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
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
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
http://www.feaweb.org. 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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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...
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
And Harvard, Yale, Princeton, ... and the
University of South Florida.
This list is hard to find. Go to
"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
"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
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."
AFT statement is on-line,
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
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:
The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida
would like to invite you to participate in a "Virtual
Rally in Tally" this coming:
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
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
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
- it is better to do this than to do nothing but
- 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
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
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.
The Carnival at Millersville
Pennsylvania State Representative Gib Armstrong,
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
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
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
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
Kemmelmeier et al wisely find a parallel and
more readily intelligible spectrum and use it
instead. The two ends of their spectrum are:
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.
- 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
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
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.
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,
- 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.
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.
- 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
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
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
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:
Trust not your self; but your Defects to know,
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.
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
The Commission has since been generating,
commissioning, and collecting reports. After some
rumors about them started floating about, the
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
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
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
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
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...
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
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
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
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
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.