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United Faculty of Florida, Spring 2006

A Call to Action

To: All USF faculty and professional employees

From: Roy Weatherford, President of the USF Chapter – United Faculty of Florida

Re: Will you help us take one more step in winning equal rights for us all?

Colleagues, we need your help. Our chapter of the United Faculty of Florida is in the middle of bargaining the annual reopened sections of our three-year contract with the USF administration. As one of our three permitted sections to reopen, we chose "Benefits". Our team put on the table a proposal that the university shall make available to employees domestic partner health care insurance coverage.
spacer Our chief reason in asking for this is simply that it is the right thing to do. We believe that to deny basic health care insurance to an employee’s domestic partner is unjust and reflects a specter of prejudice that has no place in our university. All of us deserve the basic right to adequate health care, regardless of our sexual orientation or our decision whether or not to enter into a legal marital contract with our partner. Our union stands on the principles of justice, fairness and equality, and so we must support this cause.
spacer There are other reasons that we need this benefit for our employees. Many surveys indicate that one consequence of denying partner benefits is that good faculty and professional staff will not consider employment at such a university or that they quickly leave a university that does not have such benefits. If the goal of our university is to rise to the upper levels of academe, the administration must create an atmosphere where all are welcome, where discrimination is not tolerated, and where we embrace the principle of equality – and then let our actions reflect those values. The best universities in the land do this, and so should we.
spacer When the union placed this proposal on the bargaining table, the administration team stated that they would bargain the proposal, but we have not yet received a response. In fact, at our last meeting on December 22 we were told that the administration team had not even shown our proposal to those they represent – the USF Board of Trustees. And so we are forced to wait.
spacer We believe that the time for waiting and delaying is over. We hope that you will feel the same way about this issue, and that you will add your voice to ours. Please, take a stand and take action. Write or email or call President Genshaft, Provost Khator, and BOT Chair Dick Beard. Let them know that you believe in this cause and ask them to ACT NOW.

The union's proposal is
posted on-line.

January 12, 2005

The Election is Coming

As we begin a new year, we also elect chapter officers and representatives in our annual chapter elections.

Tomorrow, Friday, January 13, at the chapter meeting (at noon in EDU 413, to which all union members are welcome) the Chapter will select an Election Committee to oversee the election. We strongly encourage ALL union members to consider serving: it will be a way to encourage more active participation in the union among our membership. The committee shall issue a Call for Nominations, and compose, mail, and count ballots, and report the results to the state UFF office. All union members are eligible to serve on the Election Committee, except for those who anticipate running for one of the four executive positions (president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer).

The Call for Nominations will ask all union members to consider running for one of the executive positions, and for either or both of the representative positions:

  • For senator, representing USF in the UFF (statewide) Senate, which meets twice a year over a weekend (this year over April 8 & 9 in Orlando, and a weekend in September, the specifics TBA), and
  • For delegate, representing UFF in the Florida Education Association Delegate Assembly, which meets once a year for three days (this year in Orlando during Oct. 26 - 28).
We anticipate that the deadline for nominations will be February 4, and we anticipate that the election itself will be conducted by mail ballot during late February and early March. Only UFF members may run or vote.

Come and join the movement!

January 16, 2006 Extra

A 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)
The election will be held later in February by mail ballot; only UFF members are eligible to run and to vote.

All nominations should be sent to:

Chair, UFF Elections Committee
USF-Tampa Campus
A nomination must include the name of the nominator and the name of the nominee (both of whom must be UFF members), and the position in question. The nomination -- and if the nominee is not the nominator, permission by the nominee -- must be received by Feb. 4. Self-nominations are encouraged. We also encourage nominees to write a brief (250 words) self-description to be included with the ballot materials.

Democracy Requires Participants

The chapter's election season is almost upon us. At the same time, faculty volunteers are visiting colleagues to tell them to join the union because the union is a participatory democracy, so join and participate. All this is nice to hear, but how do faculty participate?

Step one: join the union. There is a membership blank on-line. The reality is that members pay the bills, members do the work, and members make the decisions. Non-members in the bargaining unit are still represented by the union, but they do not participate in decision-making.

So you join the union. Now what?

At the heart of the chapter, and the heart of the decision-making process, is the chapter meeting. Old movie buffs may recall the setting: the union or town hall where all members of the relevant community meet to talk things out, make motions and vote on issues. This was the hall where policy was set and the big decisions were made. That is what happens in the chapter meetings. ALL union members are invited to attend the meetings, which occur every other Friday (the next one on January 27) at noon in EDU 413. The major issues appear on the agenda, the major decisions are made, and officers make their reports.

Alas, our chapter rarely needs to reserve any kind of union hall for these meetings (we sometimes reserve large rooms for special presentations), and that is because of the same problem that afflicts all participatory democracies when there is no crisis to worry about: members have something else planned, or something came up, or something or other. Our chapter has not resorted to the old Athenian practice of sending out slaves with ropes to propel members to the meetings; preferring the carrot over the stick (or rope), we offer free lunch (sandwiches and soda pop).

This brings us to practical realities: there is a lot of work in running a union. Most of the work is done by various officers, representatives, and members of various committees. All of these are union members who volunteer to do the work. The entire apparatus is described rather sparingly in the Chapter's constitution and bylaws. We always need more volunteers to help handle grievances, study issues, help with bargaining, gauge faculty concerns (and keep an eye on what administrators are up to), communicate with political leaders and the greater community, etc., etc.

And so what gets done is what these volunteers do; and beyond the basic decisions made at the chapter meetings, what gets decided is what these volunteers decide (all in accordance with the constitution and bylaws). For example, a growing concern about the abuse of instructors and instructorships led to the creation of a committee (of union volunteers!) which studied the issue, and presented reports and proposals to the chapter (and to a corresponding body in the faculty senate). This led a permanent union committee -- the Bargaining Committee -- to present in the latest round of bargaining a new promotional ladder for instructors; this proposal has been tentatively agreed to, and hopefully will soon be in the contract. This is but one step in one campaign, but step by step, we make the distance.

It can be slow. For about two decades, the union pressed for contractual language barring discrimination based on sexual orientation. Many union activists strongly opposed discrimination against gays, and faculty complained about the contract's silence on the issue. But the Board of Regents was adament, and since the contract is necessarily a document both sides will sign, there was little progress until the reorganization. That provided the opportunity for faculty within the governance structure to press for change, for the Faculty Senate get the Board to change the personnel rules that apply to the entire university, which led to the change in the contract -- which is more effectively enforced and is not subject to unilateral change. This is one victory that had many parents, involving both long-term commitment and a willingness to seize an opportunity. Certainly, it required a lot of work out of a lot of people, and it wouldn't have happened otherwise.

But some faculty do not come to meetings. (In fact, shocking as it may sound, some faculty have not even joined the union!) Faculty who do not come to meetings receive some union publications (like this one) and can communicate with people who do go to meetings (e.g., by responding to this publication and sending an email to the newsletter editor). As the union represents everyone in the bargaining unit, the union volunteers try to listen to everyone, but as there are "No citizens' rights without taxation," only union members have the right to shape policy. And only union members can run for office, and can vote.

According to the Constitution & Bylaws, there are four elected officers. (The others are appointed by the President of the chapter.) Any union members who think that they can do better than a current incumbent officer can run for office: just send in the nomination form (these will be available shortly).

There are also a varying number of representatives. Most American unions are composed of various "locals" (whose members meet in union halls to make decisions). Our local is the United Faculty of Florida, with thousands of members scattered about the state. So we have a Senate that meets twice a year to set policy and make decisions. In order to have the most effective representation of our interests, need volunteers to serve as senators for two weekends. These senators hear the reports from the state union officials (also elected by union members, although the next state election is in 2007) and make and vote on motions. As with officers, any member who wants to run for senator can do so.

For more information on how the United Faculty of Florida works, see the UFF Constitution, and the UFF Bylaws. While UFF does seem more distant than the chapter, it works in roughly the same way. It is a democracy, and while it is officially a representative democracy, in practice it requires so many volunteers that anyone who really wants to participate has ample opportunities to do so. So: run for the senate! See a representative body in action! Become a political powerhouse in your spare time!

