IN THIS ISSUE
HAPPY HOLIDAYS ... AND PLANNING FOR NEXT SPRING
These are the weeks of much rushing around and making plans. Your union is no different. We are participating in a holiday event – a toy drive (see announcement at left and article below) – and planning for the coming year.
- GELT IN RED ENVELOPES IN STOCKINGS ... Despite the oft-repeated claim that gift-giving was invented by Victorians out to boost the economy, the impulse seems ancient and global.
- PLANNING FOR SPRING. While the union in Tallahassee plans for a hard legislative season, the USF Chapter plans for a recruiting drive, expressing our concerns to our legislators ... and chapter elections.
GELT IN RED ENVELOPES IN STOCKINGS ...
If there is one thing that everyone (well almost everyone) can agree about this season, it is that this is a season of giving gifts to children.
The Eurocentric tale begins with the Romans, who exchanged gifts during the three festivals that predated Christmas, and St. Nikolaos of Myra, who even now, in his alter identity as Sinterklass, is preparing to put coins in the shoes of good little Dutch girls and boys. But it is the Industrial Revolution that provided the disposable income that makes the modern extravaganza possible; catalogues for Christmas gifts appeared early in the Nineteenth century, before Anonymous wrote the lines, " 'Twas the Night before Christmas ..."
But during December 20 – 28, Jewish children will be helping to light the candles and receiving Hanukkah gelt. While "gelt" is etymologically gold, these were historically coins that children took to their teachers in the Seventeenth century (that is, during the era many Protestants were busy outlawing notorious pagan festivals like Christmas); the season being what it is, not only did children start getting coins of their own, but the coins also found their way to teenagers and poor yeshiva students. Nearly a hundred years ago, Loft chocolatier started selling chocolate gelt.
A month later, around the world, comes the Chinese New Year. On January 23, the current year of the rabbit ends, the next year of the dragon begins, and children will be getting red envelopes containing money; the custom is to give an even number of coins or bills. Recently, there have been reports of chocolate instead of coins in the red envelopes.
Chocolate may be more in the spirit in Hindu India. December 21 – 25 is Pancha Ganapati, a festival dedicated to the elephant-headed god Ganesha, a patron of arts and sciences who is notoriously fond of sweets. Every day of the festival, the family presents sweets to Ganesha and then passes them around, and each child gets a present to put before the god. On the last day, the children open their presents.
But coins may be more in the spirit of Muslim India. The Muslim calendar does not track the motion of the Earth, so when children receive "eidi" on the last day of Ramadan, that could be any time of the year (children received eidi last August and will have to wait until July next summer for more). Eidi is typically money, named after the last day of Ramadan, Eid al Fitr. But it is the night before Eid al Fitr when people distribute food, clothing and money to charity, and then shop by the "Night of the Moon".
As Mary Mapes Dodge observed, Sinterklass does not visit all the houses. "And yet if this were a saint, why did he not visit the Brinker cottage that night? Why was that one home, so dark and sorrowful, passed by?" Of course, the Brinkers had bigger problems than a lack of presents, but the omission can be felt. And so UFF is joining the West Central Florida AFL-CIO to support the Children Home Society's toy drive. We can take new, unwrapped toys at the UFF Chapter meeting tomorrow Friday at noon at EDU 313 at USF-Tampa. If you cannot come to the meeting, you may deliver toys to the Department of Mathematics & Statistics, care of Gregory McColm, by the close of business on Monday. (Also, USF and HART have joined Foster Angels of Hillsborough County in a toy drive.) Thank you & season's greetings.
PLANNING FOR SPRING
The United Faculty of Florida will be engaged in two fronts this spring.
In Tallahassee, the UFF will be part of the Florida Education Association's effort to defend education in Florida. The FEA's latest report to union locals predicted that the 2012 Legislative Session will be dominated by redistricting and budget cuts – and possibly casinos.
As for higher education, House Speaker Dean Cannon has signaled a desire to give us a rest for the next session. But the governor disagrees, and there are rumors of impending micromanagement. Meanwhile, SUS Chancellor Frank Brogan has told the Democratic caucus that he doesn't want major changes in the university funding formula, the Board of Governors has announced ambitious plans to encourage STEM subjects (and in academia, ambition invariably involves money), there is a $ 2 billion hole in the next Florida budget, there are rumors of a desire to tie university funding to benchmarks like graduation and job placement rates, and Florida State Senator David Simmons is pushing a referendum to tighten the cap on property taxes – which would make local government even more dependent on state funding. And of course, the casino bill is accompanied with a proviso that the resulting state revenue would go towards education (pause for rueful laughter). With all this going on, it is not clear what will happen to the university budget next year.
During finals week, legislators will be meeting in committees one last time before the legislative session, which will start on January 10. The union is keeping a sharp eye out for revivals of toxic legislation from last spring. One that the union is very concerned about is Florida Representative Scott Plakon's bill that no union be permitted to represent a "bargaining unit" of employees unless a majority of those employees were dues-paying union members. Our lawyers are convinced that while such a bill would violate the Florida constitution, getting it thrown out would take years of expensive litigation – during which time the union is in limbo and the contract erodes – so the union office is strongly encouraging chapters like UFF USF to recruit new members.
So next semester will see a recruiting drive, which means that the Services (Membership) committee is recruiting recruiters: contact Mariam Leiva Manzur if you would like to go out, meet people, and recruit them to join the union. And since the union is a democracy, we will also be conducting our annual elections. Because about a quarter of our membership joined just this last year, we should see a number of new people running for offices and representative positions. BUT ONLY UFF MEMBERS MAY RUN OR VOTE IN CHAPTER ELECTIONS, so join by December 31 if you are interested in running or voting. At tomorrow's chapter meeting the Chapter will elect an Elections Committee to run the election.