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UFF Biweekly
United Faculty of Florida -- USF System Chapter
5 November 2020
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An Urban Grant University

While it is tempting to think that during a crisis the sole priority is the crisis, and that thinking about what happens after the crisis is a luxury, the reality is that if you don't think ahead during the crisis, you may find yourself in a fix afterwards. It is reassuring that the USF Administration has been thinking about what happens afterwards, but it is also clear that more thought is required.

  • The Decision Hasn't Been Made (Yet). That was the message last week from the Administration on the possible closure of the USF College of Education's undergraduate program. For more, see below or click here.
  • An Urban Grant University. In his presentation to the USF Faculty Senate last week, USF President Currall referred to a vision advanced half a century ago by the (former) chancellor of the University of California - a vision of an urban university engaged with its community. To revisit that vision and look at what it may mean for us today, see below or click here.
Meanwhile, while we mull over where we will be when the votes are finally counted, we should remember FDR's advice to labor and civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph: "Mr. Randolph, I've heard everything you've said tonight, and I couldn't agree with you more. I agree with everything that you've said, including my capacity to be able to right many of these wrongs and to use my power and the bully pulpit. ... But I would ask one thing of you, Mr. Randolph, and that is go out and make me do it."

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, the impact of the election, the status of the pandemic, and more. 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 to get one. We are meeting on alternate Fridays at noon over Zoom. Meetings and events are posted on the Events Calendar of the UFF USF Website. Come and check us out.


Every year, the West Central Florida Federation of Labor conducts a toy drive for the Children's Home Society of Florida. The pandemic precludes collecting toys this year, but there are still children having a lonely holiday season, so the Federation of Labor is conducting a Holiday Gift Card Toy Drive this year. To donate a gift card, go to the Toy Drive Site. And Happy Holidays! (And safely!)

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 or the recent Memorandum of Understanding, 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.

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.

  • We have a Facebook group: see United Faculty of Florida at USF. 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, and the moderator will invite every UFF member that asks to join. Non-members are welcome to look (but you need a Facebook account to do that). So check us out.
  • We have a blog: see The USF Faculty Blog. This has news items as they come up.
  • We are twitter-pated: follow us on Twitter via @UffUsf.
  • We even have a You-Tube channel: check out our videos
If you want to help with media matters, contact the Communications Committee chair.

The Decision Hasn't Been Made (Yet)

Reports of the closure of the USF College of Education were greatly exaggerated - or, at least, very premature. That was the message that USF President Steven Currall and USF Provost Ralph Wilcox delivered to the USF Faculty Senate on October 28 and the Presidential Forum on October 30. The timeline - which did not mention the October 15 announcement that ignited the controversy - lists major mileposts, including:
  • October 28, a column by President Currall and Provost Wilcox was published in the Tampa Bay Times. Citing declining undergraduate enrollment, a shift in education student trajectories, and competition from other institutions, they wrote that, "...USF remains committed to teacher education. We are exploring strategies that will strengthen the quality of programming we offer, in alignment with our mission as a research university."
  • October 30, a Strategic Alignment website on reconfiguring USF went live. It includes a recording of the forum, where speakers mentioned another problem: the Legislature reneged on its promise of pre-eminence funding while passing legislation restricting the use of non-recurring funding for recurring expenses.
  • November 10, various committees of the USF Board of Trustees will be meeting; see the upcoming meeting page.
  • December 18 is the deadline for strategic realignment plans. Although the college-level cuts announced on October 15 are "preliminary," they are to guide the colleges in their proposals for lower-level cuts. The colleges are to consult with faculty, students, staff, and other stakeholders as they compose their proposals, and stakeholders may lobby to adjust the college-level cuts. A package of proposed cuts will then be presented to the USF Board of Trustees in January. A flowchart on the process has been posted online.
And lobby we shall. The morning before the forum, superintendents from around the Tampa Bay Area met to express their concern to the media. UFF was one of several locals of the Florida Education Association (FEA) helping the superintendents' effort; in fact, the FEA has been pushing against any education cuts.

But there are serious problems. Inside Higher Ed observed that education programs across the country are being cut while Moody's Investors' Service projects a general decline in tuition income and the Chronicle of Higher Education reports that a number of vital statistics for higher education are going down (which led Vanderbilt University Public Policy Professor William Doyle to warn that Higher Education faces A Nightmare Scenario).

A major issue - perhaps the major issue - was the involvement of faculty and other stakeholders in the decision. The Faculty Senate has presented questions on the budget crisis and how it is to be addressed, and we understand that answers shall be forthcoming. And all of us must be engaged; readers may recall American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten's advice in the 24 September 2020 Biweekly on winning reforms: "it’s .... activism that matters."

An Urban Grant University

At the October 28 Faculty Senate meeting, President Steven Currall said that he was energized by a speech by then-former
University of California Chancellor Clark Kerr, adding that Kerr's proposal has not been sufficiently developed, but that it should be explored further.

On October 18, 1967, Clark Kerr gave a Lecture to the Centennial Meeting of the City College Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa on The Urban-Grant University : A Model for the Future. Kerr began with the land grant universities created in the Nineteenth century "to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts," but "without excluding other scientific and classical studies...." That is to say (which Kerr didn't so bluntly), the land grant universities were not modelled after the elite European schools, but instead were addressing contemporary American concerns.

By 1967, land grant institutions like the University of California were eye-to-eye with the European universities, but Kerr was concerned about unaddressed American problems, most notably inequality and access to education. Quoting the "father of City College,"

To open the doors to all. Let the children of the rich and the poor take their seats together and know of no distinction save that of industry, good conduct and intellect,
he criticized elite institutions and their faculty for neglecting their communities. He proposed that the federal government launch a new array of "urban grant universities" in cities to help address the problems in their own communities. But unlike the Nineteenth century program, this would be one that established institutions could join.

This would require rethinking what the aspirations of a university - even an elite university - should be. "There will be a controversy within it over the question of quality." Kerr's focus was on urban problems, and he complained of faculty who would not work "...on the problems of their own city, because they regarded such work as somehow beneath them." But, Kerr claimed, "We should recognize that local city problems today need and justify work of the very highest quality."

It has been over half a century since his speech, and the federal government's response to Kerr's clarion has been lacking. And while the urban problems Kerr alluded to remain, we face additional challenges, from the degradation of democracy (especially of local government!) to ominous climatic changes. Perhaps the universities should not wait on the federal government, but go ahead ourselves, and recreate ourselves for the future. We already know about the economic impact of higher education and the continuing problem of material and cultural poverty, but now we face additional challenges. And noting Kerr's criticism of Harvard's relative indifference to its own community, perhaps we should develop our own goals rather than follow fashion mavens like the American Association of Universities; after all, considering the importance of education in reversing the degradation of democracy, and considering the importance of agriculture in providing for an overpopulated world in an era of climate change, is this really the time to deprioritize those two fields?

The physicist Isadore Rabi once said of himself and his fellow faculty, we are the university. This may be a good time to think about where our university should go.


Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, November 6, 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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