Finally, UFF is but one local of the Florida Education Association, which is a "state affiliate" that includes 120,000 education employees in the largest advocacy group in Florida. Nationally, our faculty union is ultimately part of two unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers (which is part of the AFL-CIO). Both the NEA and the AFT are divided into state affiliates, and the NEA and the AFT share FEA as the affiliate of both in Florida. FEA's website is UFF members are eligible to run for election as a delegate to these national conventions -- an experience everyone should have at least once. The FEA represents education employees at all levels in Florida, and is the largest union in the state. It is a representative democracy, and its basic policy decisions are made at its annual Assembly. USF is represented by a few Delegates there, and so, if you want to go to Orlando in October for three days to meet with a thousand or so fellow educators...

A democracy provides what its members put into it. We always need volunteers, for we need the help, the expertise, and the skills that volunteers can provide. If you are not a member, please consider joining: it's not just the money (although that helps), it's also the connection. And drop by and visit a chapter meeting -- even if you are not a member -- and see what the union activists are up to. Come and join the movement.

January 26, 2006

See also the call for nominations, due February 4.

The Carnival Visits Temple

In 1884, the Reverend Russell Conwell, Baptist minister and author of one of the great paeans to making good by working hard, "Acres of Diamonds", started teaching theology on a slightly ad hoc basis out of his Grace Baptist Church. Soon the students were overflowing into several buildings, and in 1888, the City of Philadelphia granted a charter to a Temple College of Philadelphia, which primarily offered evening courses to workers seeking to improve their minds and their prospects. (A firm believer in a moral alliance of capital and labor, Conwell was strongly supportive of both goals.)

In 1891, Temple started to hand out degrees which state and federal agencies refused to recognize. After a decade and a half of rough riding, Temple reinvented itself as Temple University in 1907, and quickly got a bona fide law school, a hospital, and official recognition. It now has 34,000 students and is the 28th largest university in the country -- and the sixth largest provider of professional education. And since 1965, it has been a public institution -- and thus subject to the whims of the Pennsylvania legislature.

Last year, the Pennsylvania House decided to "investigate" liberal bias in Pennsylvania's public universities. To this end, it created a Select Committee to investigate the universities and then present its report in June, or November, or whatever time public opinion polls indicate is the most auspicious moment. Last fall, the Select Committee visited the University of Pittsburgh, and heard from President Steven Balch of the National Association of Scholars among others. For an account, see the article in the Dec. 1, 2005 Biweekly. The next stop was Temple University, which it visited on January 9 and 10.

President Adamany began with reassurances. "We have reviewed our records and we do not find any instances in which students have complained about inappropriate intrusion of political advocacy by teachers in their courses." He added that, "Nor have we found instances of complaints by students that they were improperly graded because of the views they set forth in their courses." Adamany is retiring after six years of service, possibly with relief. "Our students are an assertive group. They do not hesitate to complain. There are no complaints. There's no retaliation that should discourage students from complaining." At least that's what The Temple News quoted him saying. (The vice chairman of the College Republicans later complained, "I'm usually dismissed by the professor, so I don't feel that lodging a formal complaint would do much good.")

Quite a number of people spoke, some presenting prepared speeches which they later posted on-line. Newspaper reports suggest that the actual speech sometimes varied from the prepared one. Anyway...

Anne Neal, President of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) testified that academics are predominantly Democratic, at least in the humanities and social sciences. She outlined several survey results, including one by a Professor Klein who found that Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than twenty to one among anthropologists, nine to one among political and legal philosophers, and five to one among political scientists. She also cited a study by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA "that has never been challenged" contending that 42.3 % of all faculty were "liberal," 34.3 % were "middle of the road", and 17.7 % were "conservative"; unfortunately, she did not explain what "liberal", "middle of the road" or "conservative" meant. At any rate, she concluded, the evidence of academic bias is overwhelming, "with no countervailing data of any kind." The problem, she said, was not in the beliefs of faculty, but the fact that faculty were denying students access to diverse perspectives while pressing students to accept liberal ideology: the universities have become "islands of oppression in a sea of freedom." She also complained about teachers going outside of their area of expertise, saying: "If they are teaching biology, they should be talking about biology. If they are teaching Medieval English literature, we expect them to be lecturing on Chaucer, not Condoleezza Rice." For more, see her statement.

William Scheuerman, president of the United University Professions (which represents SUNY faculty -- and to which a large MAJORITY of SUNY faculty belong), gave a statement on behalf of the American Federation of Teachers. He began by saying that America's system of higher education is "the envy of the world," and that it derives its strength from its diversity. Then he took issue with some of the studies of academic bias, saying that both the survey design and reports were flawed. He reported that, like Temple, SUNY could not find any student complaints of political bias. His statement is on-line.

One of the organizations that has defended academic freedom in Pennsylvania is the Temple Association of University Professionals, whose president, William Cutler, said that many students today do not know what an argument is, and that professors have to teach them -- by getting students to deal with arguments, or construct arguments of their own. His statement is on-line. See also the TAUP page on the hearings.

Other Temple people spoke. English Professor Stephen Zelnick complained that when visiting classes, he hears "about the need to be skeptical of all institutions and traditional values, and about the stupidity and mendacity of prominent politicians"; the context of his remarks suggests that Zelnick believed that his fellow academics were overdoing it. The Chair of his department said, "We desperately value having different perspectives in the classroom."

David Horowitz, who described himself as "a well-known author and media commentator and ... president of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture," and who had appeared at the previous engagement at Pittsburgh (indeed, he has been a prime mover all along), complained that his Academic Bill of Rights was being misrepresented. The bill would not require teachers to present all points of view, he said, just more than one scholarly point of view if there were others; in particular, "it would not force teachers to teach unscholarly, unscientific points of view like Holocaust denial or Intelligent Design." He then enumerated a long list of horror stories. His statement is on-line at on-line. Actually, his testimony was livelier than the transcript suggests, with several exchanges: he started by saying "I'm the scary guy," and went forty minutes overtime. "What we are devoted to today," he said, "are manners."

And with that, the hearing was over.

Just as with the previous performance at the University of Pittsburgh, the gentle webmaster cannot resist commenting on the show.

First of all, as a liberally biased philosopher might complain, the critics of "bias" in "academia" are not defining their terms. After all, David Horowitz is not sitting on the doorstep of the American Heritage Institute (or of Liberty University for that matter) to complain about apparent bias among the faculty of those august institutions. Perhaps AHI and Liberty U. are biased in the right direction (pun intended). But this brings us to an awkward question that seems to lurk in the depths of Horowitz's often strident complaints: is the Center for the Study of Popular Culture part of academia?

Nearly a century ago, Alfred Adler introduced the notion of an "inferiority complex," and since then we've learned the symptoms. Think tanks have arrived. They dominate the newspapers and air-waves and advise the statesmen. But they are not taken seriously by the hoary old ivy-covered mossbacks who won't even use Mr. Horowitz's books in their courses. Naturally, the politicians are sympathetic. Why won't those mean old professors use nice textbooks by nice people like Mr. Horowitz? Or textbooks endorsed by nice people like Pat Robertson for that matter?

So Professor Scheuerman may have been addressing only the formal complaint, not the ultimate motivation, when he criticized the studies of academic bias. From the point of view of the legislators, of course academics are biased. With our over-reliance on evidence arranged in rational argument, and our indifference to popular or political opinion, we academics exhibit what legislators regard as not only bias but arrogance.

William Cutler's response then may have been the most on point. Students do not know what argument is, and critics of academia cannot distinguish between argument and advocacy. We have a major educational job ahead of us, and the future of education itself is at stake. And it is not all innocent ignorance that we face: the think tanks themselves are after all witting servants of the corporations that fund them. As an academic once observed, where you stand depends on where you sit. It is not all academia -- just our version of academia -- that thrives in freedom. The competing version, of scholarship with ideological or interested strings attached, glitters in front of us. And that which glitters but is not gold finds us ... unbearable.

Second, there is an elephant in the room that Ms. Neal alludes to and Mr. Horowitz tries to banish. One of the major topics that critics of academic bias are complaining about is the one-sided presentation of the ancient past of the observable universe and of the Earth. The overwhelming majority of astronomers contend that astronomy does not make sense unless the universe is several billion years old. The overwhelming majority of biologists contend that biology degenerates into incoherence without the organizing principle that contemporary organisms are what they are because of what their ancestors were. Several scientific disciplines would have to be revamped to make room for the doctrine of Intelligent Design, and many science teachers simply refuse to do so. Arrogance again? Many of the critics of academia and their allies would like to compel science teachers to either present the doctrine of Intelligent Design, or not present any material inconsistent with that doctrine, or leave teaching science altogether.

