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UFF Biweekly
United Faculty of Florida -- USF System Chapter
22 October 2020
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Hard Times

We knew this was coming. Last week, the USF Administration informed the Faculty Senate Executive Committee that they had composed a list of cuts in recurring funding to each college. Notice the use of the verb "inform."

  • Cutting the Budget. The state has not imposed cuts ... yet ... although Governor DeSantis is "holding back" some funding, and rumbles from Tallahassee suggest that budgets will be cut after the election is safely over. But the Administration has to plan ahead, and decisions are being made now. For more, see below or click here.
  • About the Process. Despite past commitments to involve stakeholders, longstanding and recent advice to involve stakeholders, and ancient proverbs about skin in the game, the proposed cuts were selected with minimal input from stakeholders. For more, see below or click here.
Since this situation is in part a consequence of Tallahassee's policies and executive actions, this is a good place to pause and note that this is the last regular Biweekly before the General Election on Election Day, November 3. So as one last nag, we remind everyone of that Roman principle, Qui tacet consentire videtur, which Wikipedia translates as "He who is silent, when he ought to have spoken and was able to, is taken to agree." That goes for voting, too: anyone who can vote, but does not vote, may be taken to agree with whatever the outcome is.

Early voting is already underway, and for more information on early voting or on voting on Election Day, visit your local election supervisor. Here are the links to the election supervisors of Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, and Sarasota counties.

Townhall on Budget Cuts

The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida will hold a Townhall meeting on the budget cuts and their consequences tomorrow, Friday, October 23, at 5 pm. For the Zoom invitation, contact the Chapter Secretary. For more on the budget crisis, see Sunday's Extra and below.

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: budget cuts, reopening in Spring, and a follow-up on the recent FEA meeting (the report will be in the next Biweekly). And here are the minutes for the previous meeting.

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. Meetings and events are posted on the UFF USF Website. Come and check us out.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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 Budget

The sales tax is the primary revenue stream for the State of Florida, and the pandemic and coinciding underemployment and unemployment is reducing sales. Florida's constitution requires that the budget be balanced, and yet last summer the Legislature passed and the Governor signed a budget that, given the situation, will not be balanced. The Governor has been "holding back" some of the money while public agencies are left to guess how much the real cuts will be - once the Governor and the Legislature get around to making them. The State University System Board of Governors seem to signal an 8.5 % cut, so that is what the USF Administration is preparing for.

Of course, it's not even clear that even the legislative leadership knows what they will do - the election hasn't even happened yet, after all - so the Board of Governors may be just guessing, even assuming that the 8.5 % was a genuine signal. But we do know that the Legislature fiddled with the funding formula in a way that reduced USF's appropriation.

Last week, the USF Administration presented a list of college-level cuts that the Administration anticipates making over the next two years. These cuts were at the college level and applied to the "academic colleges"; cuts to the libraries and Health Sciences were not enumerated, although we are advised that the library is cutting subscriptions.

The presentation was to the Faculty Senate Executive Committee (which had started with a report on Faculty Success). One of the biggest concerns was the proposal to cut the College of Education by a third and transform it into a graduate school of education that would offer a Master of Arts in Teaching. The other major concern was that if there were layoffs, USF might wind up laying off faculty that USF would prefer to retain. The Administration responded that layoffs were a last resort; early retirements, furloughs, and other options would be tried first.

Subsequent reaction was swift and loud. By Saturday, newspapers in Lakeland, Sarasota, and St. Petersburg reported the cut to the College of Education, occasionally with inaccurate hyperbole, and the Tampa Bay Times followed up with two stories on community unhappiness, in particular, how shuttering the undergraduate program will shrink the number of teachers going to local schools. The USF Tampa Oracle reported that students were upset.

A common denominator of these stories was alarmed surprise. Pinellas County Superintendent Mike Grego complained that local school districts were not consulted, and told the Times, "We depend upon USF’s undergraduate program to fill our teaching needs ... I was certainly extremely disappointed to hear about the plans." To this, USF Provost Ralph Wilcox responded, "We are not abandoning teacher education ... But we believe we have a real opportunity to strengthen our contribution to the K-12 community through national leading research initiatives and through post- graduate education, training and opportunity."

Both Faculty Senate President Tim Boaz and Vice President Jenifer Jasinski Schneider were surprised; Boaz said, "This kind of came out of the blue." (UFF got a few hours advance notice, but was not involved in the decision-making, either.) Apparently, a few senior administrators made this decision on their own.

About the Process

The funding picture for higher education has been getting gloomier for years, and during the pandemic, prognostications have turned almost apocalyptic. The administrators who must make the decisions - or, more precisely, make recommendations to their boards - may feel like the walls are closing in.

It is almost a cliche that big budgetary decisions should involve the stakeholders before decisions are made. This is what we've been hearing for years from business magazines, foundations, public relations experts, and others. Of course, now we are in a crisis, but if anything, that advice has grown even more imperative when concerning campus-wide decisions and smaller scale decisions, like on the libraries.

There are three problems with senior USF administrators making these tough decisions on their own. First of all, since no one else is committed to the decision, the decision - if forced through - will antagonize everyone else, often to the detriment of the institution's standing in the community. A glance at the news articles cited above show that the community is now antagonized.

Second, such a unilateral move is inconsistent with both:

Third, lacking input from experts and stakeholders, the administrators may be using inappropriate data when making their decision. For example, Interim Dean of Education Judith Ponticell's message to college faculty includes the line, "A Graduate School of Education is not an unusual model for institutions in the American Association of Universities (AAU) or universities with high research activity..." This raises the question of: to what extent did AAU preferences influence the budget cut decisions?

There is a tendency to treat AAU membership as the standard for excellence for research universities, but a careful look at their Membership Policy Page shows that like everyone else, they have their fashion preferences. In considering membership, the "first stage of membership assessment" consists of two "phases" of indicators:

  1. Phase I is a STEM-heavy list of benchmarks, in particular federal science and engineering grants (excluding much of the Department of Agriculture (USDA)) and membership in the national academies of engineering, medicine, and science.
  2. USDA funding is relegated to Phase II, along with state and industrial research funding, and all education components - both research and instruction.
Yes, all education components - undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral - are second tier (er, second "phase") considerations, despite the warm and fuzzy undergraduate stories on the AAU's front page. The AAU's benchmarks are going to bias its membership decisions towards those sort of endeavors that the current members regard as fashionable. And AAU's explusion of the University of Nebraska - Lincoln (a member of Phi Beta Kappa) and its admission of the Georgia Institute of Technology (a non-member of Phi Beta Kappa) show a level of commitment to those fashion preferences.

USF's goal should be excellence, not excellence in those areas that the AAU finds fashionable. An institution that is building on its strength in education or agriculture (not to mention the arts and the humanities), or in areas whose external funding tends to come from state or local agencies or private sources, should consider its own mission and community - and that means consulting stakeholders.

If the AAU's preferences are inappropriate for USF, we should develop our own goals to attain and choose our own aspirational peers. That would require extensive consultation with stakeholders whose participation would be necessary in composing goals comparable in quality to those of AAU. But it could be done, and if we do not want USF remade using someone else's cookie cutter, perhaps it should be done.


Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, October 23, 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.

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