Politicians have long meddled with higher education; after all, if politicians sign the checks, shouldn't they choose the texts? A politician seeking to distract constituents may use higher education as stage prop; witness a (successful) candidate for the U.S. Senate announcing that "The professors are the enemy."
Here in Florida, our newly re-elected governor celebrated his landslide victory by declaring that "…We fight 'the woke' in the schools. We fight 'the woke' in the corporation…" That sounds like implementing the Anti-Woke Act (now Florida Statute 1000.05(4)(a)) - with its laundry list of things faculty are not to say - is a priority.
To paraphrase Mr. Dooley, "th' Board o' Guv'nors follows th' iliction returns." So on November 9, the Board got to implementing the "Anti-Woke Act" - although that is not what they said they were doing.
The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida will meet tomorrow Friday at 12 noon on USF Tampa in EDU 261; it will also be hybrid on Zoom. There will be sandwiches, fruit, drinks, and sweets starting at 11:30. On the agenda: Post tenure review, consequences of the election, preparing for next semester, and more. And here are the minutes for the previous meeting.
Any employee in the Bargaining Unit may attend, but to Zoom in you must have an invitation: contact the Chapter Secretary to get one.
Meetings and events are posted on the Events Calendar of the UFF USF Website. Important Note: The last meeting of the semester, on December 2, will start at 11 am rather than noon. Come and check us out.
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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.
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The Board of Governors of the State University System (SUS) runs the SUS "subject to the powers of the legislature to appropriate for the expenditure of funds" (Florida Constitution X.7(d)): the Legislature pays (or mandates payment of) the bills. This system, insulating the Board from Tallahassee politicians, was approved by Florida voters after a pair of politicians reorganized the entire system to make it easier for politicians to invade the universities.
Last summer, the governor signed an "Anti-Woke" Act with a list of eight "concepts" that faculty are not to espouse, promote, advance, inculcate, or compel students to believe (see Statute 100.05(4)(a) for the list). But there was no enforcement mechanism. Then the governor signed Senate Bill 7044, which says that the Board of Governors may mandate "post tenure review" - although the law does not require the Board to do so.
But the Board is proposing to do more than Senate Bill 7044 even suggested, listing violation of the Anti-Woke Law as a reason for summary dismissal.
The Board met on Wednesday, November 10, and Post Tenure Faculty Review was on the agenda for the Committee on Academic and Student Affairs. The meeting is posted online, as is the proposed regulation on Post Tenure Faculty Review, and the discussion of Post Tenure Faculty Review started at 24:30 and continued to 47:45. Much of the time was taken up by concerns expressed by the faculty representative on the Board, USF Professor Deanna Michael, who told the Board that faculty were concerned that the regulation would enable a provost to fire a tenured faculty member for inappropriate reasons, that there was no appeal, and that provosts could abuse this power to reduce units that the provost didn't like. And Professor Michael was concerned about the effect of the law on current contracts, which provide for due process. The chair responded that the rule does not conflict with the contract, that the grievance process in the contract is still available, and besides, a provost could not get away with firing a faculty member for political reasons.
Several members of the Board stressed that the regulation was intended to reward faculty, presumably by identifying high performing faculty to reward. But UF Board of Trustees chair Morteza Hosseini admitted that thanks to the Legislature, the money wasn't there. Despite the cat being out of the bag, the motion passed with no further debate. The Tampa Bay Times complained [USF login required] that, "Board chairperson Brian Lamb said he understood the concerns of officials at several universities, but stressed that the regulation was partly intended to help faculty feel appreciated and rewarded for good performance. If Lamb thinks faculty members are buying that, we have an oceanfront condo to sell him in Kansas. The whole point of this exercise is to chill protected speech and to provide academic cover for Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis' politically driven policy."
Michael also said that faculty were concerned about the effect on hiring: post tenure review would entail a lot of red tape every five years, and strong candidates may prefer to go elsewhere for a job. (This straw upon the camel's back may particularly affect STEM faculty recruitment and retention.)