Third, despite the complaint about faculty teaching outside of their fields, there are never clear demarcations between fields. Imagine a drama teacher dealing with Sir Ian McKellen's production of Richard III, where the setting is the interwar (late 1920s to early 1930s) era. The point would be the timelessness of the plot, but that leads inevitably into twentieth century politics. Indeed, Anne Neal's complaint about a Medieval Literature class covering Condoleeza Rice rather than Chaucer suggests that President Neal is unaware of Terry Jones' rather puckish book on the ... murder ... of Geoffrey Chaucer by right-wing extremists just after the coup that brought King Henry IV to power. Reviewers have already alleged that Jones is making allusions to more recent political trends.

The next performance is apparently in March. In Pennsylvania, of course -- although perhaps some Florida legislators have plans for some drama of their own later. We can hardly wait...

January 31, 2006 Extra

Mid-Term Bargaining Completed

BARGAINING. We have an agreement!!
spacer Once again we have successfully concluded a cycle of bargaining! For the second straight year the mean raise will be at least 5%! (Remember when some folks wanted us to settle for the three-year package that would have limited us to 3% in each of the second and third years?) We have a new promotion track for Instructors! We have a breakthrough on domestic partner benefits!
spacer And then we go right back to bargaining...

NEGOTIATIONS. Every three years, the United Faculty of Florida and the USF administration bargain a new contract. But every year, there is a mid-negotiation (called a "reopener"): Articles 23 on salaries and 24 on benefits are always "reopened" for bargaining, and each side can choose up to three other articles (out of the 29 others) for renegotiation. Bargaining works like this: the two teams work out new language article by article, and when they reach agreement on an article, the two chief negotiators Tentatively Agree (TA) to it. The next step is to have the revisions ratified by the Board of Trustees and by the employees of the bargaining unit. Remember, this is THE CONTRACT that defines the terms and conditions of YOUR employment at USF. Remember also that the contract we get is the contract that BOTH SIDES agree to.
spacer Incidentally, the current contract is
spacer Bargaining for the 2005 mid-negotiations started a month after they were supposed to be completed (the administration had, um, organizational difficulties), but after about a dozen long bargaining sessions, on Thursday, January 27, the two teams finally TA'ed on the last of the new language and presented it to the chapter on Friday, where everyone thanked the Bargaining Team for all their hard work. The next step will be ratification; the procedure for ratification by the faculty will be announced shortly.

THE AGREEMENT. Here are the high points (details will be made available as soon as possible):

  • Article 23 on Salaries was reopened. Salaries come from a "pot" that must increase by 5 %, some of it retroactive to August 1, 2005, and some of it to August 7, 2005. The raises apply to those employees in the bargaining unit as of June 30, 2005,
    spacer First, there is the 3.6 % raise mandated by the Legislature to all employees in the unit rated "satisfactory" or above in the (majority of the) last evaluation -- this raise has already been distributed. Second, 0.9 % is added to the salaries of those employees who are (again, mostly) satisfactory or above.
    spacer In addition, 0.2 % is designated for compression/inversion for employees who have been here at least ten years, whose average rating was "strong" or above for the last five years, and whose salaries are at least 20 % below the market rate as determined by one of the standard measures. Finally, at least 0.3 % (and at most 1.3 %) shall go into various discretionary raises and adjustments.
    spacer Promotion raises are separate, being 9 % and additional cash for professors and librarians.
    spacer The Tentatively Agreed to language is on-line.
  • Article 24 on Benefits was reopened.
    spacer First, we got a conceptual breakthrough: "The University and UFF agree to pursue actively the implementation of a domestic partner health benefit at USF..." UFF had asked for sick leave to care for domestic partners and for health benefits for domestic partners, and the Administration expressed legal concerns. Since the 2006 mid-negotiations will start almost immediately after ratification, this active pursuit will soon be at hand.
    spacer Second, the programs under which employees and retired employees may enroll in courses free of charge (up to 6 hours for employees) is no longer restricted to a space available basis.
    spacer The Tentatively Agreed to language is on-line.
The Administration did not reopen any articles. UFF reopened two.
  • Article 5 on Academic Freedom and Responsibility was reopened: UFF sought firmer language on shared governance, which is already mentioned in Section 5.4 and alluded to in Sections 10.3 and 10.4. The Administration refused to discuss the issue on the grounds that they do not regard it a term or condition of employment.
  • Article 14 on Promotion Procedure was reopened in a major union initiative to add a new Instructor track: the new ranks are Instructor I, Instructor II, and Instructor III.
    spacer The Tentatively Agreed to language is on-line, as is the Summary of Proposals produced by the Bargaining Committee.
Once again, we will soon announce ratification procedures.
spacer In addition, the two teams agreed on two Memoranda of Understanding on two, um, misunderstandings that have popped up.
  • In Section 22.3. Employees may apply for a sabbatical in the sixth year of full-time service.
    spacer The Memorandum is on-line.
  • In Subsection 8.4(C). A typo had implied that overload salary would come from salary funds; the typo is repaired and overtime salary comes from OPS funds.
    spacer The Memorandum is on-line.
These two memoranda are effective without being ratified because they only constitute joint interpretations of existing contractual language.
spacer The bargaining team members were all volunteer union members who did this work for all of us on their own time, without remuneration or comp time. (Indeed one team member has had to use personal leave time to attend past bargaining meetings.) The least we can do to help is to pay our dues and support their efforts! And every union member interested in helping the effort is invited to participate. Together we have made good progress in the past two years. The more together we are, the more progress we will make in the next few years. So once again, we thank the bargaining team for all their hard work.

February 9, 2006


The Wall Street Journal recently reported that wages and salaries rose 2.6 % in 2005 while the inflation rate was 3.4 %. Meanwhile, for the second year in a row, the mean raise for the UFF/USF Bargaining Unit is (at least) 5 % -- and that's not counting promotion raises.

Raises and benefits are renegotiated every year, along with whatever other articles of the contract the union and the administration decide to "reopen." On January 26, the two teams Tentatively Agreed on language concerning Article 23 on Salaries, Article 24 on Benefits, Article 5 on Academic Freedom & Responsibilities (actually, the administration team couldn't or wouldn't talk about changes in Article 5, so there aren't any -- for now) and Article 14 on Promotion Procedures. The two teams have also signed two Memoranda of Understanding on two glitches in the contract. A description of the changes a on-line at , and the changes themselves are posted on-line in some (large) scanned PDF files:

The Memoranda are also on-line: See also the Summary of Proposals produced by the Bargaining Committee.

The next step is to ratify the new language (the Memoranda of Understanding do not require ratification). Presumably, the Board of Trustees will ratify the new language at an upcoming meeting. Meanwhile, the members of the Bargaining Unit will be asked to vote on the changes.

The voting date, time, and place will be announced very soon.

The Union strongly recommends ratification. The minimum raise for employees with mean ratings of satisfactory or above is over a percentage point higher than the anticipated inflation rate, and we have made gains on a number of issues. In addition, bargaining for the next cycle (for August, 2006) should begin immediately after ratification, and a show of support will help our bargaining team build momentum. See you at the polls!

Election Season

Every year, the USF Chapter of UFF elects its four elective officers (the president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer) and its varying number of representatives (this year, thirteen 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, 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, AT

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 twelve candidates in the senate race (the chapter president is ex officio a senator), and for up to six candidates in the delegate race.

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 the 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 NOON, MARCH 13. Ballots will be counted in the afternoon March 13 at the union office, NEC223, at 2 pm. All union members are invited.

We are the enemy?

It's scheduled for release on Monday, but Amazon already lists 23 reviews for David Horowitz's latest book, "The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America"; Amazon rates it 3-1/2 out of 5 stars. Listed at $ 27.95, Amazon is offering it for $ 18.95 -- or $ 16.95, used. For $ 50, Horowitz's Front Page magazine offers signed copies of the book that "reveals a shocking and perverse culture of academics who are poisoning the minds of today's college students." For $ 100, buyers will receive a "personalized" copy. Horowitz will appear every night next week on the FOX Hannity & Colmes show to promote his book.

