differently in the audited financial statements?
UFF-USF asked the administration answer two additional questions on asset growth:
  1. We understand from the May Finance and Audit Workgroup meeting that the unrestricted assets for USF will have jumped another $40 million by the end of 2007-08. Is that understanding accurate?
  2. What is the anticipated interest and investment-related growth in the unrestricted assets from June 30, 2007, through June 30, 2008?
When the administration answers these questions, we will publish the set of questions and answers.

WHAT'S HAPPENING TO THE STAFF?

USF staff are represented by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which is an affiliate of the AFL-CIO – just like the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), one of UFF's two national affiliates. The USF Chapter of AFSCME is run by volunteer staff members who bargain and enforce their contract ( on-line), just as the USF Chapter of UFF is run by volunteer faculty and university professionals who bargain our contract. We have worked together on common goals – like lobbying the legislature – and together with the Police Benevolent Association (the third union on campus), we strive to make USF a better place to work.

The USF union local of AFSCME has an electronic newsletter, and the June issue shows that staff employees are having more serious problems than faculty. Thirty staff employees have been laid off thus far, and others are being offered a choice between layoff or reassignment. According to the contract and SUS Employment Rule 6C-5.955(2)(i), layoffs are to be conducted within a "unit", with employees laid off roughly in order of seniority (there is a system based on "retention points"). AFSCME's newsletter notes that the layoff "unit" used to be the entire university, but now the Administration has chopped the university into many layoff units, which reduces the options for reassignment while allowing the Administration greater discretion to target employees. AFSCME has filed a grievance which is now going into arbitration.

Meanwhile, staff employees formerly within the AFSCME bargaining unit are being reclassified out of that unit and into A & P positions where they have no union representation. The Administration cannot legally move positions into or out of the bargaining unit at will, and AFSCME is grieving the practice. The Administration is also employing the legal if dubious alternative of laying off an entire "unit" and outsourcing its operation to some private company. The bookstore was privatized long ago, and last fall many police operations were outsourced to Allied Barton Security. The Administration has just announced that office stores will be outsourced to Office Depot. In effect, staff employees represented by a union are replaced by lower-paid private employees who are not represented by a union – and who are accountable to a private company rather than the university. The administration is treating staff as a line item in the budget.

See also today's Oracle article.

July 10, 2008

YOU PROBABLY DON'T WANT TO THINK ABOUT RETIREMENT, BUT...

There are two sets of retirement programs available to USF employees. The Florida Retirement System (FRS) offers two plans run by the State of Florida, and the State University System Optional Retirement Plan (ORP) offers plans run by various private companies. Typically, a new employee arriving at USF is asked to decide which plan to join, and once an employee has made that commitment it is usually not possible to move from one plan to another – although some plans allow internal adjustments.

The principle (pun intended) of saving for retirement goes back to the Eighteenth century mathematician Leonhard Euler, whose amortization equations underlie most of these computations. Suppose that every year you deposit $ 10,000 in a bank account that pays 4 % interest. After twenty years, you will have paid in 20 times $ 10,000 = $ 200,000 in "principal", but the bank will have paid you 19 years of interest on the first thousand dollars, 18 years of interest on the second thousand, and so on down to the zero years worth of interest on the last thousand dollars just deposited.

And what is nineteen years of interest on just the first deposit of $ 10,000? The quick computation is as follows. After one year, add the 4 % interest to the original $ 10,000 to get 4 % plus 100 % equals 104 % of the original thousand dollars: that's like multiplying $ 10,000 by 1.04 to get $ 10,400. After two years, we get another 4 % interest, but this time on that $ 1,040, and $ 1,040 times 1.04 equals $ 10,816; notice we do not just keep adding $ 40 each year on that $ 10,000, but instead add 4 % of whatever is in that account during that year. After depositing interest 19 times, the amount of interest that the initial $ 10,000 earned was $ 11,069. So after nineteen years in the bank, the $ 10,000 has grown to $ 21,069 (a little more or less depending on how your bank deals with round offs).

So after twenty deposits of $ 10,000 a year, you add 19 years of the first thousand dollars, 18 years of the second, 17 years of the third, and so on, and altogether you have $ 297,781 in the bank.

Annuities work backwards: if you retire at age 65 and you want $ 60,000 a year for twenty years, you need to start off with enough money to generate those twenty payments of $ 60,000. And "enough money", assuming 4 % interest, is $ 848,000. Of course, this is a gross oversimplification: interest rates vary and you could to better (or worse) on interest and I haven't factored inflation or the reality that you really don't know if you have exactly twenty years left, but that's the basic idea: you need a lot of money to retire. And if you aren't careful, that money might not be there. That's why you see elderly people bagging groceries.

