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UFF Biweekly
United Faculty of Florida -- USF System Chapter
19 November 2020
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IN THIS ISSUE

Grievances, Legal and Political

2020 has been a hard year, and here's hoping that next year will be better. But much of the drama of 2020 will certainly continue into 2021.

  • About Grievances. Tomorrow afternoon, UFF will hold a Town Hall meeting on grievances concerning tenure and evaluations. So we review a few basics about grievances. For more, see below or click here.
  • The College of Education. USF faculty, students, and board members, along with Tampa Bay area teachers, community leaders, and politicians, are pushing back against the USF Administration's proposal to shut down the College of Education's undergraduate program . For more, see below or click here.
  • Teaching Amidst a Surge. It looks like we are in for a long, hard winter, and meanwhile, Tallahassee is pushing classroom teaching - whatever the cost. For more, see below or click here.
Days of thanksgiving are at least as old as the agricultural revolution. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans gave thanks to their deities of the grain harvest. And there are traditions of survivors holding festivals of thanksgiving after traumatic events, e.g. wars. And yet it was in the midst of the Civil War that Abraham Lincoln issued a Proclamation of Thanksgiving declaring that "In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict..."

We wish everyone a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving,

Town Hall Tomorrow Friday at 5 pm

Can I grieve tenure and annual evaluation decisions?

Tomorrow afternoon, UFF will hold a Town Hall meeting on how the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) can be used to identify and grieve problems that might occur during your annual evaluation and/or Promotion & Tenure decisions. During our discussion we will emphasize the relevant articles in the CBA. We will make sure that you understand these articles and how to apply them. We will also emphasize the need to properly document grievable events and to make sure that you do not miss deadlines.

This Town Hall will be conducted over Zoom. For a Zoom invitation, contact the Chapter Secretary.

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 College of Education, the Spring Semester, the new Legislature, 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.

HOLIDAY SEASON TOY DRIVE

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.

Grievances

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.


About Grievances

The United Faculty of Florida bargains and enforces a contract - the
Collective Bargaining Agreement - between the faculty and professionals in the UFF USF Bargaining Unit and the USF Board of Trustees. This contract covers terms and conditions of employment, including annual evaluations and tenure decisions.

Administrators and supervisors occasionally violate the contractual rights and privileges of employees. When this happens, an employee may make a formal complaint, called a grievance. A grievance is not a complaint that an administrator or supervisor has done something unjust or stupid - the contract does not ban injustice or stupidity - a grievance is a complaint that an administrator or supervisor has violated a specific item in the contract.

A grievance must be filed within 30 days of the time the employee knew or should have known of the violation. A grievant may pursue the grievance alone, or with the aid of a lawyer, but UFF members are entitled to be represented by the union. UFF membership at the time of the contractual violation is required because union dues pay for the lawyers UFF consults while pursuing grievances. Because of the 30-day time limit, if you are a UFF member and you believe that your contractual rights and privileges have been violated, you should contact the Grievance Committee immediately.

Tomorrow, Friday, at 5 pm, UFF will hold a Town Hall meeting on tenure and evaluation grievances. Everyone is invited, but you must have a Zoom invitation to attend: to get a Zoom invitation, contact the Chapter Secretary.

The College of Education

In retrospect, the blowback against the
proposal to shut down the College of Education undergraduate program was inevitable. Amidst years of community task force and committee meetings, reports and presentations, as faculty, administrators, community leaders, local politicians, and activists navigated USF's consolidation between the legislative whirlpool and the cliffs of our accreditors, shutting down the College of Education doesn't seem to have come up - or if it did, in the wee hours of some interminable meeting, no one remembers it. The funding and enrollment problems cited when the proposal was presented have been building up for years, and yet the proposal appeared suddenly, with no consultation with any stakeholders, final decision to be made in three months.

The rationales for closure were that student enrollment was low and that the Legislature had reneged on funding USF. Certainly the Legislature's treatment of USF funding was disappointing (where is the Tampa Bay legislative delegation? one wonders for the umpteenth time), but critics within the college observe that college graduation and placement rates are so high that the college could safely admit more students - and thus that low enrollment might be more of a result of USF policy than lack of interest. At any rate, the funding issue was quickly drowned out by the ensuing ruckus.

