IN THIS ISSUE
Redistricting and USF Poly
REDISTRICTING UPDATE: IT'S ABOUT (THEIR) JOBS.
Politicians, like everybody else, are nervous about being laid off. We as their constituents can lay them off, but their leadership – which draws their districts and hands out campaign funds – get them laid off. Redistricting lies at the heart of this anxiety, and may greatly influence how things turn out in the next session. See below for the latest development.
The USF-Poly situation involves the future of the entire USF system, not just a single campus, and how it is handled tells us how faculty input is regarded – and how the administration's input is regarded. While the United Faculty of Florida has no say in whether or not USF Poly remains in the USF System, the UFF is prepared to defend the rights of PUSF Poly faculty and professionals. For more, see below.
REDISTRICTING: IT'S ABOUT (THEIR) JOBS
Florida's legislature has a long tradition of being run by a small clique that intimidates everyone else to keep in power. Half a century ago, it was the "Pork Chop Gang", which drew numerous districts of varying populations for legislators who would return the favor by supporting the Gang. That became more difficult once the Supreme Court ruled that legislative districts had to be of comparable sizes (this was the 1964 Reynolds v. Sims "one man one vote" decision), but recently the leadership has used very powerful software to compose equally predictable districts that elect equally controllable legislators.
The redeeming victory won by the Florida Education Association and its allies in the fall 2010 election were Amendments 5 and 6, which limited the leadership's ability to redraw districts at will. These became Sections III.21 and III.20 on drawing legislative and congressional districts, respectively.
U.S. Representatives Corinne Brown, D-Florida, and Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Florida, promptly filed suit on Amendment 6 (on redrawing Congressional districts), and on Friday, September 9, federal judge Ursula Ungaro ruled against Brown and Diaz-Balart (see the Miami Herald article Judge dismisses redistricting suit). They are appealing to the 11th Circuit of Appeals, and as The Current reports, the Florida House is using your taxpayer money so that the House to join appeal of Amendment 6 ruling on fair districts.
This is only part of the litigation on these two amendments, and as the UFF and the Florida Education Association prefer that legislators be answerable to their constituents rather than to the legislative leadership, we are supporting the legal fight to defend Amendments 5 and 6. In doing so, we are advancing not only the short term interests of our constituents and of higher education for this coming spring – how much political capital the leadership has to advance its toxic legislative agenda next spring may depend critically on how redistricting turns out – but also the long term interests of education in Florida. Like all these political and legal battles, this one takes money to run and requires popular support to succeed, so we have all benefited from the support that dues-paying UFF members have provided, and from the letters, emails, phone calls, and office visits that members and friends have made to their legislators. For more on this effort, see the Fair Districts Now website.
A proposal to transform USF Poly at Lakeland into a state polytechnic university is not merely over-optimistic local boosterism. Ever since the I-4 Corridor was recognized as a possible – or hopeful – magnet for high technology, more thoughtful planners recognized the need for more and better higher education in central Florida. After all, the San Francisco Bay area features three large universities, two more in driving distance, and many smaller institutions. At the moment, the I-4 Corridor features USF, UCF, smaller institutions, with UF-Gainesville nearby. Florida may well need and demand another university on the corridor.
In August, Florida State Senator J. D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales and chair of the Senate Budget Committee, pitched an independent polytech idea to Governor Scott and told The Lakeland Ledger that, "If we're ever going to have the quality of life we want to have, we've got to broaden our economy, and that means really focusing on those things that help to bring and develop and grow tech-type companies here." This proposal won the support of the Central Florida Development Board, the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce, the Polk County Commission, the Winter Haven City Commission, and many local boosters.
SUS Board of Governors member Gus Stavros asked: " How do we get more funding for our 11, now (possibly) 12 universities if that's been a problem?" The student member of the board presented the results of a survey of USF Poly students showing that 85 % of the respondents opposed independence. (Both students and faculty have complained about being ignored in this issue.) Independence is not just a matter of branding: it is an issue for accreditation and financial aid, for infrastructure and administrative resources, and of faculty and professional support. USF Trustee Gene Engle (who also serves on the USF Poly board) told The Lakeland Ledger that it was too soon for USF Poly to split.
It is not clear what will happen now. At the last USF-Tampa Faculty Senate meeting, President Genshaft was asked what will happen to USF Poly, and she began with, "I don't know...," followed by a list of the major players, largely in Tallahassee. UFF's intelligence reports that Tallahassee, like Mr. Stavros, wonders where the money will come from.
One of the most telling comments was made by USF Poly Regional Chancellor Marshall Goodman, who told the SUS Board of Governors that, "We are in a new century, and we have got a new model to put our students to work." What sort of new model might USF Poly embody? Senator Alexander's argument put a modern spin on the rationale for Gerard Monge's Ecole Polytechnique, founded during the French Revolution. But UFF has found that Florida Gulf Coast University – not a polytech by any stretch of the imagination – was being held up as a model for an independent Florida Polytechnic University. Exactly what that means is unclear, especially in an environment in which legislators are talking about abolishing tenure (FGCU does not grant tenure), but UFF has already won a battle over whether or not a newly independent university can unilaterally change the terms and conditions of employment, and is prepared to defend the rights and privileges of poly faculty and professionals.