The time to think about this is now. And keep in mind: that ballpark figure – about a million in 2008 dollars – is the target. Unfortunately, contemporary pension plans tend to aim...lower. If you go on-line to, say, CNN's calculator, you will see that the default value of the "Desired Annual Income in Retirement" is 70 % of your current income. This is typical: many pension plans are designed to provide as income 50 % – 80 % of your salary. The usual rationales are that the kids have left the nest, you won't be so profligate, you have built up savings, etc. The rationales may be wrong: the kids may need help, you may want to travel (or face medical or managed care expenses), and you lost your savings when Enron went bust.

The reality is that you have to sit down, perhaps with a financial counselor or an accountant, and look at the whole spectrum of your assets and figure out how to make a plan that will provide adequate income after retirement. And the sooner you do this, the better the options are. And for its own reasons, the State of Florida is giving us an incentive to make our plans this year.

EMPLOYEES CURRENTLY ENROLLED IN AN OPTIONAL RETIREMENT PLAN MAY, IF REGULATIONS AND THEIR PLAN PERMITS IT, CHANGE TO A FLORIDA RETIREMENT SYSTEM PLAN. But you have to do it this year. That means that you have to look at your current plan, work out the finances, and decide, and if you want to act, act within the next few months.

The big issue for people in Optional Retirement Programs may be whether to switch to the FRS Pension Plan. In an ORP (and the FRS Investment Plan), USF makes periodic contributions to your plan and that money is invested, with the resulting savings becoming available to you upon retirement. These savings depend only on the amount invested, not on what your income is. On the other hand, for the FRS Pension Plan, USF makes the same contributions to the pension fund, which then provides income to retirees using a formula based on age, years of "creditable" service, and the highest five years of salary.

RETIREMENT ... CHECKLISTS

So where does one start? Here are some important links:

NOTE: if you set up an ORP with money going into a guaranteed-interest or similar account, that account may have restrictions on withdrawals and transfers that may make it impractical or impossible to switch. Finally, the entire process requires that you keep pushing until you are completely switched to FRS by Dec. 31 (that means getting the confirmation from FRS that you have switched), and this can take two months or more.

If you are among the estimated 85 % of employees who do not look at retirement reports, we strongly urge you to take this ORP-to-FRS offer as a bit of helpful nagging: whatever you decide to do or not to do, take a look at your own situation NOW and make sure that you are on track to be where you want to be when you retire.

There are resources on campus, starting with the Human Resources office: contact Margaret Ogden or Lionel Leonard at 974-2970. In addition, UFF Senator and FEA Delegate (and Faculty Senate Vice President-elect) Steve Permuth has gone through a lot of the material and is willing to offer advice; call him at 974-3400.

July 24, 2008

A GUEST COLUMN ON THE NEA HIGHER EDUCATION CONFERENCE


by Professor Steve Permuth

At the National Education Association (NEA)/American Federation of Teachers (AFT) National Conference held in Washington, D.C. during the final weekend in March, a number of sessions were dedicated to discussions of law. One of these was a presentation by Dan McNeil, Assistant Director of the AFT Legal Department.

The thesis shared by McNeil was that, perhaps the most cherished value in higher education-freedom of speech, was under "new" scrutiny as the result of a United States Supreme Court decision in 2006, the case of Garcetti v. Ceballos, 126 S.Ct. 1951 (2006). While this article should not be construed as a final analysis of his presentation or cited cases, the historic framework of freedom of speech issues, as viewed by the land's highest federal court, remains an important topic for review by our UFF/USF. A brief summary, synthesis and expanded commentary on the presentation are provided for our readership.

The landmark case involving First Amendment freedom of speech issues tied to public employees in the case of Pickering v. Board of Education of Township High School District Number 205, 391 U.S. 563( 1968). In Pickering, a school teacher was dismissed from his job for sending a letter to the local newspaper attacking the School Board’s handling of bond issues and allocation of resources between the educational and athletic programs. In this critical test of the application of constitutional standards to teacher employment, and concomitant rights, the Supreme Court held that the government needed to show a "compelling state interest" in order to overcome the right of a teacher to speak on issues of public importance. In this case, in spite of the fact that several of the statements Pickering made were false, the Court suggested that, unless such statements were made maliciously, the State could not prevail. As such, the Court established a fluid balancing test between the rights of teachers to express views on matters of public concern and the interests of the state in assuring that the matters discussed are of public (not private) concern and assure the continuing effectiveness and efficiency of the workings of the educational institution.