No one seemed to like the proposal. Faculty, students, trustees (who will make the final decision), local education establishment figures, K-12 education leaders and teachers all were unhappy with the proposal. The Faculty Senate asked some questions about the budget crunch, and the Administration responded, but it is not clear that that has resolved the Senate's concerns. And twenty chairs and directors in the College of Arts and Sciences sent a letter to the USF Faculty Senate stating that they viewed the budget cuts with alarm and asking the Senate to ensure a reasonable process for making cuts.

Abolishing a program this large and merging one college into another is a reorganization of such a scale that making a decision based on two months public comment on a proposal composed without consulting stakeholders may produce a train wreck. It may be best to follow the spirit of Article 5.4 of the CBA on shared faculty governance (on p. 6) and the letter of USF Policy 10-055 and either return to the drawing board or table the proposal.

Teaching Amidst a Surge

Scientists have been studying Covid-19 for only a year, and they are still getting surprised by, say,
lingering effects and transmission to and by animals. Last winter, the pandemic was just getting started, so scientists have not had a realistic chance to see how it behaves during winter, but some experts are sounding alarms: late last month, Dr. Fauci warned that "We're in for a whole lot of hurt."

So what about spring?

Reviews of online education are at best mixed. The National Education Association (NEA), one of UFF's two national affiliates, has concluded that One-Quarter of U.S. Students Don’t Have What They Need for Online Learning, and there is growing concern about the effect of pandemic-driven restrictions on "neurodiverse" people.

All nations have these concerns, but American mismanagement of the pandemic - in comparison to, say, some African nations - has produced infection rates and death rates that would seem to preclude some of the cautious reopening steps other nations have taken (although some are now locking down as the long-expected Fall surge gets underway). But as for the USA, experts spanning the political spectrum are approaching a consensus that school district reopening decisions are based on politics, not on science, although pundits disagree on who to blame for this.

(American's political predicament is exemplified by the pundits' focus on whose fault this was, not what to do about it - although the NEA, more aware of the problems than most pundits and even many experts, proposed that Congress must act to ensure all school-aged children, particularly students in historically exploited communities, have the basic resources — broadband internet and computer access — to meaningfully participate in remote learning.)

The science is more complicated than the pundits admit: although fewer small children are getting sick of Covid-19 and fewer are testing positive, teens are more likely to get sick, and more likely to test positive, and recent surges around campuses suggest that college-age students are perfectly capable of infecting others. This suggests that if we could bring the infection rate down (!), some kind of cautious classes for small children might be possible. Of course, this would require trustworthy management of the pandemic, something that has been lacking at both the state and federal levels.

Speaking of trust, Tallahassee is exerting enormous pressure to reopen colleges and universities. While the recent surge has moved some institutions to abandon what little in-person teaching they had, Tallahassee is pushing an open everything policy that has alarmed epidemiologists. Some university Administrations have chosen to appease Tallahassee, most notably the University of Florida's, whose "reckless" reopening plan inspired a petition to "...reject the recent policy announcement of a move to partial face-to-face teaching for the 2021 spring semester...". UFF has filed a grievance against the University of Florida Administration on their plan (and filed a similar grievance against the University of Central Florida administration).

Alas, the UFF USF Grievance Committee has been receiving reports of USF teachers being required to teach in class next semester, even if they have risk factors as identified by the CDC. (If you are being required to teach despite risk factors, the Grievance Committee would like to know; unfortunately, UFF can only represent UFF members in grievances.)

If federal and state governments had reacted more sensibly at the beginning, we would not only have had a lot fewer funerals, but we would have been able to address many of the problems caused by the pandemic-driven restrictions. And contrary to the intimations of many politicians, these restrictions are not the sole cause of the current economic distress: a lot of it comes from cautious behavior among people who do not want to get sick. A policy that will only aggravate a surge will not only result in more funerals, it will further undermine what economic recovery we have. It is time that Tallahassee abandon its fantasies, and it is disappointing to see university leaders - who should know better - pandering to Tallahassee's delusions.


LOGISTICS

Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, November 20, 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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