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UFF Biweekly
United Faculty of Florida -- USF System Chapter
8 October 2020
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IN THIS ISSUE

Planning for Next Semester

Educational institutions must plan ahead, and since spring classes start in 95 days, it's time to plan for spring. There are gloomy projections about what the coronavirus will be doing then, and meanwhile, the budget is a big unknown. Hoping for the best, preparing for the worst, we make our contingency plans in advance in order to be ready for whatever comes.

  • The Coronaviral Situation With over 64 deaths per 100,000, the USA now has the seventh highest number of deaths per capita. For the situation closer to home, see below or click here.
  • The Budget. With at best Delphic statements from Tallahassee, the USF Administration is moving ahead with its budget plans for this year. For more, see below or click here.
On a different note, our website has been upgraded! Come and check us out! (We are still fiddling with details, so please be patient with our glitches.)

Returning to more serious matters, we remind everyone that the deadline to request a mail ballot is October 24. However, the deadline for the Supervisor of Elections to receive a ballot is Election Day, November 3, so we recommend mailing your ballot by October 27, at the very, very latest. Caution suggests that if you haven't requested a mail ballot and you intend to vote by mail, then you should request a mail ballot now. For more information, visit the Florida Division of Elections or your local county election supervisor: here are the links to the supervisors of Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, and Sarasota counties. And the Tampa Bay Times ran an FAQ interview with Hillsborough Election Supervisor Craig Latimer.


Tenure and Promotion Workshop

The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida will hold a Tenure and Promotion Workshop on Friday, October 9, from 9 am to 11 am, on Zoom, prior to the Chapter Meeting. Participants will learn about planning ahead and how to build the case for tenure or promotion, about putting together the tenure or promotion packet, and the various ins and outs. Participants must be UFF members, but you can join by filling in and sending in this form.

For the Zoom invitation, contact the Chapter Secretary.

How Are You Doing?

We are conducting a survey of faculty attitudes concerning job conditions at USF during the pandemic. If you are a USF employee and have not filled in the short survey, please do so.

Chapter Meeting Tomorrow on Zoom

The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida will meet tomorrow Friday at 12 noon on Zoom. On the agenda: the budget cut process, teaching in spring, the latest on the pandemic locally, and more.

Any employee in the Bargaining Unit may attend, but you must have an invitation: contact the Chapter Secretary. We will meet on alternate Fridays at noon over Zoom. Come and check us out.

USF United Support Fund for Food Pantries

Many of our students are struggling during this crisis, and the USF Foundation is supporting the USF Food Pantries to help out. They are accepting non-perishable donations, but one can also make monetary donations for the pantries at St. Petersburg, Sarasota / Manatee, and Tampa.

Join UFF Today!

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. Here is the membership form. Come and join the movement.

Grievances

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 Grievances Page.

We are on Social Media

Yes, we are on social media.

If you want to help with media matters, contact the Communications Committee chair.


The Coronavirus Situation

Many experts warned that if college students went back to school in fall, there would be a coronavirus spike. Sure enough, the New York Times reported outbreaks on campuses across the country, comparing the spread among colleges and universities to the spread through meatpacking plants and nursing homes. CNN complained that Colleges knew the risks but they reopened anyway, stating that, "In some cases, local health departments warned schools against welcoming students back. In others, it was the faculty and staff who spoke out against reopening," but that "Administration officials nationwide struggled to balance conflicting guidance from politicians and public health experts, while also navigating pressure from students, parents and athletic programs." There was also a financial hit, as revenue streams were cut just as additional pandemic costs appeared (and some state governments simply imposed unfunded mandates).

One study concluded that reopening campuses resulted in thousands of additional cases each day.

Part of it was politics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued questionable guidelines while some boards of trustees prioritized political concerns. Some institutions, like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and University of Georgia, opened under state pressure - with resulting surges in infections. UNC Chapel Hill went online after a week, but cowed by Atlanta, the University of Georgia remained open. Still, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that some institutions were having some success keeping the lid on the pandemic: Fort Lewis College in Colorado partnered with a non-profit to obtain discounted test kits, and last week its positivity rate was less than one percent, while the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign launched an aggressive testing campaign, and despite a spike (a consequence of college students acting like college students, and to which the university responded with a two-week lockdown), the university's aggressive campaign continues and last week the positivity was to about one half of one percent.