A second case commented on by Mr. McNeil, Connick v. Meyers, 461 U.S. 138 (1983) resulted from the involuntary movement of an assistant district attorney from one position in a government office to another position with no loss of pay or benefits. The assistant district attorney objected and, as part of her unhappiness, sent a questionnaire to colleagues in the office consisting of some fourteen questions, including asking colleagues about their confidence in and trustworthiness of certain colleague members by name. The assistant district attorney was summarily dismissed and suggested that she was terminated in violation of her First Amendment rights.

The essence of the decision of the Court in Connick added a preliminary step to the results of Pickering (supra) in that a Court must first construe whether what was said by the employee was a matter of public or private interest. If it is a matter of private interest, the Court will not proceed any further, noting that….

When an employee expression cannot be fairly considered as related to any matter of political, social, or other concern to the community, government officials should enjoy wide latitude in managing their offices, without intrusive oversight by the judiciary in the name of the First Amendment.

If, however, the speech is a matter of public concern, then the balancing test in Pickering must apply. That is to say, the public employee's interest in speaking on matters of public concern will be weighed against the interest of the state as employer to promote and encourage efficient and effective public service. In the case of Connick, the Court determined that the dismissal was based on a private, not public concern, and upheld the dismissal.

The case of Garcetti v. Ceballos, 126 S.Ct. 1951(2006) brings an essential third threshold test to doctrines of freedom of speech affecting public employees. In this case, a deputy district attorney (Ceballos) reviewed an affidavit prepared by a deputy sheriff to support a search warrant. Ceballos suggested to his superiors that the warrant contained misrepresentations and that the case be dismissed. After a number of "heated exchanges" Ceballos' supervisor made the decision to proceed with the case and Ceballos contended that he was then subjected to retaliatory actions, including reassignment, transfer, and denial of promotion.

In its opinion, McNeil shares that...

The Court concluded that Ceballos' speech was constitutionally unprotected because as a threshold matter "his expressions were made pursuant to his duties as a calendar deputy." In the Court’s view, "[r]estricting speech that owes its existence to a public employee's professional responsibilities does not infringe any liberties the employee might have enjoyed as a private citizen. It simply reflects the exercise of employer control over what the employer itself has commissioned or created." The First Amendment, stated the Court, "does not invest [public employees] with a right to perform their jobs however they see fit." At the same time, "employees retain the prospect of constitutional protection for their contributions to the civic discourse."

Thus the questions of private v. public concern, balancing the rights of public employees to express their views on public matters balanced by the employers need for an efficient and effective work environment ,and the "new" threshold level of "official duties" v. civic discourse, provide parameters for freedom of speech issues in higher education. Hopeful to the direction of the Court of particular interest to public employees in higher education is the declaration by Justice Kennedy in Garcetti that the Court "do(es) not decide whether the analysis we conduct today would apply in the same manner to a case involving speech related to scholarship and teaching. In addition, in case of specific problems, the speaking out on issues by a union has been found to be outside the scope of employment and thus 'potentially protected'." In other words, the speech was made in the union context, not an individual's capacity based on duties.

While there is much more depth and breadth to the issue, the presentation was exacting and important. Continued focus will occur through new litigation (e.g., Hong v. Grant, 516 F. Supp. 2d 1158 (C.D. Cal, 2007) both directed at, and tangential to, fundamental academic values such as freedom of speech.

August 7, 2008

FINALLY, A BOARD OF TRUSTEES SALARY PROPOSAL... TWO OF THEM

In July, fourteen months after bargaining on the 2007-2010 contract began, the USF Board of Trustees (BOT) presented salary proposals to UFF. The Trustees' team presented UFF with two very different salary proposals within two weeks. The first salary proposal on July 11 included only bonuses. The second salary proposal on July 25 included a very small raise package over a three-year period. It is movement in the right direction for the Trustees to present a salary article after more than a year of silence and then to change the emphasis within the month from bonuses to base raises.

On this and other matters, UFF and the Trustees' team continue trading proposals. At the end of the Summer C session, the BOT team presented proposals on ten articles. UFF's team is currently preparing a set of counterproposals. As stated in the spring bargaining update, the bargaining team may not be able to provide blow-by-blow details of individual counterproposals, but the UFF team's goals continue to be what was described in the bargaining update sent to all in-unit employees at the end of the spring semester. Members can hear a report from and ask questions of the bargaining team at the August 22 chapter meeting at noon in EDU 411.