Editorial comment. On a related noted, a number of certification and grant-awarding agencies desire or require race and gender inclusion commitments that may be in conflict with this regulation (not to mention the Anti-WOKE Act itself). This may compromise the university's ability to prepare students for good jobs and deprive the universities of research funding. There is the awkward question of what our accreditor will make of this (and any hope of getting a different accreditor is probably delusional).
The proposed regulation is posted online and the public is invited to comment. Here is the link to the public comment page: if you want to comment, scroll down to Chapter 10, BOG 10.003 and click the Submit a Comment button, select the Post-Tenure Faculty Review button, enter your name, email, say that you're not a robot, and enter your comment. (It would probably be best to do all this from your personal machine and account as your office equipment belongs to the State of Florida.)
The most effective comments will be short, polite, and making one to three points. The United Faculty of Florida has posted some talking points for people seeking ideas for composing comments, but comments in your own words are more effective (the Board, like all politicians, know all about and discount fill-in-the-blanks letters and comments).
The deadline for public comment is November 24. We anticipate that the Board will consider implementing this regulation at their January 24-25 meeting in Miami (although there is a scheduled Zoom meeting on December 1, topic as yet unannounced), and we would them to see lots of comments. Feel free to ask colleagues, friends, family, allies, acquantances, etc., to enter comments. We would like the public to be aware - and the Board to be aware of the public's awareness.
Post Tenure Faculty Review on the agenda for Friday's chapter meeting, and everyone is invited.
In August, the Florida ACLU handled a lawsuit against the Board of Governors by FAMU Law Professor LeRoy Pernell and fellow scholars against the Anti-WOKE Act (officially misnamed the Individual Freedom Act), claiming that it violated plaintiffs First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Soon the ACLU asked for a preliminary injunction. Lawyers for the Board of Governors had a very interesting and revealing response.
It seems that as FAMU faculty are teaching while on the job, they do not have academic freedom, for their speech in class is government speech: "Plaintiffs' First Amendment challenge fails because the Florida Government has simply chosen to regulate its own speech—the curriculum used in state universities and the in-class instruction offered by state employees—and the First Amendment simply has no application in this context." And, "[T]he Act does not prevent the State’s educators from espousing whatever views they may hold, on race or anything else, on their own time, and it does not prevent students from seeking them out and listening to them. All it says is that state-employed teachers may not espouse in the classroom the concepts prohibited by the Act, while they are on the State clock, in exchange for a State paycheck."
(What the lawyers would argue concerning faculty academic freedom while doing assigned research and teaching can readily be imagined.)
This argument rests heavily on a weird U.S. Supreme Court decision. Amidst reverberations of a scandal involving police shootings, beatings, theft of narcotics, perjury, planting evidence, and other misconduct by numerous Los Angeles policemen, the Supreme Court in Garcetti v Ceballos upheld the right of the Los Angeles District Attorney to discipline subordinates who obstinately complained about police misconduct. After all, the subordinate was on the job, and the district attorney was the boss, whatever the legal and ethical concerns. The decision expressed pious hopes that Garcetti v. Ceballos shouldn't be so readily applied to academia, but of course it is.
As one Princeton Law professor grumped in a leading Libertarian platform, "If Florida wins on those grounds, the state could direct state university professors on what they say in their teaching and scholarship and sanction or fire professors for teaching or researching ideas that politicians do not like. Academic freedom in state universities would be a matter of grace."
Whatever the legal fictions, academic freedom has long been a freedom of individual faculty - and it makes no sense otherwise. The Board of Governors is advancing an argument that, if supported by the courts, would eventually eviscerate academic freedom in Florida - and Florida higher education with it.
The next chapter meeting will be tomorrow Friday, November 18, at 12 noon, on USF Tampa in EDU 261. At 11:30, there will be sandwiches, fruit, drinks and sweets. It will be hybrid on Zoom, and for the Zoom link, contact the Chapter Secretary. All UFF USF employees are welcome.the Chapter Secretary. Come and join the movement.
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