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United Faculty of Florida, Spring 2005

January 6, 2005

Scenes We Like To See

On Monday, December 13, Administrators and Faculty met to sign the first contract between the United Faculty of Florida and the USF Board of Trustees. And here are some scenes we all waited a loooong time to see!
University President Judy Genshaft and Chapter President Roy Weatherford sign the 2004 - 2007 Combined Bargaining Agreement as Administration Chief Negotiator Noreen Segrist and union Chief Negotiator Bob Welker look on. Sign Here
A contract in hand ...
From left: Administration Chief Negotiator Noreen Segrist (from the General Counsel's Office), University President Judy Genshaft (Psychology), Chapter President Roy Weatherford (Philosophy), and union Chief Negotiator Bob Welker (Accounting).
The Contract!
From left: Kathleen de la Pena McCook and Steve Permuth from the union team, Associate Vice Provost (and administration team member) Trudie Frecker, Mark Klisch, USF Faculty Senate President and Trustee (and former union team member) Susan Greenbaum, union propagandist Greg McColm, Roy Weatherford, Judy Genshaft, Bob Welker, Noreen Segrist, Vice Provost Phil Smith from the Administration team, and Associate Vice Provost (and administration team member) Sandy Lovins. Many thanks to Bill Murray for taking these pictures! Almost Everybody
A toast. Said Roy Weatherford, "This isn't a victory party; it's a success party." Said Judy Genshaft, "We're the model ... we both want what's best for USF." A Toast
The President's Conference Room in Allen Hall, where the signing ceremony took place. Roses were courtesy of Bob Welker; don't tell the Leg. about the champagne. The Room
People came and went; there were approximately 24 in all. Overheard...

  • Roy Weatherford: "Two years ago, Judy [Genshaft] and [former Chapter President] Mitch [Silverman] appointed a joint committee to study how to update the contract, and Bob [Welker] has studied for it religiously."
  • Mark Klisch said that Phil Smith did much of the work on the committee, armed with an annotated copy of the 2001 - 2003 Combined Bargaining Agreement.
  • Roy Weatherford said that he couldn't believe the amount of work that bargaining team members did, and Phil Smith -- a veteran of bargaining with UFF at Tallahassee -- said, "This is my tenth contract. No one knows how hard chief negotiators work."
  • Steve Permuth: "If the common goal is the betterment of the university, we will find a way."
Two members of the union's bargaining team, Art Shapiro from Education and Keith White from St. Petersburg, couldn't make it to the ceremony.

January 20, 2005

AFT Educator Article on Reading

The United Faculty of Florida -- the statewide organization, of which the USF Chapter is but one part -- is a union local of the Florida Education Association, which in turn is affiliated jointly with the National Education Assocation and the American Federation of Teachers. The NEA and the AFT provide several benefits to members, and one that the AFT provides is a free subscription to their flagship journal, the AFT Educator.

Last Fall, the AFT Educator ran a feature issue on early reading problems, (with the alarming subtitle "the Devastating Downwards Spiral") mostly at the K-3 level. This is of interest to university faculty because:

  • Some of the problems are similar to those our freshmen (and other) students encounter in their quantum leaps from high school to college.
  • Subtle and chronic variations of these problems may afflict our own students, even though they made it through high school and into college.
The issue is
on-line, and the articles run in a sort of reverse logical order.

Perhaps the basic article is an unsigned editorial, Waiting Rarely Works: "Late Bloomers" Usually Just Wilt. For several decades, parents and teachers confronted with a first grader who could not read would hope that the child was a "late bloomer" who would cross some threshold a year or two later and catch up with the rest of the class. But during the last decade or so, several studies suggest that lagging children rarely catch up on their own.
spacer There were two theories. The "brain maturation" theory suggested that different students mature at different rates, and that students who lagged in first grade would catch up later. On the other hand, the "skill deficit" theory suggested that students who lagged in first grade lagged because they lacked specific skills, and that they would not even begin to catch up until they developed those skills.
spacer The column reports that several studies support the skills deficit theory. One set of studies reported that while late bloomers exist, they are rare: a "poor reader" in first grade has about a 90 % chance of being a "poor reader" in third grade. One study suggested that the critical skill deficit was "phonemic awareness": the ability to deal with the individual sounds making up words and associate those sounds with letters.
spacer While these articles focus on K-3 (or K-6), one study indicates that reading improvement in absolute terms slows after sixth grade. (Suddenly, the gentle webmaster is reminded of Morris Adler & C. van Doren's lament that in the USA, there is no reading instruction after grade six.) Another study confirms the unpleasant corollary: those who were behind in first grade usually don't catch up by sixth grade and, ultimately, don't catch up in high school.
spacer The "phoneme awareness" skill happens to be a basic one that some experts believe is reliably testable. Several of the articles argue that very young children should be screened for phonemic awareness and other critical skills, and those deficient should get remedial work at once.

The feature article, Preventing Early Reading Failure by Joseph K. Torgesen, the director of the Florida Center for Reading Research, begins with one explanation of the devastating spiral -- deficient students are unable or unwilling to effectively practice reading and thus never become any good at it -- and then turns to types of problems, teaching methods, screening and intervention.
spacer Torgeson identifies two kinds of deficiencies. Some students have specific "phonological" weaknesses, but are otherwise competent in "oral language ability." Others, largely coming from deprived backgrounds, suffer a number of pre-reading deficiencies. (Curiously, he does not list as a third category, students suffering from specific disorders, such as dyslexia.)
spacer Torgeson then turns to teaching methods, which is mostly a discussion of phonics instruction. Phonics has been a politically charged issue (a point he does not mention), but Torgeson sticks to the results of his studies, which suggest that while all students may benefit from phonics instruction, the greatest benefit would go to inadequately prepared students.
spacer Screening would be best conducted orally by a teacher or aide, apparently one-on-one with the student. Several mini-oral-exams can be conducted through the year to monitor the student's progress. Torgeson gives little comfort to adherents of mass standardized exams.
spacer Once a deficiency has been recognized, Torgeson recommends relatively immediate intervention. The deficiency should be explicitly addressed, without assumptions about other skills the students may or may not have. And this is a quantity time, not a quality time, intervention: students have to spend a lot of their time and energy to benefit. And throughout, students need emotional support and intellectual support, the latter consisting of a lot of specific guidance and direction.
spacer The success rates of extant programs for K - 3 students vary widely, and "Intervention research has not yet discovered the conditions that need to be in place to enable every child to acquire adequate word-level reading skills in early elementary school." Success rates for grades 4 - 6 were more problematic, and even students with only "moderate" reading impairment fell further behind their "normal" classmates. Torgeson suggests one reason why older students are less successful: since reading is so difficult, they read only what they have to, and get much less practice.
spacer This lack of success with older students haunts the entire feature, and Torgeson urges (1) early screening and early intervention, and (2) development of more effective intervention techniques for older students.

The unsigned editorial Preventive Medicine compares medical screening and reading skill screening noting that for both, time is of the essence. The editorial also warns against dropping history and science to make room for reading instruction, noting that history and science are what students read about (Torgeson would have said that if students don't have anything to read about, they won't read on their own).

