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United Faculty of Florida -- USF System Chapter
29 November 2016
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Every year, the USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida participates in the West Central Florida Federation of Labor's toy drive. This year we are collecting toys at a lunch party, and all UFF USF employees, UFF members and non-members alike, are invited.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, at noon, in the Marshall Students Center, in the Sabal Room (MSC 3700, on the third floor, just to the right and around the corner from Top of the Palms).

We will have lunch and union bigwigs to answer questions like, "Just who is the West Central Florida Federation of Labor anyway? and how does that affect me?" We will also be collecting toys for the toy drive: we'd like new, unwrapped toys in their original packaging, for children ages 0 to 17 (don't overlook the teens). UFF members can turn in their travel scholarship applications (see below).

  • See our flyer inviting all UFF USF employees, UFF members and non-members alike, to our Toy Drive Lunch Party.
  • We will deliver all toys and gifts to the West Central Florida Federation of Labor, but donors can deliver the toys themselves to the Central Labor Council's Holiday Social.
  • If you want to donate a gift but cannot attend the party, you may bring it to the office of the Department of Mathematics & Statistics, CMC342, attn: Greg McColm. We need all toys by noon on Tuesday, December 6.
  • The toys are for the Children's Home Society of Florida, and they have provided a wish list of gift suggestions.
This party is also a chapter meeting, so we will discuss a bit of business (we have to select an Election Committee to run the chapter election next spring). But it mostly come and check us out.

Last Call for the Travel Scholarship Program

All UFF USF members are eligible for one of six $ 500 travel scholarships to be randomly selected on the December 2. Any member may submit a proposal - a proposal being a paragraph describing the professional activity for which the travel scholarship will be applied - to us by campus mail (UFF Membership Committee, 30238 USF Holly Drive) or by email; all proposals must be received by December 1. You may join UFF by December 1 and be eligible to apply. See the travel scholarship flyer.

Small print: Effective this term, a recipient of a travel award will not be eligible for another award for one year.

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.

Join UFF Today!

Download, fill in, and mail the membership form. Benefits of membership include the right to run and vote in UFF chapter and statewide elections; representation in grievances (UFF cannot represent a non-member in a grievance or litigation); special deals in insurance, travel, legal advice, and other packages provided by our affiliates; free insurance coverage for job-related liability; and the knowledge you are supporting education in Florida. Come and join the movement.


If you have been the victim of a violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, you have thirty days from the time you knew or should have known of the violation to file a grievance. If you are, and at the time of the violation were, a dues-paying member of the United Faculty of Florida, you have the right to union representation. To contact the UFF USF Grievance Committee, go to the online contact form. For more information, see our web-page on grievances; see also the main article (left).

Visit Us on Facebook

Visit the United Faculty of Florida at USF Facebook page. This page is a place where UFF members can exchange thoughts and ideas. The page is "public", but only dues-paying UFF members are eligible to post items on the page. If you are a UFF member, ask to join on the page, or contact the Communications Committee. The Committee will invite every UFF member that asks to join. So check us out. UFF members are welcome to join, and non-members are welcome to look.


What is Diversity Good For?

Intellectually and perhaps emotionally, we know that we are all in this together. We know that a community is judged by how it treats all of its members. But sometimes dealing with people who are ... different ... can be a little ... difficult. The French iconoclast Jean-François Revel observed that while many people adhere to pluralism in theory, they had difficulty putting up with it in practice. Herbert Butterfield contended that much of our modern notion of tolerance arose out of the failure of the religious wars of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth centuries resolve anything. Tolerance is the right thing to do.

But there is another line of thought about tolerance that is getting more attention. Diversity may be a positive and practical good, and not just a warm and fuzzy virtue, or a last resort when all else has failed.

  • What is Diversity Good For? From ancient observations of the advantages of cosmopolitan societies to modern comparisons of the performance of homogeneous versus heterogeneous groups, there is growing evidence that diversity is critical to innovation and making progress. For more, see below or click here.
  • Managing Diversity. A tolerant and diverse community doesn't just happen; it takes some work. For more, see below or click here.
Meanwhile, and perhaps not just coincidentally, this is the holiday season. The Winter Solstice is a gigantic magnet for holidays, from the German Yuletide to the Roman Dies Natalis Solis Invicti to the Dongzhi festival of China to the Hopi / Zuni festival of Soyal. One of these holidays was the Kalends (or Calends, from which we get the word "calendar") of January, when Romans made offerings and promises to the two-faced god Janus. Two thousand years later, as we join Janus on his perch on January 1 and look back at the previous year and forward at the year to come, we might indulge in the Roman tradition of taking stock of where we want to go.

Happy Holidays!

What is Diversity Good For?

In public debate, treating diverse people fairly is sometimes portrayed as an unmixed burden. It does seem to require effort - many people in cosmopolitan environments often congregate in homogeneous groups and report that they feel more comfortable there. (So comfortable that "self-segregation" is a recurring issue.) But there is growing evidence that in addition to the requirements of justice, the effort in creating and managing diversity is worth it - at least in our neck of the woods.

