United Faculty of Florida -- USF System Chapter
19 October 2017
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Chapter Meeting Tomorrow in Sarasota / Manatee
The Chapter will meet tomorrow Friday at 12 noon on USF Sarasota / Manatee in room B226 (for a campus map, click here). There will be sandwiches, snacks, pop, and sweets. All USF employees are invited, especially UFF members and employees thinking of becoming UFF members. On the agenda: the upcoming (statewide) UFF Senate meeting. Come and check us out.
The remaining UFF Chapter Meetings this semester will be on November 3 & 17, and December 1. The meetings are on USF Tampa in EDU 161. Come and join the movement.
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.
$ 500 Travel Grants for UFF Members
The USF Chapter of the UFF will award six $ 500 Travel Scholarships for next spring and summer. This will be for travel for participation in a professional activity. All applications are due by November 28, and only UFF members are eligible. In addition, no recipient of the Spring or Summer 2017 cycles of travel grants is eligible to apply. The six recipients shall be selected by lot at the December 1 chapter meeting. For more information, see the Travel Scholarship Flyer.
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 (click here).
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).
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IN THIS ISSUE
Freedom, Academic and Otherwise
Richard Spencer, founding editor of AltRight.com, president of the National Policy Institute, and "white identity" activist with over 75,000 followers on Twitter, will be speaking at UF Gainesville this afternoon. The National Policy Institute rented Philips Hall for $ 10,000, but the university is spending at least half a million dollars for additional security and Governor Scott has declared an emergency. The university is permitting Spencer to speak because the law requires it, but UF President Kent Fuchs urged the community not to "...provide Mr. Spencer and his followers the spotlight they are seeking" and hence not attend the event, but not to "...let Mr. Spencer's message of hate and racism go unchallenged." The UF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida opposes Spencer's appearance and is concerned for the safety of university students and employees.
While George Orwell once observed that if the freedom of speech means anything, it means the right to be wrong, this does seem like an extreme case. We take a brief look at the current controversy over academic freedom - and freedom of speech - on campus and off.
If we view Mr. Spencer not as an advocate, but instead as a performance artist, then President Fuch's advice not to attend may be better than attending and protesting. A number of performance artists have been appearing on campuses with publicity designed to attract protests - which they then stoically, heroically, or sarcastically overcome. All for the pleasure of their fans. The protests become part of the show, and part of the advertising for the next event. Like any traveling tour, momentum is critical, and if momentum is driven by lively video (posted, liked, and retweeted ad infinitum), then lively video is exactly what we should not provide.
- About Academic Freedom. Academic freedom provides some protections to faculty, but it is not absolute. For more, see below or click here.
- Academic Freedom versus Freedom of Speech. For most Americans, freedom of speech does not include freedom from retaliation. For more, see below or click here.
- The Heckler's Veto. Some of the response - and retaliation - is unofficial. While catcalls and raspberries might come with the territory, threats should not. For more, see below or click here.
- The Alternative Is... If neither academic freedom and freedom of speech are absolute, whom would we trust with the censor's scissors? For a cautionary observation, see below or click here.
Breaking news concerning adjuncts.
A state hearing officer of the Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC) has recommended that PERC approve an election in which USF adjuncts would vote on whether to be represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
SEIU had presented its case last summer, and the USF Chapter of UFF supports the adjuncts' right to an election.
The ball is now in the USF Administration's court.
About Academic Freedom
Traditional academic freedom issues concern administrative suppression of academic speech - or administrative retaliation. The classic American case may be Stanford University's dismissal of Edward Ross at the behest of Jane Stanford, the founder's widow; she was upset about Ross's public statements about railroads and immigration.
Of course, academic freedom is an ancient notion, arising from the traditional (if often violated) immunities enjoyed by sages, prophets, minstrels, jesters, and judges. As many American institutions had modeled themselves after German universities, the University of Berlin's notions of Freedom to Teach and Freedom to Learn came along in the package. But Berlin's own adherence to these principles was problematic, and that proved true of American institutions as well.
The freedom to teach, the freedom to learn, and the freedom of scholarly research (all three in one's own subject) were central to the American Association of University Professor's 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. The AAUP included freedom of expression in general under the academic freedom umbrella, but stressed faculty responsibilities: "...they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution." Public speech, writing, and tweets may be regarded as providing honest counsel to the public - as Edward Ross was when he was at Stanford - they also may regarded as part of the free expression guaranteed to everyone.