This leads to a problem that that issue of AFT Educator did not address: do schools use books that children would want to read? Since Torgeson's results rely heavily on voluntary reading -- which probably has more animorphs and graphic novels than history or science -- this may be a serious issue. Especially now that school books are not just competing against non-school books, but also television.
spacer One aspect of this problem was addressed in the latest issue of AFT Educator, in Barbara Feinberg's Reflections on the Problem Novel. Feinberg's own children do read, but the novels that her children are assigned are very dark, so much that her children avoid reading them. Feinberg's chief concern is about whether children are being exposed to "too much, too soon," but she does raise the question of what happens if schools make reading too unpleasant, at least too unpleasant for younger students who may not up to long sequences of emotional endurance tests.

What does all this say about college students?

  • We have been warned. We already know of one situation in which the notion of "late blooming" may be deceptive. Our retention problems may also require early intervention, and that intervention might involve identifying and addressing specific deficiencies -- and these interventions are probably energy and time consuming.
  • And how well do our students read? This is an awkward question, but try asking your freshman students to read out loud. How well do students read the text, and how much time and energy do students put into reading texts if their past experiences with texts were negative?
Remember, the AFT Educator's feature was about catastrophic failure, the sort of failure that results in dropping out of high school. Our students have learned how to get by, or at least get into college. What more subtle and chronic problems do our own students suffer from?

February 3, 2005

Call for Nominations

This spring all elective positions for the USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida (faculty union) are open for election. The UFF Elections Committee calls for nominations for the positions of:

  • President
  • Vice President
  • Secretary
  • Treasurer
  • UFF Senator (to the biannual meeting of the UFF Senate)
  • FEA Delegate (to the annual meeting of the Florida Education Association Assembly)
Nominators and nominees must be UFF members. The election will be held later in February by mail ballot; only UFF members are eligible to vote.

Faculty who are not interested in working in an executive position, but who do want to contribute, are encouraged to consider running for one of the representative positions: UFF Senator and/or FEA Delegate. The UFF Senate meets over a weekend in late spring and again in early fall, while the FEA Assembly meets over 2-3 days in late spring. These are important positions, and they provide one of the primary venues for USF to be heard in the union.

All nominations should be sent to:

Greg McColm, Chair
UFF Elections Committee
c/o Department of Mathematics
USF-Tampa Campus
A nomination must include the name of the nominator and the name of the nominee, and the position in question. The nomination -- and if the nominee is not the nominator, permission by the nominee -- must be received by Feb. 11. Self-nominations are encouraged. We also encourage nominees to write a brief (250 words) self-description to be included with the ballot materials.

For more information, contact the Election Chair. For your convenience, there is a MS Word form on-line for making nominations .

About Grievances

It is part of the human condition that contracts do not magically enforce themselves. We have a contract -- the 2004 - 2007 Collective Bargaining Agreement (on-line as a 102-page PDF file), but for the terms and conditions to be followed, we have to make sure that they are followed. One way to do this is with the Grievance Process, which is described in Article 20 (pp. 57 - 64). The grievance process is different from that of the previous contract because the previous contract involved the Board of Regents, which no longer exists.

Here is an outline of the new grievance process.

There are two critical things to remember. First, a "grievance" is a formal complaint that the contract has been violated. It is NOT a complaint about an iniquity or a stupidity: it is not a contractual violation for someone to be iniquitous or stupid. A grievance is a complaint that a specific clause in the contract was violated in such-and-such a way.

The second thing to remember is that a grievance MUST be filed within thirty days of the time that the employee knew or should have known of the violation. If the grievance is filed late, it can be (and ALWAYS has been) rejected.

Here is the procedure, which presumes that the grievance is between a employee and an immediate supervisor (eg, the chair).

Step 1. For 30 days the parties will attempt to resolve the dispute informally. This period can be extended by mutual consent, but if the informal resolution of the matter is unsatisfactory, the grievant may demand a formal hearing, moving the grievance to Step 2.

Step 2. This is a hearing before a representative of the university, usually before a delegate of the Provost. The two parties can present evidence, and the university representative makes a ruling.

Throughout Step 1 and Step 2, the grievant is assisted by a volunteer, a union member working as a Grievance Officer, who has spent some time learning how the contract works and how the grievance works. (A grievant may elect to represent him/herself in the grievance process, or to be represented by legal counsel. Since most lawyers are relatively ignorant of labor law (!), this assistance is often at least as effective as legal representation. It is also cheaper.)

It is when Step 2 doesn't suffice that the fun begins.

Step 3. Both UFF and the USF Administration are drawing up a list of impartial arbitrators, and when Step 2 fails, UFF (not the grievant!) has the option of moving the case to "arbitration." The case is heard before one of the arbitrators, who can rule only on contractual issues (eg, the arbitrator can rule that an employee was denied tenure improperly and therefore should have another chance, as that is a contractual issue, but the arbitrator cannot rule that a faculty member denied tenure should get tenure, as that is a judgement call outside the arbitrator's competence); the arbitrator's rulings are final and set precedents (which is why the union is very particular about what cases to send to arbitration). Arbitration also costs the union lots of money (which, ahem, come from your dues).

There are several final points.

1st. If you are having problems with a supervisor, it is very important to be able to document what has happened. If things get ominous, start a journal, noting date, time, place, and specifics of relevant events, and save all documents (including e-mail: print out hardcopies, as courts have ruled that state machines are property of the state and can be monitored or even taken away by the state).

2nd. The employee has a contractual right to review their personnel file, and this is strongly recommended in order to ensure that material is not later withdrawn or added inappropriately. The employee should paginate and initial every page, and photocopy for their own records whatever they believe is relevant for their case.

3rd. You have not only a contractual right, but the right under federal law, to have a grievance officer come with you to any hearing at which you may be subject to disciplinary action; in fact, if you are at a meeting with your supervisor, and your supervisor starts to discuss disciplinary action, you have the right to suspend the meeting in order to get a grievance officer to attend a resumption of the meeting.

But if you have a problem, the first step is to contact our Grievance Chair, Mark Klisch. Please call even if it is a problem not addressed by the contract: we are keeping track of problematica to be addressed in future contracts (or by other means), and we need to keep informed about what is going on.

That's the process, and the gentle reader may notice that there is a lot of labor involved. The administration pays administrators to handle its side. The union must rely on volunteers. So we conclude with a call for volunteers. People who are interested in helping their colleagues in trouble, and who are willing to learn the grievance process and study the contract. We are planning for some grievance training this semester, so everyone interested in attending should please contact our Grievance Chair, Mark Klisch.

February 17, 2005

Election Time

Every year, the USF Chapter of UFF elects its four elective officers (president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer) and its varying number of representatives (this year, twelve UFF senators and six FEA delegates).

(There are other appointed positions -- the Chief Negotiator (and the Bargaining Team), the Grievance Chair (and the Grievance Committee), the Membership Chair (currently two co-chairs), and the Publicity Chair.)

During the last few weeks, union members nominated union members to run for these positions, and now the ballot packets are going out. EACH MEMBER OF THE BARGAINING UNIT WHO WAS A UFF MEMBER AS OF JANUARY 15 SHOULD RECEIVE A BALLOT: IF YOU DO NOT RECEIVE ONE BY THE END OF NEXT WEEK, CONTACT THE ELECTION CHAIR, Gregory McColm.