So who are the 101 most dangerous academics in America? Frontpage hasn't announced a list, but one is floating around already, and we've posted it. If one goes state by state by population, starting with California, which has 21 public enemies (including Angela Davis, Paul Ehrlich, and Tom Hayden); then Texas, which has only five; then New York, which has 16 (including bell hooks and Leonard Jeffries) (there are nine from Columbia alone); and then only one from Florida, and the choice of Sami Al-Arian suggests a lack of imagination on Horowitz's part. In fact there are four from Colorado (including Ward Churchill, of course).

Of course, this is largely entertainment. At least one professor was listed because of something the U.S. Department of Justice claims he did, but most are listed because of what they said in class or wrote in magazines. If that's the worst there is on us academics, then we're a pretty upright bunch. Nevertheless, as this book shows every sign of doing well on the marketplace, we should expect more of the same.

But there's nothing that says we have to bear it all quietly...

February 23, 2006

Gud Spellene

Before 1476, the year that William Caxton set up the first printing press in England, English spelling was as much a regional affair as English accents. The printers wanted a standardized spelling and over the years, a sequence of busybodies have cast the spelling of English in stone. Or have we? Checque became check long ago, and nite is slowly displacing night.

The revisions are inspired by English spelling, which is allegedly awful (as compared to, say, German). George Bernard Shaw complained that 'ghoti' could be pronounced 'fish'. And recalling that across the Atlantic 'jail' is spelled 'gaol', there does seem something scatterbrained about English spelling.

Still, it would be nice if our students were better at it. A generation that grew up with spell check presents us with monsters almost daily. But does it matter? If English is so scatterbrained, why not just let students plow through it like an icebreaker in the arctic?

This is where Louisa Moats, advisor on literary research and professional development for Sopris West Educational Services steps up to challenge the conventional wisdom. In the winter issue of the American Educator, a publication of the American Federation of Teachers (provided FREE to union members and on-line for moochers), she writes on "How Spelling Supports Reading," with the provocative subtitle "And Why it Is More Regular and Predictable Than You May Think."

Dr. Moats quickly gets to the bottom line. A writer who has spelling problems wastes a lot of time and energy on proper spelling. Even "robust" reading requires that readers can immediately recognize words. Since there are over a hundred thousand words in the English language (over a million if we count esoterica), recognition requires some kind of mental classification based partly on spelling. Apparently there is more research on the elementary grades than higher grades, but what research there is suggests that the pattern continues into all age groups.

And now for the argument that the oligarchy of English printers came up with a not-too-irregular spelling, and that since English has a history, one can understand the words better if one knows where they come from (this is something all good poets know). The (over) simple description of English is that it is the result of a Germanic cluster of languages (Anglic, Saxon, and several others mixed together) simmered into Old English, and then force-fed a great deal of Old French. Of course, there were other influences, some of which Moats mentions (Greek, Latin, Spanish, Italian, Yiddish), but the German-French dichotomy lies at the center of the language. And of the spelling.

The one hundred most frequently used words are all Germanic: 'goat', 'wife', 'mother', 'one', 'house', 'love', 'cook', and 'walk'. The more high-falutin' words are often French: 'justice', 'peace', 'courageous', 'magnificent', and 'beauty'. (At this point, the reader may be reminded of George Orwell's Politics and the English Language, where Orwell praises Germanic words for their clarity, and denounces French -- and worse -- words for their obfuscation.) Enter the worse, Latin ('solar', 'equine', 'residence, 'designate', and 'refer') and later Greek ('atmosphere', 'gravity', and 'chronology').

The point is that the consonant-driven spellings are typical of Old English. In fact, the irregular (non-phonetic) spellings of Old English often reflect medieval pronunciations: 'said', 'does', 'friend', and 'enough' were once pronounced the way they're spelled. Once one disentangles the history of words, one can start seeing the regularities in spelling.

Not that Dr. Moats is advocating explicitly teaching medieval history in elementary school. But she does recommend teaching vocabulary and spelling of words grouped by historical origins, starting (of course) with the more common and less complicated Old English, and ultimately reaching the more complex Latin and Greek in grades 4 - 7.

One final observation. Dr. Moats notes that words reflect their evolutionary history. For example, the Latin root 'dict' meaning 'speak' appears in descendent English words like 'dictionary' as well as classical Latin words like 'dictator'. The spelling and structure of a word can tell us something of its meaning. And language is something that evolves in historical time: it may be no accident that one of the early English linguists, James Burnett, Lord Monboddo, was led by his (eighteenth century) investigations of the evolution of English to investigations of the evolution of life, including man.

Academic Diversity Watch

The South Dakota House of Representatives recently voted 42 to 26 to "require regental institutions to annually report to the Legislature regarding intellectual diversity." HB 1222 also requires a number of vaguely defined steps, such as including "intellectual diversity issues in student course evaluations" and, intriguingly, establishing "clear campus policies to prohibit political bias in student-funded organizations." (The reader is invited to imagine any unintended consequences of such a requirement.)

This was hailed by leading opponents of the alleged liberal domination of academia. David Horowitz's organ, Front Page magazine, reported that Academic Freedom Comes to South Dakota, while the American Council of Trustees and Alumni called it an "ACTA Victory," adding that "The bill passed overwhelmingly in the House, with bi-partisan support" (according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, two of the 42 supporters were Democrats, which apparently makes it bipartisan) (with 10 Republicans and 16 Democrats, the opposition was even more bipartisan): see ACTA's press release. The state senate is expected to vote on the bill later this month.

Meanwhile, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, R-Pennsylvania, told the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities that "There's no question ... that the majority of Republicans believe higher education is on the left. We do, and it is." He later said, "I think the Congress has been remarkably restrained in spite of what most of us see as a hostility towards conservatism and Republicans ... We've been remarkably restrained, given that, in doing anything to sort of punish higher education for its ideology, we don't, and we haven't." Leaving aside his conflation of "we," "Republicans," and "conservatism," we note that he didn't say he WON'T do anything to higher education.

March 9, 2006

Top Tier

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has (again) reformulated its reporting system in order to provide more "flexibility" and reduce the reports' utility for, ahem, ranking universities. The report now produces an array of alphabetical lists, so now academics can obsess over which list one's institution gets on. As Foundation President Lee S. Schulman said in the press statement, "We concluded that attempting to shoehorn all institutions into one category had introduced distortions, inaccuracies and obscurities that could be avoided." The "Basic Classification of Institutions of Higher Education" is imperfect, says the current lead classifier Alexander C. McCormick: "It’s important to note that no classification can be perfectly neutral or objective, nor can it capture the full complexity of our diverse institutions."

And now for the lists. There are many lists, and those that boosters do not obsess about are readily found. But not THE lists. There are three lists for aspiring universities: "Doctoral/Research Universities," "Research Universities (high research activity)," and "Research Universities (very high research activity)." The last list of ninety-five institutions was described in the Chronicle of Higher Education as including "institutions such as Emory, North Carolina State, and the Johns Hopkins Universities."

And Harvard, Yale, Princeton, ... and the University of South Florida.

This list is hard to find. Go to, click "Classifications", then in the second gray box at left click "Basic Classification", type in "university of south florida" in the box, and you have the (real) USF page. Now check the "Basic Classification" box (bottom right), click "Find Similar", and there is The List.

So congratulations to the faculty, staff and students of our university, and who are, collectively, the University of South Florida, and who did the real work.

Coming Together

"We must all hang together," Ben Franklin admonished the Continental Congress, "or we will surely hang separately." It was in this spirit that the Florida affiliates of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) merged to form the Florida Education Association (FEA).

While there have been some hopeful signs of change in the environment since the merger, the anti-education and anti-union movements have continued to press their agendas. And so the supporters of education and workers rights have been forming new alliances. The success of the Florida merger has helped inspire similar moves across the nation, such as ...

On February 27, AFT President Edward J. McElroy and NEA President Reg Weaver announced that union locals of the NEA (typically, county-wide or district-wide associations of K-12 teachers and education service professionals, but also including associations of higher education academics like UFF) are invited to join the AFL-CIO. Specifically, the locals are invited to join the AFL-CIO Central Labor Councils, which is where a lot of the coordination and planning takes place. There will also be additional cooperation at the state level.

