For those of us who are returning, welcome back from your faculty union! For those who have just joined USF, welcome: we are your faculty union (the United Faculty of Florida, and there's more on us below). This electronic newsletter has been sent to the 1,647 USF employees we represent - and to 105 guest subscribers - so if you are receiving this newsletter, it probably means we represent you (details below).
This fall, as we welcome the Class of 2019 and reflect that they must be getting younger every year - either that, or we're getting older - Beloit College advises us that our new students have never licked a postage stamp, have always read Harry Potter and watched South Park, and for them The Lion King has always played on Broadway.
Meanwhile, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have always been members of NATO (the Cold War being something from their grandparents' era), and email is a formal form of communication: When communicating with friends, they send abbrevs like "TL DR" - "TOO LONG: DIDN'T READ." In this issue, we look at ourselves and at our students.
Where We Are Now
At the Fall USF Provost's Address last week, Provost Ralph Wilcox outlined where USF stands at the moment, and USF is growing. From Fall 2000 to Fall 2014, the number of undergraduate students rose from 18,913 to 27,299 while the number of graduate students rose from 4,574 to 7,275. Their success at USF has improved: while 20 % of the incoming freshmen of 2000 received their baccalaureate degrees within four years, 44 % of the incoming freshmen of 2010 did so. USF has also performed well on a variety of research metrics, from the number of U. S. patents granted to the number of Web of Knowledge citations.
All this involved a lot of work by USF faculty and professionals, as well as students, staff, and even administrators. The United Faculty of Florida (UFF) represents many faculty and professionals: the employees we represent are in the "Bargaining Unit." So, who is in this Bargaining Unit?
As of August 21, there were 2,475 faculty in the USF system. Of these, 1,647 are in the Bargaining Unit, which consists of:
Adjuncts and post-docs are not in the Bargaining Unit.
- All faculty and many professionals outside of the College of Medicine - except that the only department chairs in the Bargaining Unit are in the colleges of Arts & Sciences and Education. And senior administrators are not in the Bargaining Unit.
- Faculty and professionals in Nursing and Public Health, except for chairs and other administrators.
Within the Bargaining Unit, we welcome the 131 new faculty and professionals who have joined USF since the end of the spring semester (i.e. nearly eight percent of the Bargaining Unit are new employees). That is not surprising: here is a table of the number of employees in the Bargaining Unit by the date of their arrival at USF:
Over half of the employees in the Bargaining Unit arrived at or after 7 August, 2006.
|Year arrived||Number arrived||Percent of B.U.|
So what do employees in the Bargaining Unit do all day? There are a lot of job titles, but here are the most popular:
Of these, about two thirds are tenured or on tenure track. The Biweekly has been running an occasional series on getting tenure, which we will continue this fall, but as tenure is not part of the job for a third of the employees in the Bargaining Unit, we will be covering other issues as well.
|Job||Number ||Percent of B.U.|
|Assistants / Associates in [Program]||75||4.6 %|
|Assistant Professors||341||20.7 %|
|Associate Professors||425||25.8 %|
|Full Professors||325||19.7 %|
|Distinguished, Eminent, etc.||24||1.5 %|
|Other Professional||47||2.9 %|
Legally, the job of the union is to bargain and enforce a contract, called a Collective Bargaining Agreement. This is the legally enforceable contract between the USF employees in the Bargaining Unit (represented by UFF) and the USF Board of Trustees (represented by the USF Administration). Right now, bargaining is underway. While the current contract runs until 2017, it is "reopened" annually in order to bargain salary and a few other articles. Grievances continue year-round: if you suspect that your contractual rights have been violated, you have thirty days from the time you knew or should have known of the violation to act; that's why it is necessary to contact the Grievance Committee asap. However, UFF can only represent union members in grievances. Speaking of membership, we will be running a membership campaign this fall; if you are interested, contact Professor Adrienne Berarducci.
Since over 70 % of the faculty and professionals in the bargaining unit were hired after 2000, many of us were very young when the political establishment took higher education as a public good to be supported (at least in part) by the public. Education has been a priority since the founding of the Republic: in 1816, Thomas Jefferson wrote to Charles Yancey that "...if a nation expects to be ignorant & free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was & never will be." The USA was a leader in experimenting with public education during the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries, and one of the quantum leaps in expanding the American middle class was the 1944 "G. I. Bill of Rights" which provided, among other things, cash payments towards tuition and expenses for veterans. During the 1950s and 1960s, federal and state (and sometimes even local) governments assisted students going to college.
Since then, higher education - and sometimes even education in general - has come to be regarded more and more as a private good that the public need not or perhaps even should not support. This sentiment has translated into a shifting of the costs from the public onto students and their parents. Here at USF, student tuition provides more money to the university than the state.
If parents have the resources, they can pay, quite possibly with contributions from the students. But if not, students are increasingly choosing between working and getting into debt. As state legislatures pressure universities to get their students through quickly - getting undergraduates their degrees within six years is one of the performance metrics on which university funding depends - students are pressured to take more classes which means either being burned out by heavy class and job loads at the same time...or going into debt.
Wallethub's recent study noted that there is now about $ 1.19 trillion in student debt: "This is the first time in U.S. history that student loan debt exceeds credit card debt." Wallethub also compared states in how well students can handle their debt upon graduation. Florida's low wages and high housing costs put us at 40th out of the 51 states plus D.C. Tampa Bay Times business columnist Robert Trigaux warned that Florida graduates burdened with debt may leave and take their skills with them - bad news for Florida businessmen expecting that "millennials will determine the future of housing".
While pundits and presidential candidates debate the level of public support for higher education, some states are working on the problem, and Florida might consider doing something about student debt before it becomes a drag on the state economy. Meanwhile, we continue to have frazzled students.