The ballot packets contain (1) instructions on a yellow sheet, (2) a ballot on a blue sheet (with races on BOTH sides), (3) descriptions of candidates on two white sheets of paper stapled together, (4) one small blank envelope to hold the ballot, and (5) one regular sized envelope addressed to UFF, with a PRINT NAME and a SIGNATURE line on the upper left hand corner.

Fill out the ballot: notice you can write in someone's name and vote for that "write-in candidate," however only UFF members may be elected. Notice that you vote for one candidate in each of the four executive races, for up to eleven candidates in the senate race (the president is ex officio a senator), and for up to five candidates in the delegate race (the president is ex officio a delegate).

Here are the offices you are voting on.

  • The President is the chief executive officer and chief spokesperson for the chapter. This includes representing the chapter to the state office of UFF, overseeing the USF office, etc.
  • The Vice President assists the president.
  • The Secretary takes minutes and maintains other records as the chapter directs.
  • The Treasurer pays the bills.
  • The UFF Senators represent USF at the (usually two) statewide meetings of the UFF Senate, in April and September. The UFF Senate is the legislative body of UFF.
  • The FEA Delegates are part of the UFF delegation representing UFF, as a union local, in the annual meeting of the Florida Education Association Delegate Assembly, which is the legislative body of the FEA. It is a huge assembly, of the largest union in the state.
Once you have filled out the ballot, fold it and put it in the small blank envelope. Seal this small envelope, and DO NOT MARK IT. Put the small envelope in the regular envelope. Then PRINT YOUR NAME CLEARLY on the PRINT NAME line, and sign on the SIGNATURE line, and seal the regular envelope. It is now ready to mail.

If you choose to mail by campus mail, just deposit it in the campus mail. If you choose to mail by first class mail, PUT A STAMP ON IT before mailing. ALL BALLOTS MUST BE RECEIVED BY MARCH 10. Ballots will be counted on March 11 at the union office, NEC223, at 2 pm. All union members are invited.

The Wheels Turn ... Slowly

While we have a new contract, the battle over the old one continues. The stakes are high. In the short range, the union contends that the terms and conditions of the contract held from January 7, 2003 through December 2, 2004 at USF (and still hold at the nine institutions whose boards refuse to honor it). In the long range, the union contends that all the arbitration decisions on the old contract, made over the last quarter century, still hold. And on a grander scale, unions nationwide contend that a state government cannot simply reorganize itself out of a union.

As labor news junkies will recall, the old contract, the 2001 - 2003 Collective Bargaining Agreement, expired on January 7, 2003. Before expiration, the SUS boards of trustees refused to discuss bargaining a successor contract. Then after the contract expired, the boards claimed that the reorganization had eliminated the union. The 2002 - 2003 academic year at USF saw the most public side of the battle: the card campaign that ultimately led to the USF Board voluntarily recognizing the union. Most other boards also voluntarily recognized UFF, but not UWF, not FSU, and most dramatically of all, not UF, whose board is still fighting to get UFF off campus. Less public was the legal battle.

Such fights are fought before the Public Employee Relations Commission, a group appointed by the governor, and whose rulings have grown rather ... strange ... during the last few years. Among the strange decisions was a the ruling that, "it would be illogical to conclude that there is continuity between the BOE and the university boards of trustees," and thus that the boards did NOT have to recognize the union, nor the terms and conditions of the old contract, and thus the old arbitration precedents did not apply. This was a peculiar decision, as most contracts -- leases, deliveries, etc -- do not magically disappear when one party reorganizes (and certainly not in labor law); indeed, this decision was nothing less than an open invitation to anti-union state agencies everywhere to try to wriggle out of union contracts.

On February 14, the First District Court of Florida ruled otherwise. Judge J. Benton wrote that "State government cannot ... unilaterally terminate its obligations under a collective bargaining agreement simply by reorganizing its executive branch." Benton irritably directed that, "PERC must itself comply with statutes it administers...," before reviewing the precedents and concluding, "None of PERC's prior decisions support its decision in the present case." The ruling (still subject to rehearing) concludes by reversing PERC's decision and remanding the case back to PERC.

For afficionados, this is case number 1D-03-4689, and both the docket and Judge Benton's opinion are on-line.

For USF faculty, the stakes are substantial: do the old arbitration precedents still hold? For faculty in the universities still without contracts, the stakes are a lot higher: they would get the protection of the terms and conditions of the old contract, and the negotiating advantage that the old contract provides. But this is about more than the Florida State University System. And in a sense, it is about more than the national concern among unions (and national giddiness among anti-union governments) about whether unions can be reorganized out of existence. The ultimate question is whether a state agency like PERC has to obey a law it doesn't like. And the court has said quite bluntly that it does.

March 3, 2005

The Budget

Education Week's latest Quality Counts lists Florida as the 46th out of 50 states on resources for education, as opposed to 44th last year. Education Week decided that that rated Florida a D+.

We've been hearing this kind of news for years, so many of us were not surprised by the letter from Provost Renu Khator warning us that the Governor's proposed budget failed to fund three fourths of USF's anticipated enrollment growth, and that it proposed making up the difference by raising tuition by 7.5 %.

A look at the comparison between the Board of Governor's request and the Governor's proposal is interesting: see an administration worksheet. The State University System was appropriated $ 2.182 billion last year, and assuming a somewhat optimistic 2 % inflation rate, the SUS would need over $ 2.23 billion the coming year to keep even at current levels (eg, same number of students). The BOG requested $ 2.313 billion, which would probably be less than a 4 % increase after inflation. The Governor recommends $ 2.064 billion, probably an 8 % cut after (an optimistic projection of) inflation.

There are several interesting items:

  • Despite many public complaints, the Governor recommends that the state continue to renege on its commitment to match donations, which will probably make fundraising more difficult.
  • Access to higher education is cut by three fourths, and a collection of programs for building the research programs -- including all funding for Centers of Excellence -- are zeroed out.
  • The Florida Retirement System is having a rate increase. This is a Carl Hiaasen moment. Political junkies will recall that the FRS lost $ 335 million in the Enron mess, and more recently FRS money was used to bail out the politically connected Edison Schools, which is now seeking to assume management of "failed" schools in Florida.
Notice that despite news stories to the contrary, the chiropractic school that FSU doesn't want is still on the budget.

As the press has observed, the cuts are to be made up by squeezing students. This may be complicated. An Executive Summary for the January BOG meeting (it is on-line) says that while there used to be a legal cap preventing students from being charged more than 25 % of the costs of their education, the current rate was 30 %. Of course, some states charge up to 52 %. There have been proposals to raise tuition across-the-board, to create new tuition systems that will generate more money (by greatly increasing the load on certain segments of the student population), etc.

The Legislature is in session, and this being Florida, it is hard to guess what will ultimately come out.


Many union contracts require management to meet with the union regularly to discuss current events. Things come up, and many times it is wise to handle them before they get out of hand. The 2004 - 2007 contract says five consultations a year, and the first this year was on Thursday, February 17. A delegation led by President Roy Weatherford met with a delegation led by President Judy Genshaft. There was a long list of technical problems, and a few looming issues.