Said Weaver: "In this political climate, our organizations need to build on our common goals, and advocate together for our members and our children." Noting that most public school employees in New Orleans were just dismissed, McElroy added, "In these times, it is important, indeed urgently necessary, for educators and other professionals to join with workers in the private sector so that working families have a strong voice." Added AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney, "By giving NEA local members the opportunity to unite with our members, we’ll be able to wage stronger campaigns to help working families fend off escalating assaults on family incomes, education, health care, pensions, and public services."

The AFT statement is on-line, as is , the NEA statement. As UFF is already within a merged affiliate, this new policy has no effect on us. But it will be very helpful to our union sisters and brothers in other states.

Higher Ed

Speaking of AFT-NEA cooperation, last weekend the joint AFT-NEA Higher Education Summit met at Disneyworld, and was attended by our own Sherman Dorn, Professor of Psychological and Social Foundations and member of the USF/UFF Executive Committee. The theme of the Summit was "Sharing Our Successes, Challenges and Strategies."

On September 19, 2005, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced the formation of a new Commission on the Future of Higher Education. Spellings then said, "It is time to examine how we can get the most out of our national investment in higher education. We have a responsibility to make sure our higher education system continues to meet our nation's needs for an educated and competitive workforce in the 21st century." (See the press release.)

Anyway, staff from the Spellings Commission was there, and Professor Dorn enumerated their talking points, which included telling industry that higher education was critical to the economy, that there are a growing number of non-traditional students, and that students faced growing debts. Other talking points included the growing costs, the lack of accountability measures, and unavailability of consumer information. Respondents spoke of predatory for-profit institutions, the lack of consensus about standardized testing, and the decline in the number of permanent faculty. For more, see Professor Dorn's comments in his blog.

There was also a presentation by Ellen Schrecker on academic freedom and national security. Readers may recall that Professor Schrecker was one of our Freedom Forum speakers, and that she recently published an article on The New McCarthyism in Academia (which is on-line) in the journal Thought and Action, subscriptions to which are provided free to union members.

Dakota Follow-up

In the previous (regular) Biweekly, we reported that the South Dakota House passed bill to "require regental institutions to annually report to the Legislature regarding intellectual diversity" as well as a number of vaguely defined steps, including the following foray at Pandora's box: "clear campus policies to prohibit political bias in student-funded organizations."

As constitutional scholars often note, one purpose of an upper chamber in a bicameral legislature is to block silly ideas. So it was this time, when, as the Chronicle of Higher Education reported, eight Republicans joined all ten Democrats in the South Dakota Senate to defeat the bill. The Chronicle quoted the executive director of the South Dakota Board of Regents saying that the legislation "carried with it a political agenda and an ideological agenda." The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) responded in its blog, saying that the Associated Press had undermined the bill by characterizing ACTA as an "out-of-state group that seeks to promote conservative ideas on college campuses." Meanwhile, the American Association of University Professors issued a release that concluded with a quote by student and United States Public Interest Research Group Board Vice Chair Jess Tweedy, who said, "The truth is that this bill is an ideological agenda being pushed by radicals like David Horowitz and his cronies. The South Dakota legislature recognized that and acted in the interest of its citizens, especially its students, professors and university officials"; the full release is on-line.

March 23, 2006

Academic Freedom Under Siege

As of now, twenty-five states have considered or are considering legislation based on or associated with the Academic Bill of Rights, a laundry list of political intrusions desired by the Students for Academic Freedom, a subsidiary of a California corporate-sponsored think tank, the Center for the Study of Popular Culture. So it is not surprising that AFT On Campus managing editor Barbara McKenna wrote a cover article on Beware the New Thought Police. The article is about the fight in Pennsylvania (see the January 26 Biweekly article) and Horowitz's book on dangerous professors (see the February 9 Biweekly article.) But this article also shows the degradation of standards of scholarship and journalism today. Mr. Horowitz is the head of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, and is leading a national campaign against academics who refuse to use his books as texts in college classes. Indeed, he does have scholarly aspirations: when Mr. Horowitz complained to the Chronicle of Higher Education (What Makes David Run? May 6, 2005) that academics do not use his books in their classes, he also said that had he kept to the New Left views of his youth, he could have been an editor of the New York Times or a chair of a department at Harvard by now (apparently these are comparably scholarly positions). He also says that he would be making more money (according to the Chronicle, he made more than $ 300,000 in 2003). McKenna's article suggests why academics do not use his books as texts. It starts with a story Horowitz has been repeating about a Pennsylvania State Biology Professor who showed Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" to his class days before the 2004 election. The problem was that the story is an urban legend. When Pennsylvania Representative Larry Curry, D-Montgomery & Philadelphia, asked Horowitz if he would retract the story, Horowitz responded by saying that his website had taken down the story and helpfully added that "Michael Moore has been shown to be a liar." When Curry returned to the story of the alleged screening of the film, saying, "But you asserted it as true and didn't correct it," Horowitz responded: "So what!" So what indeed. The last third of McKenna's article is about Horowitz's book, "The Professors." McKenna describes the book as "a compilation of three- to five-page profiles of professors, many of which have been recycled verbatim from Web postings made in the last year or so," and describes the entries as seeming "to be based on published writings by the subjects, unproven accusations about them, portions of statements taken out of context and information drawn from Google searches." The entries enumerate many complaints which, according to McKenna, are misleading, trivial, or simply wrong. The book pounces on a junior faculty member at Brooklyn College based on "the unsubstantiated claims of two former students and a Brooklyn College history professor ... whom [the junior faculty member] has never met nor seen." The book also accuses a Western Washington University professor of advocating the secession of some Hispanic-dominated states, a claim that the professor calls libelous: "They never contacted me or talked to me about my viewpoints." One of Horowitz's targets is Michael Schwartz, a SUNY Stony Brook professor who is charged with corrupting his sociology department to the point that it offers a course on "stratification" (a topic sociologists are supposed to ignore?). Schwartz is quoted saying that Horowitz's campaign is meant to intimidate academics into allowing corporate-sponsored materials to circumvent the standard peer-review process and to enter the classroom. Speaking of these think tanks, Schwartz says, "These places do not uphold scholarly standards. Rather than seeking out the truth and submitting it to rigorous peer review, they decide a policy and their writers write something in support of that. These people are not scholars. They are propagandists," and he concludes "The basic thrust of [the Academic Bill of Rights] is to force academies to hire these people into their ranks and give them a scholarly imprimatur. It’s a profound attack on the integrity of science. [The Academic Bill of Rights] would fundamentally change how we approach teaching, the contestation of intellectual ideas and scholarship."

Strange Days at Santa Cruz

On December 14, 2005, MSNBC reported that a Secret database obtained by NBC News tracks 'suspicious' domestic groups. NBC reported obtaining a "secret 400-page Defense Department document" that enumerated "more than 1,500 'suspicious incidents' across the country over a recent 10-month period," including a number of "threats." As readers of the latest AFT On Campus noted, eight of those "threats" occurred at universities, including one -- count it, one -- that was "credible," at the University of California at Santa Cruz. It appears that a demonstration last April (against military recruiters) by the UC Santa Cruz group Students Against the War, together with the UC Berkeley group Berkeley Stop the War Coalition, together posed a threat to the security of the republic. The San Francisco Chronicle soon reported that turnout at Students Against the War meetings roughly doubled: "People are getting the message that we're doing something," one member was quoted saying; "We're getting the government's attention." (See the Feb. 2 report ACLU seeks Pentagon records on UC groups.) And, as the Chronicle reported, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a Freedom of Information request for information about the surveillance. Meanwhile, Chancellor Denice D. Denton went to California's Senators Boxer and Feinstein. Said Denton, "While my colleagues and I deplore and do not tolerate violence, we believe that debate and peaceful demonstration are hallmarks of a democracy. Given the crucial role of universities in providing a venue for the free exchange of ideas, it would be extremely disconcerting if political dissent were equated with national threat, thus justifying covert action. Such actions stifle free speech and can result in a dangerous climate of intellectual conformity. In fact, an environment of surveillance and intimidation threatens the core values of universities and of our nation and sounds chilling echoes of the McCarthy era." (See the chancellor's page of links.) On Feb. 20, a relieved public relations office was announcing that "UC Santa Cruz protest no longer on Pentagon's 'credible threat' list"; Feinstein and Boxer wrote a letter mentioning what all parties already knew: the surveillance was a violation of military regulations and federal law. Boxer and Feinstein also reported that Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone would conduct a "comprehensive review of the TALON program." Meanwhile, the ACLU's FOI request is still pending, and the ACLU has filed suit. See their announcement for details. And a local, if off-campus, "credible threat" to military recruiting is described in the March 19 St. Petersburg times when it asks, But is South Florida's Truth Project really that dangerous?.