Ever since the invention of cities, scholars, artists, writers, inventors, and other innovators have gone there, and not just because that's where the money and power is. It is also where the other scholars, artists, writers, inventors are, and scholarship, art, literature, and invention requires people to talk with, argue with, and exchange ideas with. Recently, sociologists have been reconstructing networks of innovators and found major innovators in the midst of connections.

During the 1990s, a research thread suggested that a heterogeneous group, assigned a task, would be more creative and productive than a homogeneous one. But, as one early study observed, the homogeneous groups might feel better about themselves. These observations have entered the mainstream, and business and science magazines are now advising us that diversity is the mother of creativity, that diverse teams are creative, that diversity makes us smarter and is vital for innovation, etc. Diversity presents participants with the challenge of interacting with different points of view, which makes it the ideal antidote to groupthink, and in larger groups may function as an deterrent to popular hysteria.

(Of course, it's not that simple. As that early study above observed, diverse groups cannot simply be created and then left to fend for themselves; sometimes they have to be managed in order to avoid disorders like failure to get anywhere.)

One argument for heterogeneity could go like this. Imagine hunting for treasure on a large island, a treasure with many obscure clues to its location. (And suppose that there were many distracting doubloons and jewels scattered about.) Each treasure-hunter has their own ideas about where the treasure is. If each treasure-hunter went out alone, no treasure-hunter would collect more than a single clue or two, and would be lucky to get a doubloon. A homogeneous group of treasure-hunters would gather up and share several clues, but they would interpret them the same way, and spend all their time digging up one particular hill, and perhaps be rewarded with a fistful of jewels. (But at least they would be able to tell off-color jokes without offending anyone.) A heterogeneous group would have many more arguments, but being exposed to more possibilities arising from their varying points of view, they would stand a better chance of finding that old cedar chest with Captain Kidd's name on it.

The value of diversity is one aspect of the Wisdom of the Crowd, and of diversity Aristotle wrote (in Politics 3.11) that, "...the many are better judges than a single man of music and poetry; for some understand one part, and some another, and among them they understand the whole. There is a similar combination of qualities in good men..." The wisdom of the crowd, and the value of diversity in the crowd in assuring that the crowd consider a wide range of options, has recently been popularized by public intellectuals like James Surowiecki and Scott Page.

In addition, in an age of globalization - at an institution with a signal effort to graduate global citizens - we are looking forward to a heterogeneous future. We should make the most of it.

Managing Diversity

Despite Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's claim, "...that nothing great in the World has been accomplished without passion," it may be more true that nothing great has been accomplished without a lot of hard work. "Managing diversity" almost certainly involves hard work, and that has become a popular subject in management.

Preparation seems to be a major part of diversity management. Montana State University recently adjusted its hiring process, and in the last four years, half of its new hires for tenure-track positions in STEM fields have been women. MSU did this with a program - backed by a $ 3.4 million NSF grant - to train hiring committees how to recruit diverse candidates. "The most common question I hear is, If I could do one thing to achieve gender diversity on the faculty, what would it be?" said the principal investigator on the NSF grant. "But itís a process. It takes very careful, strategic planning."

Another problem is interacting with people with different backgrounds. As Ric Masten once observed, there's a hundred million miles across the table that we share. We inadvertently step on each others' toes and then wonder what is wrong with them. For example, consider micro-aggressions, which can range from the sort of bullying we see in Victorian novels to simple miscommunication. Dealing with these jarring interactions on an ad hoc basis can start the pendulum swinging between denial and panicky over-reactions. Some advance education - which again means careful, strategic planning - may be helpful.

Focus Magazine in the Chronicle of Higher Education recently produced an issue on Creating a Diverse Faculty - which turns out to also mean a diverse body of graduate students (which means a diverse body of undergraduates, which means...). Such resources may prove useful, for with all of our good intentions, proceeding on an ad hoc basis is not the best way to accomplish a large and complex task.


Chapter Meeting TOMORROW WEDNESDAY, November 30, on USF Tampa, in MSC 3700.

There will be lunch in the Top of the Palms restaurant. All UFF members are invited to attend. Non-members are also invited to come and check us out. Come and join the movement.

Membership: Everyone in the UFF USF System Bargaining unit is eligible for UFF membership: to join, simply fill out and send in the membership form.

NOTE: The USF-UFF Chapter website is http://www.uff.ourusf.org, and our e-mail address is uff@ourusf.org.

About this broadcast: This Newsletter was broadcast from uff.ourusf.org, hosted at ICDsoft.com, and is intended for all members of the UFF USF Bargaining unit (USF faculty and professionals at most departments). A (usually identical) version will be broadcast to USF-News and USF-Talk from mccolm@usf.edu.

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