One looming issue is the status, position, and treatment of unranked faculty, i.e., the vast group of instructors, researchers, scholars, visitors, etc., who do much of the work of the university. (Unranked faculty are more visible than adjuncts, who also do a lot of work.) The Administration, the Faculty Senate, and the union are looking into the issue; this is an item on the Chapter Meeting's agenda tomorrow.

The biggest technical problem was the now notorious sabbatical glitch.

In the 2001 - 2003 contract, Section 22.3 (e) (4) read: "Employees shall not normally be eligible for a second sabbatical until six (6) years of continuous service are completed following the first." But in the 2004 - 2007 contract, Section 22.3 (e) (4) says, "Employees shall not normally be eligible to apply for a second sabbatical until at least six (6) years of continuous service are completed following the first ..."

The problem was presented to the Faculty Senate in January: since the application process took upwards to a year, the bar on applying for a sabbatical for six years since the last one meant that a faculty member could not go on sabbatical until seven years had passed. In effect, sabbaticals were now one in every eighth year rather than one in every seventh.

Now, the change in 22.3 (e) (4) mirrored a similar change in the language of 22.3 (c), which dealt with years since initial employment, and indeed initial employment -- that is to say, tenure -- appears to be one of the two central problems: if any faculty member could apply for a sabbatical after only five years of service, a tenure-track faculty member could apply for a sabbatical and tenure simultaneously, and be denied tenure while receiving a sabbatical. The change in 22.3 (c) sort of fixed this tenure problem, but what happened to 22.3 (e) (4) is unclear.

(Note that being eligible for a sabbatical does not mean that the sabbatical will be awarded. There are a limited number of sabbaticals, which are awarded on a competitive basis.)

At the faculty meeting, the senior administrators present, including President Genshaft and President Weatherford, agreed that this was a glitch. Nevertheless, the situation is awkward. UFF pressed the Administration on the glitch, and the Administration announced, in effect, that faculty who wished to apply for a sabbatical (in this cycle) that would come into effect after six years of continuous service could do so provided they attached a rationale for, um, abnormal treatment. This approach allows for finessing the problem. The letter from the Provost is at , and such applications were due by February 21.

Sabbaticals were discussed at for over an hour at the consultation, and the precise legal situation is uncertain. The union is exploring options, but as the issue is likely to be addressed in bargaining, the immediate short term consideration for the union is whether any faculty were injured.

If you chose not to apply for such a sabbatical or had your application rejected because of the change in language, please call the union at 974-2428.

March 17, 2005

Election Results

The Chapter just held its annual elections.
spacer As usual, we started in January with a call for nominations; every UFF member who asked (or consented) to run was on the ballot. We then sent ballots to everyone who was a UFF member as of January 15 (only UFF members may vote).
spacer We have four elected executive officers. Here are the newly elected officers (all four races were uncontested):

  • For President, Roy Weatherford
  • For Vice President, Mark Klisch
  • For Secretary, Jana Martin
  • For Treasurer, Sherman Dorn
The President is ex officio a UFF Senator; USF holds eleven other seats at the UFF Senate, the legislature of UFF, which meets next on the April 2-3 weekend. Here are the other newly elected senators and alternates:
  • Jim Cebulski (alt)
  • Sherman Dorn
  • Abdelwahab Hechiche (alt)
  • Lilyan Kay (alt)
  • Mark Klisch
  • Steve Lang (alt)
  • Jana Martin (alt)
  • Greg McColm
  • Kathleen de la Pena McCook
  • Steve Permuth
  • Arthur Shapiro
  • Nancy Tyson
  • Harry Vanden
  • Robert Welker
  • Judy Wilkerson
  • Sonia Ramirez Wohlmuth
The President is also ex officio an FEA Delegate; USF holds five other seats at the FEA Assembly, the legislature of the Florida Education Association, which meets in May. Here are the other newly elected delegates and alternates:
  • Sherman Dorn
  • William Heller
  • Mary Kaplan (alt)
  • Jana Martin (alt)
  • Greg McColm
  • Harry Vanden
  • Sonia Ramirez Wohlmuth

And Many Thanks for Years of Faithful Service

For eight years, Maggie Doherty has been secretary for the USF Chapter of UFF. This is a low-profile position: people really only notice it when (a) something goes wrong, or (b) people want to look something up. Ms Doherty kept our Chapter's minutes and kept us up to date.
spacer Her professional duties were similarly critical yet quiet. She came to USF in 1987, three years after getting her Master's from Indiana, and joined the library. She has long worked in Collection Development, with expertise in English, Languages and Linguistics, Humanities/American Studies, and Classics. She also worked in the digitization program.
spacer Ms Doherty retired last year. We are grateful for her years of service, and we wish her well in her future adventures.

Employee Performance Evaluations

Each year, each employee in the bargaining unit is supposed to be presented with their annual Employee Performance Evaluation, evaluating their performance (where applicable) in "teaching effectiveness," "contribution to the discovery of new knowledge, etc," "public service that extends professional or discipline-related contributions to the community," "participation in the governance processes of the institution...," and "other assigned university duties." The entire procedure and methodology is outlined in Article 10 of the contract, available on-line as a huge PDF file.
spacer It seems that some employees have not been getting their evaluations on time, or perhaps even at all. There are two major consequences:

  • If the evaluation was not conducted by the time salary raise and bonus decisions are made, the affected employee may not get a raise or bonus to which the employee would have been entitled.
  • If the evaluation was not conducted in time to be placed in a tenure or promotion packet, then the packet may be deficient.
There is a more subtle problem. Suppose that the evaluation is only somewhat late: it was produced in time for salaries or packets, but something in it was wrong; there may not be enough time for the affected employee to get the evaluation reviewed before salary or tenure/promotion decisions are made. The result would be a salary or tenure/promotion decision made on the basis of an incorrect evaluation.
spacer Evaluations should be provided on a timely basis, so that faculty can inspect them, and get them reviewed if necessary.

About timeliness. According to Section 10.3 A (1) of the contract, "The proposed written evaluation, including the employee’s annual assignment which was furnished pursuant to Article 9.3, shall be provided to the employee within thirty (30) days after the end of the academic term during which such evaluation will be made." For an employee evaluated for the calendar year 2004, this language could be construed to give a deadline in January (as the evaluation process starts with teaching evaluations the previous year), but such evaluations have often been completed later in the spring semester, and apparently the Provost's office construes this language to give a deadline in late May (thirty days or so after the end of the semester).
spacer Whatever the case, a faculty member evaluated for the calendar year 2003 should have received their evaluation long before December, 2004, and it was just such a delay that moved the Provost's Office to send a letter to Deans and Chairs advising that this semester, employees evaluated for the calendar year 2004 should receive their evaluations by the end of May. May, 2005, in case anybody asks.
spacer So an employee being evaluated for the 2004 calendar year who does not receive their evaluation during this semester has a serious problem.
spacer We often don't notice evaluations (they seem merely another piece of paper that we're supposed to handle, and we handle so much paper), but as employees are held responsible for what evaluations say, employees should take them very seriously. Especially when they are missing.
spacer This brings us to an important point. The contract may say that the Administration must evaluate us in a timely manner, but it also says that employees must file complaints in a timely manner. Article 20 of the contract provides for filing a "grievance," ie, a formal complaint, filed at the Provost's Office, that the contract has been violated. This complaint must be filed within 30 days of "the date on which the employee knew or reasonably should have known" of the violation. That means that if an employee knows or should have known that the evaluations should have been returned by a certain date, and the evaluations weren't, the employee has thirty days to file a grievance.
spacer That means that an academic employee who does not receive their annual evaluation on time (end of May, according to the Provost's Office) should act -- by the end of June. If an employee waits several months, the administration may legitimately refuse to address the delay, or any damage that resulted from it.
spacer This burden on the employee to complain, and to complain within thirty days, holds for all grievances. One typically cannot wait half a year and then complain; employees have a contractual obligation to complain in a timely manner. While it is true that in the grievance that generated the Provost's letter, the Provost waived the thirty day limit, in general the Provost has no obligation to do so -- and usually does not.