STILL UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

On June 11, the United Faculty of Florida asked USF to answer several questions about the university's unrestricted assets and the claims that President Genshaft made about the assets in May.

  1. Since grant overhead funds are tied down with external obligations, how can USF claim these as unrestricted assets?
  2. Is there documentation of the administration's assertions of commitments from summer 2007?
  3. Why would there need to be any commitment from unrestricted funds for auxiliary operations and financial aid if there was no operating deficit and the total unrestricted assets are growing?
  4. For the portion of asserted commitments regarding auxiliary/DSO operations, why are university assets being committed for units that have to operate from a position of financial independence?
  5. How can USF treat compensated absences as a partial commitment from the unrestricted assets when they are treated differently in the audited financial statements?
  6. Was there growth in unrestricted assets during 2007-08?
We have not yet received any answers. For background on these questions, see
the June 26 Biweekly.

A GUEST COLUMN ON THE NEA HIGHER EDUCATION CONFERENCE


by Ilene Frank

I attended the session called "Distance Education Quality Benchmarks". The two presenters were Diane White, President of the Solano College Faculty Association (CA) and Cynthia Eaton, Adjunct Coordinator of the Faculty Association at Suffolk Community College (NY). The presenters concentrated on issues concerning distance education that have been addressed – and/or should be addressed – under their collective bargaining agreements.

Cynthia Eaton has done a lot of work comparing contract language in State University of New York community colleges. She based much of her presentation on information collected in the document "Negotiating the Distance: Bargaining Contract and Policy Language for Community College Distance Education Programs (see http://nysut.org/highered/distance/nysut_negotiating_the_distance.pdf). The authors used the fourteen "AFT guidelines for good practice in distance education" as a framework for their document. The AFT guidelines address faculty involvement in the development of courses and programs and issues such as student readiness and evaluation of courses and programs. A report by the New York State United Teachers lists ten areas to consider for bargaining: methods of delivery; intellectual property/ownership; compensation; course development; class size; course assignments; training/technical support; online office hours; privacy and surveillance (for students and faculty); course observation and evaluation. Institutions may have to be reminded that "online" or "hybrid" does not mean "easier and less time-consuming."

Definitions of various distance learning course delivery options can become critical when negotiating faculty workload. Some contracts mandate that a faculty/technology committee be set up to study the impact of changes in technologies for distance learning. Some schools have negotiated salary differentials for teaching Distance Education (DE) courses. Some contracts mandate stipends for development of online courses. In some cases monetary incentives for faculty to teach DE courses have created disparities in salary between those teaching DE courses versus face-to-face courses. Some contracts discuss criteria used to select faculty to be allowed to teach online courses. Some contracts include language indicating that no faculty member shall be required to teach online courses. Dr. Eaton noted that class size is extremely important when it comes to distance learning and that class size difficult to negotiate. Some contracts preclude the use of outside developed courses unless faculty are first given the right to create the online course in-house.

The second presenter, Diane White, pointed to some problems that have developed in California. Example: Administration lists courses on the schedule with "staff" listed as instructor. With no in-house faculty assigned to the course, administrators offer adjuncts the courses on an "emergency" basis bypassing faculty oversight on hiring. This is particularly problematic since in some situations collective bargaining contracts cover adjuncts. The union has no information on the adjuncts and may not have a complete list of those hires. Another concern with distance learning: Faculty with face-to-face on-campus assignments can find themselves bearing the majority of the work of running a department, participating in campus-wide committees, etc.

What was the most striking about these presentations was the concern for students. Both speakers expressed concern for the quality of distance education programs and courses. Both speakers were concerned with student readiness. In some cases students are encouraged to take distance learning courses when they do not have a suitable skill set. Their enrollment may benefit the institution that needs to show an up-tick in head count, but students will drop out if they are not able to succeed in the distance learning environment. The speakers both pointed out that concerns for quality can be a basis for contract negotiations.

This session was very applicable to concerns about distance learning here at USF. The Council on Technology for Instruction and Research (CTIR) set up a distance learning subcommittee. The sub-committee has been drafting a document which we will present to the Faculty Senate based on SACS Best Practices For Electronically Offered Degree and Certificate Programs and the SACS Distance Education Policy Statement. What guidelines, services, policies, does USF already have in place to ensure quality distance learning programs and courses? What guidelines, services, and policies need to be put in place or revised? Obviously some areas such as faculty workload and intellectual property rights fall under collective bargaining. Some issues for bargaining here at USF are likely to emerge!


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