March 30, 2006 Special

Here is a special message from Chapter President Roy Weatherford to ALL EMPLOYEES OF THE BARGAINING UNIT, union members and otherwise:

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The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida would like to invite you to participate in a "Virtual Rally in Tally" this coming:

  • Tuesday,
    April 4,
    from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm.

The purpose of the Rally is to have members of our bargaining unit to send e-mails and make phone calls to our legislators in Tallahassee during a fairly concentrated and therefore noticeable period of time, encouraging them to support our chapter's one-sentence legislative initiative:

"Please appropriate sufficient funds to include higher education faculty, graduate assistants, and professional employees in the legislative pay increase for state employees and to provide for the full funding of higher education enrollment increases."

Our chapter has entered into an agreement with the USF administration to try to work together to achieve positive ends to our mutual benefit instead of constantly being involved in adversarial activities. The goals included in our legislative program are such positive ends and it is our understanding that the administration is also working appropriately to try to convince the legislature to do these things. However, this specific activity is not a joint undertaking and the university as such is not involved in it.

To keep everything strictly legal and above the board, no public funds have been used in the creation and distribution of this message. The mailing list is the property of the union as a separate legal entity, provided to us under the terms of the collective bargaining statute to permit us to communicate with the people whom we represent on matters affecting the terms and conditions of their employment. The fact that some of you are receiving the message on university-owned computers is permissible, just as you are permitted to receive letters from political movements in your university mailbox. However, you are NOT permitted to originate political messages using government or university resources. Therefore we ask that you use your lunch hour or personal time to send e-mails and make phone calls from non-publicly-owned instruments urging support of this initiative. If you cannot arrange to do this during the time window of the virtual rally, it is just as useful to do so from home either before or after the scheduled peak of activity.

Politically sophisticated individuals will realize that it is always better to make a personal appointment in the district office or to write a thoughtful, hand-written, first class letter than it is to participate in a group exercise, BUT

  1. it is better to do this than to do nothing but bitch, and
  2. a successful group enterprise shows that the organization is serious about the legislation and has support from its own constituency which may be translated into future political action.

Our union lobbyists tell me that the currently circulating appropriation bills do not include these provisions and that now is the time to urge that they be a part of the changes that will yet be made. To some extent we are pawns in the power struggle for control of the university system, with the governor, the legislature, the Board of Governors, and the Boards of Trustees all jockeying over the question of who decides how much we should be paid and how it will be funded. Thus, the BOG requested only 1% for next year's salaries, on the assumption that the legislature would include us in administered funds as they did last year. The governor did the same. Then the legislature left us out -- who knows why? Likewise, the cynics amongst us say that even if the union lobbies for full funding of enrollment growth, that doesn't guarantee we will get anything out of it. I agree. But game theory suggests that it is always wise to try a cooperative strategy when it is possible to do so. Furthermore, we can be quite certain that we will get nothing out of it if enrollment grows without proper funding.

A list of the legislative contact information is available at our on-campus website: we have posted a letter from UFF (state-wide) President Tom Auxter describing the situation, giving talking points, and email addresses of legislators, as well as links to the Florida House and Senate.

Please do this small thing. Overall funding is one of the many aspects of our professional situation that none of us can control individually but we all can affect through collective action. It would be irrational not to do so.

In solidarity,

Roy Weatherford
Chapter President

April 6, 2006

The Carnival at Millersville

Pennsylvania State Representative Gib Armstrong, R-Lancaster, On the Job, Working for You, has been leading a traveling show investigating academic (i.e., liberal) bias in Pennsylvania's public universities. It was about time he picked on a university close to home, and during March 22 and 23, the committee set up its tents at Millersville University.

The university had seen the show coming. In the campus newspaper, The Snapper, columnist Barb Stengel wrote in February 23, "Instructors ... take up residence between a rock and a hard place. Our task is to get students to think for themselves without falling into the trap of believing that whatever they think has value just because they think it. In practice that means interrogating any position a student takes up without denigrating it." On March 2, Brock Lawley retorted, "It is undeniable that conservatives have a tough time winning jobs and earning promotions at colleges and universities. Fist-pumping feminists and tenured radicals have tightened their stranglehold, especially in the humanities. With few exceptions to the iron rule of left-wing exclusivity, academia remains an impenetrable wall of liberalism."

The hearings did not turn up much, according to the March 30 Snapper report Your Freedom in Question. MU president President Francine McNairy told the committee that "Over the past five years, only seven complaints were purported to relate to academic freedom." And Bloomsburg University Professor Kurt Smith was more combative: "Are these hearings really about discovering the truth, about an honest investigation into substantiated complaints against state colleges and universities, or are they simply part of a political attempt to push a neoconservative agenda at taxpayers' expense?" Armstrong responded, "I have to take umbrage with your ad hominem attack," to which Smith replied, "I calls 'em as I sees 'em," (as reported in the March 24 Chronicle of Higher Education).

Afterwards, Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties president Patricia Heilman told The Snapper, "The hearings last week discovered nothing ... We have serious problems in higher education, like funding, that is what a select committee ought to be looking at." But Armstrong was unrepentent: "At Temple University, for example, entire departments advocate rather than educate ... These professors live a very privileged life, you would think that such a pampered class would have no problem meeting professional standards."

One interesting reaction was from MU history professor Ronald Frankum, an expert in military history and advisor for the MU College Republicans. He told The Snapper that academic bias legislation "leads us down a dangerous road ... It buys into this notion that someone's poor grades are everyone else's fault but their own."

Apparently there will be another performance in Harrisburg next month.

But is There Grading Bias?

So is there grading bias? Following the example of medicine -- which entered the modern era by following statistics rather than anecdotes -- the question is whether "conservative" students are punished for their conservative views. On March 30, Inside Higher Ed editor Scott Jaschik reporting on a recent paper by Markus Kemmelmeier, Cherry Danielson and & Jay Basten, wrote that "... the research suggests that there is no widespread relationship between students’ political views and their grades. But there is one exception: In some disciplines favored by conservative students, liberal students seem to receive lower grades." (see Grading Edge for Conservative Students. But a careful look at the paper itself -- available on-line via the USF library, "What's in a Grade? Academic Success and Political Orientation" in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, vol. 31, pp. 1386-1399 -- suggests that that the picture is murkier.

First of all, it is not clear what a "liberal" or "conservative" student is. There are traditional principles and political theories of "liberalism" and "conservatism" (e.g., the liberal commitment to the improvement of the human condition versus the conservative commitment to the endurance of established institutions), but for various reasons it would not be useful to query students about their adherence to such abstract positions. Instead, like the media, social scientists present students with a laundry list of the current political obsessions and register their responses against what are the officially "liberal" or "conservative" positions as measured by organizing principles, rubrics, current fashion, etc.

Kemmelmeier et al wisely find a parallel and more readily intelligible spectrum and use it instead. The two ends of their spectrum are:

  • HE: Hierarchy Enhancing: these are social and political positions that tend to reinforce the entrenchment of the current hierarchic structure of society.
  • HA: Hierarchy Attenuating: these are social and political positions that tend to minimize the value of the current hierarchical arrangement.
In fact, the situation is more complicated. "(HE) beliefs are ideas and attitudes that provide [a] ... justification for unequal relationships ... Prime examples include racism, sexism, classism, elitism, and conservatism," while HA beliefs are the reverse. From that, previous work suggests "HE beliefs tend to be associated with supporting policies that maintain group hierarchy" and tend to be held by "groups in the dominant positions," while HA beliefs tend to be held by people in more subordinate positions and those who support "reducing social inequality." Despite the perhaps inappropriate use of the word "conservatism," this is a different and more narrowly defined spectrum.

A second problem should be mentioned here: a statistical analysis of this sort is a very tricky business. Statistics isn't really an art, but it is necessary to treat it as one because of the vast complexity of the beast. There are always difficulties, from sampling problems to the use of inappropriate formulas. At the end, all one can say is that "there is statistical evidence of ...," which is still (usually) a lot better than either the anecdotes or arm-chair theorizing popular among political pundits.