About errors. There is one related problem. Suppose an employee gets their evaluation and it contains factual errors or some other weirdness. What should the employee do? The old principle of law is that silence betokens consent. So an employee does not want to consent to an evaluation, what should the employee do?
spacer First of all, by 10.3 A (1), an employee has the right to consult with their supervisor about the evaluation during the evaluation process. Then when the evaluation is presented, the employee should sign the evaluation: the signature does NOT betoken consent; it merely says that the employee has looked at it. The employee gets a copy of the evaluation. The employee has the right to respond (in writing, in comments to be attached to the evaluation in the employee's personnel file) to the evaluation. The employee also has the right to speak to the supervisor's supervisor about the evaluation. And as usual, worried employees are encouraged to contact the union: our Grievance Chair, Mark Klisch, can be reached at . Finally, if the employee wishes to file a grievance, the thirty day deadline holds here as well.

In conclusion, it would be a good idea to read Article 10. Notice that 10.1 (A) says that the annual evaluations are not to be the only basis for personnel decisions. Notice that 10.3 (A) says that if an employee is found deficient, the employee's supervisor shall assist the employee in addressing the deficiency. Notice that 10.3 (B) (2) says that Sustained Performance Evaluations (the every-seven-year post-tenure review) is based solely on the contents of the employee's personnel file. But you can't defend your rights if you don't know what they are.

March 31, 2005

Academic Bill of Rights

There have always been tensions between teachers and students, and usually governments let parents and local administrations worry about this. Historically, government involvement in teacher-student relations is not very positive (witness the tendency of newer repressive regimes to use students to spy on teachers, and the tendency of older repressive regimes to rely on teachers to indoctrinate students). In liberal democracies, government intrusion in teacher-student relations are often media stunts: they're not really so much to solve a problem (and sometimes it's not clear what the problem is, anyway) as to create photo-ops for the studiedly outraged politicians.
spacer Florida is the latest stop of a campaign of many media stunts, led by David Horowitz, editor of
Front Page magazine, and director of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture. (He is also one of the columnists for Townhall, which is perhaps the "conservative" pundits.) While his political biography follows a stereotypic "neo-conservative" trajectory -- he was a leftist in the 1960s and 1970s, and edited Ramparts magazine -- he rejects the label "neo-conservative."
spacer Indeed, unlike most "neo-conservatives," he spends little time rationalizing the application of force in politics and diplomacy, and instead poses as a spokesman for marginalized groups against a leftist academic establishment. His National Campaign to Take Back our Campuses (whose motivational work is a pamphlet on Political Bias in America's Universities) includes an organization called Students for Academic Freedom; notice that the SAF makes little pretense of being a student-run organization), which has been pushing an Academic Bill of Rights, which the National Campaign has been hawking to state legislatures across the country.
spacer One of the state legislatures that bit was ours: Assemblyman Dennis Baxley has presented the Academic Bill of Rights to the House; the bill was modified and retitled Student and Faculty Academic Freedom in Postsecondary Education (HB 837). According to the University of Florida Independent Alligator, Baxley said that the bill was aimed at professors who "misuse ... their platform to indoctrinate the next generation with their own views," giving as an example, "Some professors say, ‘Evolution is a fact. I don’t want to hear about Intelligent Design [a creationist theory], and if you don’t like it, there’s the door.'"
spacer There are several possible reactions, the most straightforward being to respond to Baxley's (and Horowitz's) public rationales. Representative Dan Gelber did this when (as the Alligator reported) Gelber warned that this act would enable a student to sue a professor who insisted that the Third Reich's Holocaust actually occurred. Similarly, the American Association of University Professors issued a statement that somewhat laboriously makes the following points:

  • Students are often graded not on the content of their arguments, but on their form. (Even in the natural sciences, a lot of the grade relies not on whether the answer was correct, but on how the student reached the answer.) This bill might allow a student to challenge a low grade given to poor work on the grounds that the conclusion presented differs from the teacher's own beliefs.
  • The rationale for the law calls for a diversity of opinion, but since the diversity is usually infinite, it invites the courts to come and decide which of the diverse array of opinions is reasonable. For example, following Baxley's Darwin-versus-Genesis example, a court would have to worry about other options, like Hesiod's Greek Theogony (which, unlike Genesis, actually is connected to paleontological work in Antiquity), pre-Darwinian scientific models like catastrophism and polycreationism, and of course the insistence of many native Americans that their ancestors did not cross from Asia.
Ever since the Museum of Alexandria was destroyed by religious fanatics, academic institutions have been pressured by politicians to not to teach unpopular things. The modern version of Academic Freedom arose in Seventeenth and Eighteenth century Germany, whose universities struggled against the dictates of the local magnates. There were famous episodes, the most telling being the University of Jena's dismissal of Gottlob Fichte, which led to an unstoppable hemorrhage of top scholars, many to Berlin, where modern Akademische Freiheit (with the "Freedom to Teach" and the "Freedom to Learn") burst into the world. If biology professors are required to teach folklore, and then give As for sloppy reports on folklore, all in order to keep from being sued, then good biology professors will leave Florida. (The good folklorists will probably leave, too.)
spacer Of course, this all assumes that this is not some media stunt aimed at the 2006 elections. The text of the bill itself suggests a certain lack of seriousness (again, see the on-line version). The bill is 173 lines long, just over six pages, with a 9-line title and then 90 lines of whereases ("Whereas the following old liberal institution once issued a statement containing the following words...") and then eight statements that students or faculty have "a right to expect" this or that. A right to "expect" something is not a right to something, so these statements could be dismissed as pure weasel, unless some silly judge decided to construe something out of them.
spacer Most striking is Section 2 (1), which says that students have a right to expect a "broad range of serious scholarly opinion" (no snorting, please!) in humanities, the social sciences, and the arts. So are biologists are off the hook, after all? No: Section 2 (2) says that students have a right to expect that they will not be "discriminated against" based on their religious beliefs; this being America, where religions are legion, biologists should bone up on the Theogony after all.
spacer Still, it is not clear how these clauses are to be enforced, assuming that the Legislature gives a hoot about enforcement, and the courts might well refuse to hear cases on them.
spacer That leaves two clauses, one saying that students have a right to an ideologically diverse, value-neutral learning environment (and disbursal of student fee funds), and the other one saying that institutions should promulgate and publicize grievance procedures. The second clause may be an unconstitutional (in Florida) invasion of the Board of Governors' prerogatives, but otherwise we're promulgating and publicizing already. It is the first clause that is Pandora's box.
spacer The first clause actually gives students a "right," which may mean that students can sue to get this right. Students can sue if they can convince a court that they were graded in part on their "political or religious beliefs." Would the court care to distinguish protected political or religious beliefs from unprotected cultural or personal beliefs? Considering the number of unhappy recipients of low grades there are, would the court care to clutter its docket with a new avalanche of tort cases? If the courts have the courage for it, they will simply declare the act unconstitutional (both Floridian and Federal, the latter because whether the judge is a liberal who believes professors have academic freedom rights or a conservative who believes that institutions do, this law encroaches on both). If the courts lack the courage, they might just rule that the academic institutions are the arbiters of what is acceptable grading in the hope that that makes the mess go away. (It would make THIS mess go away, but it would also encourage more such media stunts.)
spacer The Florida Education Association, with which the UFF is affiliated, is fighting the bill. FEA’s Higher Education Director -- our own USF Chapter President President Roy Weatherford -- is working with the national staff of the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the AAUP to prepare testimony that will be presented during legislative committee meetings on the bill. We can only hope that the Legislature has some shame, after all.