Administrations sometimes restrict such free expression - of students as well as faculty. When Colorado State University Professor Timothy McGettigan compared recent faculty cuts to a 1914 massacre of striking coal miners, the university administration cut his access to his email; he sued and has just settled. Meanwhile, when Albright College backup quarterback Gyree Durante kneeled during The Star-Spangled Banner before a game, he was kicked off the team. And the U. S. Justice Department claims that American colleges and universities are suppressing freedom of speech and is supporting a student who was blocked from preaching outside of the library.
Academics often win such cases because academic freedom provides protections that freedom of expression does not. And there's the rub.
Academic Freedom versus Freedom of Speech
While academic freedom is clearly a public good - allowing faculty to provide honest counsel in a democracy - freedom of expression is different. While some theoreticians of democracy claim that freedom of speech contributes to the healthy operation of the nation, freedom of expression is often regarded as an individual right.
But this right is limited. For example, in Garcetti v. Ceballos, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that a district attorney can punish a prosecutor who repeatedly complains to his boss and colleagues about police misconduct (at least as the complaining prosecutor sees it). Notice that this case was about speech on the job, not whistleblowing. Outside of Academia, the First Amendment provides little protection against an angry boss.
Some laymen see academic freedom as a privilege, and resent it. Unions have declined during the last few decades, and fewer people are protected by union contracts. Fortunately, USF faculty and professionals have academic freedom rights in our contract, but faculty in institutions lacking such contractual protections have faced retaliation, sometimes with the blessing of the courts. Outside of Academia, where the workplace is often more hierarchically ordered, there is less protection.
But while academic freedom and freedom of expression are hot topics these days, the events getting in the news often do not involve administrative and managerial oppression. Many events played up in the media involve heckling, protests, and blowback.
The Heckler's Veto
In 1953, in Walt Kelly's Pogo, Kelly's parody of Joseph McCarthy - Simple J. Malarkey - explains that while the constitution guarantees freedom of speech, "It can't guarantee what will happen after a guy speaks up."
In Academia, there can be blowback from colleagues.
But what's in the news is a more brazen form of harassment.
And of course there are protests, many of which are considered free expression. But some protests, including protests that disrupt speeches, sometimes are not regarded as free expression, at least by the courts.
- Drexel University Professor George Ciccariello-Maher made some tweets that outraged people across the political spectrum, and got not only abuse but threats in response, which moved Drexel to put him on administrative leave.
- When a journal, The Third World Quarterly, published an article with the provocative title, The Case for Colonialism, over the objections of the editorial board, the editor received not only complaints but threats of violence. The journal retracted the article, and some of the complainants reported that they, too, had received "considerable attacks and abuse."
- When Muslim-American activist Linda Sarsour came to USF to speak on women's rights, one Facebook question was "Any idea which hotel she’s staying at, the make, model/color of the car she’s riding into campus in, which entrance/exits she will be using, and whether or not she will be wearing any body armor? Asking for a friend." The police investigated and concluded that the questioner wasn't physically dangerous.
Scholars have suffered this kind of abuse for as long as there have been scholars. So have politicians and celebrities, and their solution is to surround themselves with aides and bodyguards. But we are scholars, and this is a phenomenon. Scholars study phenomena. If we approached it in that light, we might figure out what to do about it. In the meantime, we cannot let ourselves be cowed.
The Alternative Is...
When the videos appear and pundits preach, the politicians claim that someone - legislators, college presidents, police - should do something. Ban something. But here is one cautionary observation about restricting expression. We all have heard Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes writing that "most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater...." What is often forgotten is that Holmes was writing a unanimous decision that the U. S. Constitution permitted prosecuting someone for circulating flyers to draft-age men encouraging them not to serve - perhaps not quite comparable to yelling "fire" in a crowded theater. All too often, censorship, like Tolkien's Ring, eventually corrupts those who wield it.
Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, October 20, on USF Sarasota / Manatee in room B226.
We will have lunch at the meeting. All UFF members are invited to attend. Non-members are also invited to come and check us out. Come and join the movement.
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