Kemmelmeier et al are testing a thesis, which runs like this. A university is part of the power arrangement of a society, and some components -- like business schools -- are more closely associated with the powerful, and thus have a vested interest in current social and political arrangements. Others -- like labor institutes -- are not, and thus will be more sympathetic to marginalized groups. This suggests:

  • Students self-select to go into HE or HA programs of study, and they make the choices based on their own inclinations.
  • Students who go into HE programs tend to do better if their own views are HE.
In the study they conducted, they found evidence for both hypotheses. Interestingly enough, they did NOT find that students who went into HA programs tended to do better if their own views were HA; but before HA professors break out the champaign,
  • Kemmelmeier et al found evidence that in general HA courses were less rigorous than HE courses.
  • A previous study had found that students in HA programs did better if their own views were HA; Kemmelmeier et al contend that that study had methodological problems.
Kemmelmeier et al noted another previous study "... documented that middle school teachers tended to assign higher grades to students whom they perceived to have good classroom behavior and good study habits ... even after [controlling for] ... levels of coursework mastery." However, Kemmelmeier et al says that the prospect of HE instructors deliberately discriminating against HA students in large classes is logistically implausible; then they found that treatment of HA students in HE classes was roughly the same in large and small classes, suggesting that little if any deliberate discrimination was taking place.

The gist of this article is typical of sociologists: taking a program of study is part of a socialization process into a subculture, and how well one adapts depends on how well one was prepared (pre-adapted) to that subculture. And part of that pre-adaptation consists of having attitudes shared in that subculture. Kemmelmeier et al contends that this phenomenon is peculiar to HE programs, but recalling the previous study Kemmelmeier et al disagreed with -- and the various means that marginalized groups have used to build solidarity -- it is not entirely clear how much the authors' more benign view of HA programs is justified.

Several reflections seem to be in order, on top of the already oft-repeated one that there are very few formal complaints about specific instances of academic bias against students (which is what one would expect if the situation was dominated by student self-selection).

1. Whatever problems there are, this study suggests that they are more severe in HE programs. But the current "Academic Bias" movement is targeting HA programs, and is likely to continue doing so. After all, HE programs are more closely allied with the Powers That Be, and it is the Powers That Be that are cheerleading what is, after all, an attack on their critics in academia. From the sociological point of view, if students self-select what programs to go into, what the "Academic Bias" movement is proposing is that the government regulate the recruitment processes of those academic subcultures with which it has ideological disagreements.

2. Kemmelmeier et al, like their friends and enemies, are social scientists and are writing about their colleagues (interpreted broadly). The division between HE and HA makes sense to them because they are concerned about power. But the fact that we see the same phenomenon in natural science suggests that there is more to it than that. Consider "uniformitarianism," the principle that large systems (biological species, the earth, the universe) change relatively continuously, without jumps. This became practically dogma during the Nineteenth century, and provided much of the resistance to theories about the asteroidal extinction of the dinosaurs, post-Ice Age megafloods, and the Big Bang. Certainly, students going into biology, geology, and astronomy a hundred years ago would have to accept uniformitarian views in order to get plum academic appointments. But uniformitarianism as a doctrine has nothing to do with the power structure, and everything to do with a scientific world view which, at one time, proved very useful, but later proved to have limitations.

Kemmelmeier et al is an academic paper and thus does not end with a call for action -- or inaction. For us, it suggests two things.

For ourselves, it is a reminder of two lines by Alexander Pope:
spacer Trust not your self; but your Defects to know,
spacer Make use of ev'ry Friend--and ev'ry Foe.
Pay attention, or Hollywood may some day make a film of YOU refusing to take seriously the bizarre ideas of an inspired student.

Second, the State is too dangerous a force to be invited into an academic dispute. Once invited in, there are no possible limits to its interference: let the wolf in the door, and it will eventually be dictating everyone's syllabi.

April 20, 2006

UFF Senate Report, Part I

Twice a year -- at least, when there are no hurricanes in the vicinity -- the Senate of the United Faculty of Florida meets in central Florida to review the past and to plan for the future. The Senate met in Orlando over the April 8, 9 weekend and like the meeting last fall, began with a speech by a visitor.

Joanne McCall is the Vice President of the Florida Education Association, the overarching union representing teachers throughout the state. She visited us as part of her campaign for re-election, for the officers of the FEA are elected by the delegates at the FEA Assembly (held annually, this year in October). She is running as part of a team, along with President Andy Ford and Secretary/ Treasurer Clara Cook.

A brief bit of reality. While a lot of the union's routine work is done at the local level, a union local needs the affiliates (the unions with with the union local is affiliated) not only for regular services, but also to survive political and other hurricanes. For example, when the UFF was targeted by Governor Bush, the affiliates (including the FEA) stepped in and paid for legal counsel, staff support, and organizing a certification campaign. UFF received about a million and a half dollars during those four years, an amount which would have bankrupted UFF. In addition, the affiliates deal with the environment that the locals live in: dealing with county, state, and federal legislators and executives. For example, union locals rely on laws requiring employers to bargain and adhere to contracts. So it matters who is running the show.

A brief bit of politics. The Florida Education Association is a representative democracy. It is composed of various "locals" (of which the United Faculty of Florida is one) which elect delegates for the annual assembly. You may recall the Chapter's elections completed last month: among other officials, union members elected the six delegates who represent USF at the annual Assembly. The Assembly is the primary policy-making body of the FEA, and it elects the officers of the FEA.

A brief bit of history. As it became clear that Governor Bush's reign posed a serious threat to the continued existence of teachers' unions and teachers' rights in Florida, the state affiliates of the two primary teachers' unions -- the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association -- merged to form a single organization, the Florida Education Association, which is affiliated with both unions. The first president of this joint affiliate was Maureen Dinnen, a United Faculty of Florida member (!) who presided over the first few years of FEA's reorganization (and merging two organizations with different histories and points of view was a major operation). By all accounts, she did a masterful job, but there was still a lot of work to do after she retired in 2003, and thus there was a six-year transition period planned.

In 2003, Dinnen's Vice President, Andy Ford, was elected, along with McCall and Cook. Thus Ford served during the first half of the transition period, and is running for the second half. Although they are technically running as individuals, they are campaigning as a team. Thus McCall was speaking on behalf of the team when she reported that during the last three years, membership has risen over ten percent, that the union is in the black, that they were building bridges to legislators, and they would appreciate the Senate's support for another term -- which they got, although that support is legally an expression of sentiment: the decision will be made by the delegates in fall.

So that's civics in the FEA. Man, said Aristotle, is a political animal, and democracy -- campaign buttons and all -- is the best form of politics we've found yet. But notice that FEA's is a democracy of membership and participation: it is the union members who vote for senators and delegates, and it is those members who are willing to volunteer their time and energy to serve as senators and representatives who serve and vote as chapter representatives at these meetings.

After the presentation, the Senate turned to its agenda, and that's where we will pick up in the next issue of the Biweekly.

The Impresario in Washington

On September 19, 2005, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced the formation of a Commission on the Future of Higher Education. Stating that "It is time to examine how we can get the most out of our national investment in higher education. We have a responsibility to make sure our higher education system continues to meet our nation's needs for an educated and competitive workforce in the 21st century," she created a committee consisting of six businesspeople, eight administrators (including a former politician), and three academics. It is being chaired by former University of Texas System Board of Regents chair Charles Miller, who is described as a "private investor," and who in fact has an employment history of running investment firms and more recently as an advocate of charter schools and standardized testing. Oh, yes, he's a big GOP contributor.

The Commission has since been generating, commissioning, and collecting reports. After some rumors about them started floating about, the reports were posted on-line. Two of them have attracted some sharp attention.

"Accountability/Assessment" by Miller and a Geri Malandra (Associate Vice Chancellor for Institutional Planning and Accountability in the University of Texas system), proposed something sounding like standardized testing for college graduates (see the report). This should not have been a surprise, since current MBA doctrine calls for quality-control-by- quantitative-measurement, and a lot of test-making companies give big contributions to the GOP. Nevertheless, there was a squawk, and Commission sources told the Chronicle of Higher Education (April 14: Federal Panel Releases Papers on Its Key Ideas) that the reports were merely for discussion purposes.