Addendum added April 6: On April 5, USF UFF President Roy Weatherford debated Dennis Baxley, and he subsequently sent us this message:
spacer This is the substance of a message I sent today to various higher education leaders and organizations around the nation who are concerned with this threat to academic freedom. The response has been so uniformly positive that I thought I would forward it to our USF constituency and thank the UFF members at USF who make it possible for me to do this kind of work defending academic freedom.

** Academic Bill of Rights Debate on "Democracy Now" **
Today I taped a segment of “Democracy Now” wherein I debated Rep. Dennis Baxley, chair of the Education Council of the Florida House of Representatives and sponsor of HB 837, "The Student and Faculty Academic Bill of Rights”, which is in fact another devious right wing name for an attack on academic freedom.
spacer The taping went fairly well. It will be broadcast at lots of different times in lots of different markets, mostly PBS, Pacifica, and independent listener supported radio and TV stations but also a couple of satellite systems including, I think, the Dish network.
spacer Here’s the link to the web page on which you can listen to or view the segment and check to see if and how it is broadcast in your area. I expect the link will only be active for a short while. Go to this link.
spacer During the debate I made a point of mentioning that I was speaking for the Florida Education Association primarily but also represented the views of all three national higher education faculty organizations: The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), The National Education Association (NEA), and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), speaking together with one voice for the first time and united in our opposition to this bill. Amy Goodman seemed particularly impressed by that and asked me about it after we finished taping. She took my card and said they might be following up on this.
spacer In solidarity,
spacer Roy Weatherford
spacer 813.240.4101

Democracy Now airs locally (Tampa Bay area) at noon on WMNF 88.5.

Summer School...Again

Readers may recall that summer school salary was one of the most contentious issues in bargaining. It has been contentious ever since, long ago, UFF won in bargaining a contractual clause (see 8.4 B (3) of the collective bargaining agreement) stating that faculty teaching during summer are to be compensated at the same rate as during the year. Eliminating this clause was one of the Administration's priorities in the reorganization, and the UFF and the Faculty Senate are justly proud that the clause is not only in the new contract, but also in the new personnel rules.
spacer The Administration is toying with a way to weasel out of it. The trick is that a preceding clause (8.4 B (1)) says that "available" summer positions will be offered to in-unit faculty. The Council of Deans thinks that"available" means after assignments have been made to adjuncts and graduate assistants, or carved up as team teaching assignments. This from a memo from the Dean of Education, which says that the Council of Deans composed a list of Criteria for Supplemental Summer Assignments. (The language curmudgeon grumbles that the list is of directives and recommendations, but not criteria.) Item (3) is: "Departments are encouraged to use creative ways to distribute limited summer funds. Examples include but are not limited to: team teaching and judicious use of adjunct faculty and graduate assistants." Hopefully this directive is subordinate to the spirit of (1): "... Departments should prioritize their course offerings based on student needs."
spacer At first glance, this directive or recommendation seems like a pragmatic response to limited funds. But this is part of a pattern of priorities. Just last week the Board of Governors met at USF and issued directives that we many teachers, so many nurses, so many this, so many that, as if issuing directives makes it so. This is a Master's Program, by a directive of the Board; that is an accredited campus, by a directive of the Board; USF is a Research I university, by a majority vote. The Board allocates the funding its experts recommend (without any faculty input at all) and this makes it so.
spacer This is more than just a circumvention of the contract, bad as that is. It is also another nickle-and-dime compromise on the road that will in the end reduce USF to little more than an overglorified community college. And we are sorry to see that the Administration is trying to make this compromise quietly, rather than publicly presenting it to the Board, and to the press, as an example of what USF is being reduced to, and will be reduced to, unless the Board and the Legislature reverse their policies.

April 14, 2005

Summer Assignment Alert

If you did not get assigned a summer course that you were willing and qualified to teach, your contractual rights might have been violated.

A few weeks ago the central administration issued a memo to the colleges directing them to publish some criteria for summer school teaching assignments. Included were:

  1. All efforts must be made to preserve enrollment. Departments should prioritize their course offerings based on student needs.
  2. Reasonable efforts should be made to balance the offerings of large sections and courses needed to graduate in Summer 2005.
  3. Departments are encouraged to use creative ways to distribute limited summer funds. Examples include but are not limited to: team teaching and judicious use of adjunct faculty and graduate assistants.
  4. In those units where the number of faculty desiring to teach summer courses exceeds resources, faculty will be limited to teaching one course except in extenuating circumstances (would require approval by the dean). This limitation does not apply to assignment to regional campuses.
  5. All 12-month faculty and administrators with academic rank are encouraged to teach a course in Summer 2005, if possible.
See the
March 31 article for more information.

The union responded by filing a chapter grievance alleging that the administration had injured the chapter by directing USF’s lower management to violate the provisions of the new collective bargaining agreement, which says that “Available supplemental summer appointments shall be offered equitably and as appropriate to qualified employees ('employees' means "bargaining unit faculty").

The administration promptly scheduled a meeting to discuss the grievance. Associate Provost Phil Smith told our grievance chair, Mark Klisch, that the grievance had no merit because if anyone were injured by this action it would be individual faculty, not the union. Nevertheless, he said that it was not the intention of the administration to deprive faculty of summer teaching assignments. He offered to send a memo to the Academic Deans and Directors clarifying the university’s position.

Meanwhile the Faculty Senate had been independently pursuing the issue. Thus the second memo says:
spacer Both the faculty union (UFF) and the Faculty Senate have raised concerns that the referenced criteria could be interpreted as encouraging those making summer teaching assignments to rely heavily on adjuncts and graduate teaching assistants to deliver the summer instructional program to the detriment of regular 9-month faculty. Such is not the intention of the referenced criteria promulgated as part of the February 28th memorandum. spacer
The memo goes on to say that “priority in summer assignment should be given to regular 9-month faculty” and faculty should not be limited to a one course summer assignment.

