Winter Solstice is the shortest and darkest day of the year, but for agricultural societies, it is a day for hope. They may be in for a long, hard winter, but spring will return. Living in our urban hives amidst our appliances, taking harvests for granted, we may have forgotten how much the Solstice meant. But this year has reminded us why, over four thousand years ago, people erected a pair of stones in Stonehenge so that they could see that the Solstice had come.
The Solstice brings hope for those who worked for it. And we have work to do.
The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida will meet tomorrow Friday at 12 noon on Zoom. On the agenda: selection of the Election Committee (yes, we elect officers and representatives next spring), 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.
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!)
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.
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.
Yes, we are on social media.
As of this morning, Johns Hopkins University reported over 64 million COVID-19 cases worldwide (over a fifth of which were in the USA) with 1.49 million deaths, 18 % of which were in the USA. Johns Hopkins is now reporting that the greatest incidence of COVID-19 has shifted from the coastal port cities to the interior, where precautionary measures are less popular. The long-foretold surge has arrived.
Florida's budget is out of balance. Section 1(d) of the state constitution reads: "Provision shall be made by law for raising sufficient revenue to defray the expenses of the state for each fiscal period." And if the provision is inadequate? Either the governor and the legislature will do something or, according to Florida Statute 216.221(3), "Absent specific legislative direction, when budget reductions are required in order to prevent a deficit under the provisions of subsection (7), each branch shall reduce its General Revenue Fund appropriations by a proportional amount." Unless the legislature meets in a special session, the next regular session meets in March 2, with four months left in the fiscal year. What they do then probably depends on what Washington does in January and February. USF's short-term financial outlook is still uncertain.
In October, the USF Administration floated a list of college-level budget cuts to non-medical academic units, and instructed colleges to prepare lists of cuts to lower-level units. The two most severe cuts were to Global Sustainability and Education. Global Sustainability is small - just over a million dollars - and interconnected with other colleges, which may be why that cut didn't get much attention.
Education, on the other hand, is nearly $ 20 million, and as a longstanding provider of teachers to the Tampa Bay area, has deep roots in the community. The proposal to cut the college's budget by over a third was accompanied by a proposal to shut down its undergraduate program. After a lot of blowback, the USF Administration announced that "...we intend to continue offering carefully selected undergraduate degrees in education, though likely fewer than the nine baccalaureate degrees, 15 majors, five minors and 18 concentrations currently available..." The decision on what exactly to be cut has not been announced.
According to the posted timeline, The next event is a USF Board of Trustees meeting on December 8, from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm, "for consultation". The "Deadline to submit proposed strategic realignment plans" by the Colleges to the central administration is December 18, and the resulting proposal will be presented to the Board of Trustees in January. Presumably, the proposal will be examined in the Board committee meetings on February 23 and taken up by the full Board on March 9.
During the next three months, supporters of the College should consider the two issues raised that are specific to Education. First, USF aspires to be a world-class research institution, and the American Association of Universities specifically denigrates education (and agriculture). Second, Education enrollment is down. The future of the College depends substantially on how these two issues are addressed.
One longstanding assumption of administrators is that administration is something best left to those most competent to administrate. We do not let amateurs perform surgery, build nuclear reactors, or conduct criminal trials. Similarly, we need administrators who know what they are doing.
But surgery, nuclear reactors, and crime all affect ordinary people, ordinary people who have vested interests in the outcomes. This is why ordinary people insist on being involved in decision-making involving these areas. Similarly, a number of scholars have proposed a moral argument on why administrators should engage with non-administrators in policy decisions and implementation. This has been phrased as a defense of politics: people who are affected by the decisions should be permitted to participate in an ultimately political decision-making process. This, the moralists argue, is what democracy is all about.
Returning to USF, this would mean that there is a moral argument that the USF Administration (and the USF Board of Trustees, which is the actual decider) should involve faculty, staff, students, and the community in decisions that affect them. For example, if drastic cuts have to be made, stakeholders should be involved in the decisions of what should be cut (and how).
But there is an underlying reality that these moralists may have missed. When normal politics (within the infrastructure designed to handle decision-making) breaks down, stakeholders resort to ... other means ... to influence the decisions.
This is what happened last month. A decision to cut the College of Education was announced. Stakeholders resorted to what infrastructure that they had available (e.g. the Faculty Senate) to try to change the decision while others turned to other structures (e.g. the Tampa Bay Times editorial page) or even devised structures of their own (e.g. the impromptu meetings of education leaders) to change the decision.
There are several ways to look at this reaction. One was that it showed the depth of community support for the USF College of Education and, incidentally, for the university of which it is a part. (Of course, that support was for what the university does, not for the decisions of the university's leadership.) But another is that it showed a breakdown in USF's decision-making process. If there was infrastructure for involving faculty, students, and the community in such a decision, it was not employed - certainly not at the level that was developed and employed for the consolidation effort.
So there is compulsion behind the moral argument to involve stakeholders: politics will happen anyway, whether administrators like it or not, and the purpose of the decision-making infrastructure is to make sure that stakeholders have adequate information and are involved, all the while maintaining a decent level of decorum. And whether they like it or not, administering this infrastructure is part of the Administration's job.
And this fall, in the exercise to plan for budget cuts, the infrastructure didn't work very well. So while we work to fix the immediate problem - and perhaps badger our elected representatives to, ahem, do their jobs - we should also think about how to build a decision-making infrastructure that would more successfully involve stakeholders in such decisions.
Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, December 4, at 12 noon, via Zoom. All UFF USF members are welcome: for the Zoom link, contact the Chapter Secretary.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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.