The other report that caused a stir was "The Need for Accreditation Reform" by Robert Dickeson, a high-powered education consultant. Dickeson bemoaned America's patchwork of accreditation agencies and proposed scrapping the lot and starting over with a single national agency. Dickeson claimed that the accrediting agencies were not effective in combatting what he represented as a decline in the quality of American higher education, and said that a national system would be. See the report.

Yes, that's what he SAID, but a glance at Capitol Hill may suggest a quite different story. The House recently voted to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, but only after a big fight over accreditation. It seems that those mean public and private non-profit institutions have been refusing to accept for transfer credit courses that students took at what we would call unaccredited for-profit institutions. Actually, they are merely not accredited by the bemoaned patchwork of agencies like our own Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). They still do have credentials from more specialized accreditors like the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools. Anyway, these Congresspeople, wholly uninfluenced by campaign contributions from said for-profit operations, attempted and failed to have the reauthorization require institutions like USF accept transfer credit from institutions that, ahem, lack the credentials.

Meanwhile, all this standardized testing raises the usual high-tech concern: how does teaching to standardized tests develop the higher-level organizational skills advanced companies need? Who is being served: the technology or the testing companies?

And there's the magnate's problem, as presented by Herr Mozart. Some of the Commission's playmates are calling for an educated work force with which we can more effectively enter the Twenty-first century. Others are calling for more opportunity to make money, whatever the costs to individuals and to the nation's workforce. Impresario Miller is expected to finesse the abyss.

Meanwhile, not a peep about Thomas Jefferson's call for an educated citizenry...

May 4, 2006

Pay Raises 2005

At the end of January, the USF Chapter sent out a Biweekly Extra, announcing that the Chief Negotiators for the union and the administration had Tentatively Agreed to new language on articles of the contract that had been "reopened" for bargaining. One article that is always reopened is the article on salary. As reported then, we got raises in several components:

  • First, there was the 3.6 % raise that all employees with sufficiently satisfactory ratings received by legislative mandate; this mandate was passed after a lot of union lobbying.
  • Next, each sufficiently satisfactory member of the bargaining unit got a 0.9 % raise.
  • Then an amount of money equivalent to a 0.2 % raise was assigned to correct for compression and inversion.
  • Finally, an amount of money equivalent to at least a 0.3 % raise (but no more than 1.3 %) is to be allocated at the discretion of the administration.
Well, the new language was ratified a while ago, but only the legislative mandate has appeared in our paychecks. The other three components, which we won at the bargaining table, were going through the red tape.

We have been informed that the paperwork has been processed, and during the next few weeks the raises are coming out. This means two things. First, hopefully as of the next pay check issued May 12, the amount should reflect the new pay level. (You may want to check the arithmetic used in computing the compression / inversion and discretionary parts.) Second, as the raises are retroactive to last August, during the following week or so checks should go out with the retroactive money.

That will presumably bring us up to date. But not quite. After all, we are supposed to bargain reopened articles annually, and complete bargaining in time for raises to be applied this coming August. We are waiting for the administration to organize its team for the next round...

UFF Senate Report, Part II

Twice a year the Senate of the United Faculty of Florida meets in central Florida to review the past and to plan for the future. The Senate met in Orlando over the April 8, 9 weekend. Like the meeting last fall, it began with a speech by a visitor, this time Florida Education Association (FEA) Vice President Joanne McCall, whose presentation is described in the first report. Then the senate started on its agenda.

As usual, we began with UFF President Tom Auxter's report to the Senate. Auxter, who is a philosophy professor at UF-Gainesville, said that he had gone to a conference in New York on union organizing. There he had described FEA's confrontation with Jeb Bush, and how UFF had not only survived but grown during Bush's attempts to get rid of the union. The point Auxter made was that while the law was on the union's side, the lawyers figured that it would take five or more years to win the case, and by then the union could be eviscerated. So the union took a more political approach by launching certification campaigns of the sort unions launch when they want to START a union local. UFF was so successful that in Florida Trend's article on Bush's legacy, the reporter segued from Bush's success in, um, "reforming" K-12 education to Bush's own description of what happened in higher education: it "is one place where I would say that I’ve not been successful."

Meanwhile, the union is working on government relations, particularly with the legislature. Bush's proposed budget didn't allocate funds for enrollment growth, new facilities, and ... raises. The April 4 Rally in Tally, during which UFF members and friends contacted their legislators to tell them to support the university, was noticed by legislators whose phones "rang off the hook," according to the FIU lobbyist. The budget is not complete, but it looks like we will get a legislatively mandated raise if the current language holds.

Finally, Auxter reported that we will be continuing, and in fact expanding, our recruitment of new members, for union membership translates into clout at the bargaining table and in Tallahassee.

Free Speech on the Job

There is a Dilbert cartoon in which Asok the Intern says that the great thing about living in a free country is that he can express his opinions, to which his pointy-haired boss retorts, "I'd fire you." Always optimistic, Asok qualifies, "I mean off the job," to which the pointy-haired boss says, "I'd fire you for that, too." Since this is the daily reality most of our fellow citizens live with, it's not surprising that so many of them regard "academic freedom" as some kind of elitist boondoggle.

What many academics don't realize is that "academic freedom" has few friends in the law as well. This may seem surprising, for the notion of academic independence is historically and logically linked to the notion of judicial independence. But judges seem to regard themselves as somehow floating above the tides and storms of history. That's why faculty unions like UFF have taken the precaution of writing academic freedom into their contracts, for judges are more respectful of contractual law.

The prudence of this precaution is highlighted by a case described by UFF President Tom Auxter. Technically a whistleblowing case, it actually deals with the question of whether a government or public employee may be disciplined for statements or expressions that his public or professional duty (officially!) requires him to make. If a supervisor can override professional or legal disclosure requirements, then perhaps an employer can prevent expressions of expert opinion. It's not hard to see where this leads, as far as academic freedom is concerned.

It started six years ago, when Richard Ceballos, a prosecutor in the Los Angeles county District Attorney's office, concluded that an affidavit for a certain search warrant was based on false and possibly falsified information. (This, alas, is not a rare phenomenon in Los Angeles county.) Ceballos tried working through channels, only to have the sheriff try to remove him from the case. When Ceballos was subpoenaed by the defense, he persuaded his supervisor that he was obligated to turn over memos that he had written on the problems with the affidavit.

After that, Ceballos suffered the usual problems of an unwanted employee. He was demoted, transferred, etc., and so he sued District Attorney Gil Garcetti.

Public Citizen took up the case, and one of their lawyers is now representing Ceballos before the U.S. Supreme Court. Public Citizen, whose press release is on-line at , claims that the relevant precedent is Pickering v. Board of Education 391 U.S. 563 (1968), a case in which a teacher was fired for writing a letter to a newspaper criticizing the Board for their distribution of funds between academics and athletics. (The teacher evidently got his facts wrong and the Board was enraged, claiming that the letter was "detrimental to the efficient operation and administration of the schools of the district.") Writing for the majority, Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote, "Teachers are, as a class, the members of a community most likely to have informed and definite opinions as to how funds allotted to the operation of the schools should be spent. Accordingly, it is essential that they be able to speak out freely on such questions without fear of retaliatory dismissal." Marshall pointedly suggested that the Board should simply have rebutted Pickering's arguments. See Findlaw's page on the case.

During the oral arguments on Garcetti v. Ceballos last October, justices who shared Justice Kennedy's view that Freedom of Expression "isn't about policing the workplace," were confronted with reminders about the recurring scandals in Los Angeles police departments -- and closer to home, in FEMA: "Whistle-blower-type speech is of paramount importance ... because it goes to the very heart of government accountability." When Chief Justice John Roberts asked Garcetti's attorney whether a professor at a public university could be fired for a lecture the administration didn't like, the she replied that the lecture "should not be entitled presumptively to First Amendment protection." When Roberts asked her to explain, she suggested that the professor could contest the dismissal, to which Roberts replied, "I would have thought you might have argued that because the speech was paid for by the government, it was government speech and the First Amendment did not apply at all."

Um, perhaps it's a good thing that at USF, our academic freedom is protected by the contract. Meanwhile, we can ponder Public Citizen's question: "Does a prosecutor who speaks on a matter of public concern by reporting suspected police misconduct to his superiors lose his First Amendment protection against retaliation by his employer solely because he communicated his message while performing his job?" A pressing question indeed in an era of much official corruption and misconduct.

The decision is expected by July.