But then in the final paragraph it says that the original criteria should be posted in each department.

We believe it is clear that each department should first offer scheduled courses to regular faculty before any alternative instructors are involved. If your department is not following this standard, the individual faculty who do not receive the opportunity to teach are entitled to immediately file grievances. Mark Klisch cannot investigate the practices of every department himself – he needs the rest of us to check and see if our departments are not giving priority to our faculty. Then he can process the grievances that are the practical means to seek redress.

Remember, the union is not a bunch of outsiders getting paid to conduct investigations, it is just us, working together to protect our individual and collective rights.

The 'Academic Freedom' Bill

As mentioned in the last Biweekly, Florida Assemblymen Dennis Baxley said that he was dismayed by the exclusion of creationism from college biology, and introduced a "Student and Faculty Academic Freedom in Postsecondary Education Act" (from a template provided by a think tank in Los Angeles; see last week's article). As mentioned two weeks ago, the bill enumerates various things (balanced presentation of controversial topics in class, equitable distribution of activities fees, etc.) that students and (junior?) faculty have a "right to expect." No one really knows what this language means, so there is the danger that one court could construe it to be meaningless while another could construe it to mean that people can sue if their expectations were not met.

It was this latter concern that led the Department of Education Legislative Analyst to project that passage of this bill would require that the State University System spend an additional $ 4.2 million per year on new legal staff. (See the House analyst report.) And it is this latter concern that moved UFF, and our national affiliates, and other organizations like the AAUP, to condemn the bill. The UFF Senate resolved:
spacer Whereas, House Bill 837/Senate Bill 2126 would interfere in student-professor relations, infringe on academic freedom, place Florida at a competitive economic disadvantage attracting and retaining the best faculty, compromise the educational experience of the student, and violate democratic rights guaranteed by the Florida and U.S. constitutions,

the United Faculty of Florida opposes House Bill 837/Senate Bill 2126.
The union has been very active opposing the bill. Speaking on behalf of the union, UFF President Tom Auxter told a Legislative committee (during the unbalancedly brief time that they granted him) that the bill will seriously damage our ability to recruit first-rate faculty to Florida. Then UFF USF President Roy Weatherford debated Representative Baxley on the nationally televised “Democracy Now” program. Speaking as Higher Education Director of the Florida Education Association and as the designated spokesperson for our affiliates, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association and for the American Association of University Professors, Weatherford said that we especially object to three provisions of the bill. First, it "specifies that faculty may not introduce controversial subjects when they're inappropriate, but it provides no mechanism or means for determining who gets to say what is 'controversial.' Somebody, evidently, will have the right to tell us what we cannot say in our classroom..." Second, that the bill "says that students have the right to expect that alternative views will be presented," and noting that Baxley had mentioned the exclusion of creationism from biology classes, Weatherford asked whether the quasi-Marxist theory called "Lysenkoism" also should be presented in class (Baxley then claimed he had not really meant that creationism should be taught in biology classes -- it is not clear then what he had meant). Finally, Weatherford noted the $ 4.2 million price tag, which Baxley called a drop in the bucket compared to other "diversity" measures universities take. The exchange is on-line.

Media reaction to the bill seems somewhat negative. On March 16, the Palm Beach Post warned that in a more left-wing climate, such law could backfire on Baxley's allies, and on March 23, the Post recommended that Baxley read Orwell's "1984." On April 7, the St Petersburg Times editorialized that the good news was the Bush himself opposed the bill, while columnist Howard Troxler saw the problem as a confusion of critique with attack: "We live in an age when nobody needs any facts. In this modern day, you can believe any old thing you want, and if the facts get in the way, ignore 'em." USF Chapter Treasurer and Professor of Psychological and Social Foundations Sherman Dorn wrote in the April 8 Palm Beach Post and the April 11 Lakeland Ledger that this was another example of Legislative meddling in the universities: "The 2000 Legislature dismantled the Board of Regents when it refused to approve a new program that then-House Speaker John Thrasher wanted for his alma mater. And last year, the Legislature made Florida a national laughingstock by trying to force a chiropractic school on Florida State in disregard of faculty judgment." On April 10, the Gainesville Sun reported that Baxley said of the lack of any enforcement mechanism in his bill that the bill is "a lofty guidance tool of philosophy ... There is no causative action." Student newspapers have also weighed in, as noted in -- faculty concerned about Florida's reputation take note -- Nature, in which an article dated April 6 (see the April 7 issue) and entitled "Professors bristle as states act to mould lecture content" quotes Baxley complaining that, "I've been called an ass in the school newspaper at the University of Florida ... and that demonstrates exactly what I am talking about."

It is not at all clear to this webmaster what Baxley's bill would do about a student newspaper that called a politician names.

Anyway, on April 11, Tom Auxter sent a letter to the faculty. The bill is still winding its way through committees.

April 28, 2005

Mr. Baxley and Academic Freedom

Florida Assemblyman Dennis Baxley's bill on "Student and Faculty Academic Freedom in Postsecondary Education," designed to protect "conservative" students from "liberal" professors, seems stalled and observers optimistically predict its demise. But of course, anything can happen while the Legislature is still in session. The obstacle appears to be the Senate's skepticism about the bill; the Senate Analyst's report contains many concerns, including a Socratic lament about the bill's failure to define its terms.

This is an update on the bill: see the previous episodes in the March 31 Biweekly and the April 14 Biweekly.

Baxley sounded resigned to the bill's death, admitting that "it might be on life support" and announcing that he thought he had made his point, and that he had initiated something that would lead to positive results. He met with the university presidents who, according to press reports, were unconvinced that there was a problem to address. Baxley's chief piece of evidence was a student newspaper cartoon of Baxley; it is not clear if Baxley invisions a student's academic freedom as extending to making fun of Florida Legislators. (The cartoon is on-line.)

Meanwhile, the bill was just condemned by the Florida Association of Community Colleges. You can follow the bill's progress on its home page.

Again, this is just the Florida part of a national campaign, pushed by an arm of David Horowitz's Center for the Study of Popular Culture: this arm, called Students for Academic Freedom, calls for students to report biased teachers via an on-line form. Meanwhile, one of our affiliates, the American Federation of Teachers, had its annual Higher Education Conference, which devoted a lot of time to planning to fight the national campaign that is pushing these bills: see a brief account of the meeting.

It is not clear what the goals of this campaign is. It could be an attempt to eviscerate the Academy. It could be a cynical campaign of media stunts designed to generate excitement and donations. This campaign involves many interests, who may have a variety of motives. The current bill may indeed be dead (although the coroner hasn't signed off on it), but the campaign isn't going away.

The Old Contract

Readers may remember that in February, the First District Court of Florida ruled that the terms and conditions of the 2001-2003 contract were still in force after the contract expired (see the February 17 Biweekly). This is what the UFF had been contending (and the Administrations denying) all along. Technically, the adversaries are UFF and the staff union AFSCME versus the Public Employee Relations Commission (PERC, the state's labor agency for public employees, whose commissioners have all been appointed by Governor Bush) and, hiding behind PERC, the UF, UWF and FSU Administrations.