The key seems to be aggressive and mass testing. Northeastern Vice President for External Affairs Michael Armini said that, "Testing only symptomatic people doesn’t cut it" (Northeastern also moved many students into off-campus housing to reduce density). Cornell President Martha Pollack said, "Massive testing, massive testing... Followed up with very careful contract tracing and then supported isolation and quarantine." Oberlin College reduced student density by switching to a three-semester year-round schedule (and requires face masks on campus - whether inside or outside) and tests a quarter of its entire student population every week. These institutions all seem to have positivity rates of a fraction of one percent.

So how is USF doing? USF's positivity rate is not posted on the USF Dashboard, but the joint student-Oracle dashboard now reports 275 cases over September, which is roughly consistent with Hillsborough County's reported positivity rate of 5.21 % this morning.

Projections for winter and spring are largely gloomy, which raises the question of what teaching next semester will look like. Reflecting Tallahassee's optimism, the USF Administration is planning to open up a little more in spring, but now that so many people at the White House tested positive - and the president himself went to the hospital - Tallahassee may be less insistent about reopening. This could affect us: while Article 4 of the Memorandum of Understanding says that faculty "at high risk...shall be given priority" to teach online "as a reasonable accommodation," the Faculty Guidelines and Advice on page 10 (1A.2.d.iii) says that an employee with risk factors should "explore options ... to support the employee's return to on-campus work... ." There are three issues: Hopefully, supervisors will be reasonable, and hopefully Tallahassee - chastened by superspreading events in Washington - will stop leaning on the schools, colleges, and universities. Meanwhile, UFF will defend any UFF member whose contractual rights under the Memorandum are violated - but the employee must be a member and have been a member at the time of the violation, so join today. (And don't forget that a grievance must be filed within thirty days of the relevant violation.)

The Budget

It seems likely, as Fox News speculated last summer, that Tallahassee will not fix the budget until after the election. Universities have to plan ahead, so this delay has left universities across the state trying the discern some deeper meaning from the budget cutting exercises the State University System Board of Governors put the universities through. At the 1 October meeting of the USF Faculty Senate (see the Tampa Bay Times and Oracle articles), President Steven Currall told the Senate that the USF Administration anticipates an 8.5 % cut in state funding, or about a hundred million dollars. At that meeting, David Lechner - Senior Vice President for Business and Financial Strategy - told the Senate that USF should keep its aspirations (which the leadership defines as membership in the American Association of Universities).

The presumption is that USF will emerge at the end of the 2021 - 2022 fiscal year, on 30 June 2022, with a balanced budget. At the Senate meeting, Provost Ralph Wilcox told the Senate that cuts will not be across-the-board: units that are more critical to USF's aspirations will be protected. The colleges will soon be told how much to cut, and the deans will make recommendations. There was some discussion of how this could be regarded as an opportunity to rethink some things - including, ahem, USF's current heavy reliance on metrics - but this rethinking was not as sweeping as, say, a Playbook for Confronting Budget Shortfalls recently posted in Inside Higher Ed. (Such brave rethinking might include how university decisions are made.)

One question is what will happen to individuals. President Currall is taking a 15 % pay cut, and other senior administrators are taking cuts of 6 - 10 %. Much of USF's budget is payroll, so major cuts in the budget would mean major cuts in payroll. Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the USF Administration may not unilaterally cut salaries or impose furloughs - on employees in the UFF USF Bargaining Unit. However, the USF Administration may non-renew or lay employees off provided it is done in accordance with conditions outlined in the contract. For example, Article 13 on Layoff and Recall states that layoffs occur within layoff units, with non-tenured employees within that unit laid off first, and among these, those with no more than five years of continuous service laid off first. Both laid off employees and UFF are to receive advance notice (at least six months "where circumstances permit").

The articles on non-reappointment and layoff are on pages 26 - 31 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. If you are a UFF member and your contractual rights are violated, contact the Grievance Committee immediately, for a grievance must be filed within thirty days of a violation. We regret that we cannot represent non-members in a grievance.


LOGISTICS

Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, October 9, at 12 noon, via Zoom. All UFF USF members are welcome: for the Zoom link, contact the Chapter Secretary.

All UFF members are invited to attend. Non-members are also invited to come and check us out. To get the link to Zoom, contact the Chapter Secretary. 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.

If you do not want to receive the UFF Biweekly, you can unsubscribe below or contacting the Chapter Secretary. If you do not receive the Biweekly, but want to, contact the Chapter Secretary.