Since February, FSU and UWF appealed, the appeal was denied, and the last avenue for them is an appeal to the State Supreme Court, which UFF's legal advisors regard as last ditchery. The results of the current rulings are: the terms and conditions of the contract were in force since January 7, 2003, so that all administrations that violated those terms and conditions (at behest of scofflaw boards of trustees) are now in a legally awkward position. Meanwhile, those universities that have not bargained a new contract still have the terms and conditions of the old one (USF has a new contract, so our relations with our Administration and Board are governed by our new 2004-2007 contract).

Ultimately, this ruling's greatest effect may be to prevent similar stunts in the future: an employer cannot get rid of a union or a contract by reorganizing. USF Professor Surrendra Singh, who is UFF's chief grievance officer, called this the biggest contract enforcement decision of our lifetimes. And its effects will reach across the nation, and to all unionized employees.

More on this in the upcoming Uncommon Sense newsletter.


Our ability to function effectively depends a lot on membership. Support is nice, and useful, but membership means clout, energy, and, to be blunt, funding. During the last year, our affiliates -- the Florida Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Education Association -- have provided us with resources that we had to use to win certification elections in UWF and FSU, and to deal with the UF Administration's dilatory tactics in preparing for a certification election there (a certification election is when the faculty vote on whether or not to be represented by a union). Now that it looks like the courts have put an end to the certification fight (which we also had been winning, but which was very expensive and time consuming), we can turn to getting more members. So we have asked our affiliates for support for another year.

Over the last year, we have received more money from the affiliates than we recieved in dues from members. That is one thing affiliates are for: to provide support for locals in trouble, for every local eventually faces its own Jeb Bush one day, and it is not a battle one wants to enter alone.

New Contracts

In many ways, USF serves as an example of how to get things done. Most other universities are still bargaining, and we were asked for advice. Our Chief Negotiator, Bob Welker, presented the old school approaches to bargaining: have one person with authority responsible for bargaining, find out what faculty want and use that information, but remembering that this is like poker, be careful about sharing information. He recommended a very diverse bargaining team, so that there would be people on the team aware of all the different needs and circumstances of faculty across campus (including unranked faculty from instructors to various professionals). Bargaining is mostly preparation and, as the old man said, one must know when to hold, and know when to fold.

FAU and UCF also have contracts. New College has just tentatively agreed to a new contract (congratulations!) while FSU, UNF, and UWF are making substantial progress (no word from FGCU). Interestingly, the different campuses are developing different contracts, probably reflecting different concerns.

Three universities have problems.

FAMU seems to be making progress bargaining, but the administration is behaving very strangely. As newspapers have reported, the administration's record-keeping is deficient, the books are not in order, and no one knows what FAMU's current finances actually are. (This may be one reason why the administration team offered a 0 % raise, while granting the former president one year's leave, for a quarter of a million dollars.) The administration conducted a physical audit, including an audit of the payroll, and ordered all 1800 or so employees to pick up pay checks or stubs during a two-day period, and to show ID (federally recognized ID: campus ID wouldn't do). Failure would result in disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal. The result was a long the rain.

FIU has made little progress. The administration proposes tearing out about half the text of the old contract, and putting that into personnel rules (subject to unilateral change by the administration). The administration proposed a temporary three-year (oxymoron alert!) Memorandum of Understanding on salaries to serve in the stead of an absent contract; apparently the administration does not anticipate a contract within the next three years (they'll have one now, like it or not, if the above court rulings stand). Faculty have descended on the board twice, for quiet demonstrations like the one USF faculty held at the August, 2004 Board of Trustees meeting. The FIU representatives speculated on what the Board was up to, assuming that the board wasn't just bonkers.

UF's board has refused to recognize the union, and so UFF collected signatures to force a certification election: faculty within the bargaining unit would vote on whether they wanted to be represented by UFF. Since then (two years) the administration has fended off the election, and one of its most potent ploys has been to demand that the bargaining unit be changed, so that faculty who were not represented by UFF in the past be included in voting on whether to be represented by UFF now. (Since UFF has won over 90 % of the votes in the two preceding elections, and since the administration's own survey of faculty show a strong faculty disgust with the administration, the administration may be optimistic in assuming that historically unrepresented faculty would vote against representation. But there are legalities and ethics involved here, which makes things very complicated.) But if the court ruling stands, the battle is over: the administration must recognize UFF as representing the faculty in the old bargaining unit -- and deal with the numerous contractual violations the administration has committed.

Hopefully, most campuses will have new contracts within months, so we can direct more attention to membership. As for those that do not, we may find ourselves back in court. Some people really should not serve on boards of trustees.

Other Business

The community colleges have been dealing with mandatory drug testing and fingerprinting. No doubt this recurrent issue will be coming our way again.

The Graduate Assistants' Union is putting a lot of effort into health insurance. (Thesis directors: what sort of health insurance do your students have? Yes, this is a problem that can affect not only the student, but the professor whose research program involves the student...).

The universities are increasingly relying on adjuncts. The result is a lot of adjuncts, with no job security, no benefits, and poor work conditions. (There is also the credential problem, but that's for the accreditation agencies to chew on.) And not just adjuncts: about half of all new hires to "permanent" positions are non-tenure-track. Since tenure was originally designed to protect academic freedom in the classroom (!), this raises some serious the future of tenure itself. UFF decided to study the problem further; both our national affiliates have decided that if universities are going to hire vast numbers of adjuncts, the affiliates will try to unionize them. At least, this effort might help slow the drift towards the Walmart-ization of American academia.

UFF has had a problematic relationship with Sami al-Arian. He originally got in trouble for incendiary speech, and both the speech and the trouble worried many at USF. His dismissals (plural) were of dubious legality, which worried UFF, as any union is necessarily a creature of law. Our history with him makes the spectacle unfolding in downtown Tampa painful. Our members have a variety of views about him, and UFF itself takes no position on his speech and activities (real and alleged), but we do believe that not only he but the country deserves a proper trial.

At the April 1 meeting of the USF Chapter Meeting, the USF Chapter of the UFF resolved to express its concern about the current legal proceedings and call for a fair trial even if that meant moving the trial to another state, to send a silent representative to the opening of formal proceedings, and to make a similar motion at the UFF Senate; for more on the Chapter's actions, see the Minutes for April 1 at . On April 3, the UFF Senate was dismayed by accounts (which have been reported in the mainstream press) of how al-Arian had spent 23 hours a day in a windowless 6' x 9' cell, how he was prevented from reviewing evidence on his case, and so on. Whether or not he is guilty, we should expect the corrections departments behave in a responsible and professional manner. (We expect the same of the officers of the court!) And so the Senate decided to send a silent representative to the opening of legal proceedings, and made the following statement:

spacer "The United States of America is and must be a nation of laws, and the legal process must be serious, rational and equitable. So we are dismayed by the treatment of the defendant during his incarceration.
spacer A denial of due process to anyone is a threat to us all. And so for the sake of the rule of law and the protection of American rights and liberties, we call for a full and fair trial of the case of Sami al-Arian, even if that entails moving the trial to a different state."