The United Faculty of Florida Senate met last weekend, and on the agenda was the decision by the State College of Florida Board of Trustees not to offer continuing contracts to new hires - all new hires will be offered annual contracts, annually subject to non-renewal. But first...
The United Faculty of Florida is a democracy, and that includes the chapters. Every year, the USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida members elect officers and representatives of the chapter. All UFF members - and only UFF members - may participate in the election.
The elected officers are the president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer (the appointed officers are the chief negotiator, the grievance chair, and the chairs of the other standing committees). Ballot packets shall soon be in the mail to UFF members, and ballots must be returned (and in our hands) by March 11 to be counted. The ballots will be counted at the March 12 UFF USF Chapter Meeting, to which all UFF members are invited.
The newly elected or re-elected officers and representatives will assume their positions on April 1.
The UFF Senate Meeting
The primary policy-making body of the (statewide) United Faculty of Florida is the Senate, which meets twice a year, usually in Tampa. The Senate meets to hear reports of what's going on and to make decisions about what to do about it. On the agenda at the Senate's meeting last weekend was job security, primarily because the recent decision of the State College of Florida (SCF) to stop offering continuing contracts to new hires looks a bit like a trial balloon.
Continuing contracts are a bit like tenure: after a probationary period and a vetting process, a faculty member is entitled to stay on the job subject to the conditions of Florida Statute 1012.33. SCF's website says that "Continuing Contract insures academic freedom of instructors to speak and write on matters directly related to their respective disciplines."
SCF's Board of Trustees disregarded warnings from SCF faculty and administrators and decided that SCF will no long offer new hires continuing contracts, effective this summer, and to offer only annual contracts, annually subject to non-renewal. Faculty and administrators warned that that would put SCF at a competitive disadvantage when seeking new faculty, and would eventually erode SCF's performance and reputation.
SCF faculty sought assistance from the United Faculty of Florida, which conducted a "card campaign": if employees in a company or institution want a union to bargain and enforce a contract, they may petition for an election. (If a sufficient number of employees sign in a card campaign, an election is held (in SCF's case, by the Florida Public Employees Relations Commission), and if a majority of the votes cast are in favor of union representation, the union becomes those employees' "Collective Bargaining Agent.")
Several SCF faculty attended the Senate meeting, and organizers reported that over 60 % of the SCF faculty signed cards, so an election should be held soon. If SCF faculty vote for UFF representation, UFF will be able to bargain (and enforce!) contracts determining terms and conditions of employment, and the SCF Board will no longer be able to act unilaterally.
UFF is concerned not only because of SCF, but because this may be a trial balloon. The Bradenton Herald reported that Board member Rick Hager - who had previously opposed the change - said that doing away with continuing contracts is "being pushed." And in response to warnings of SCF being at a disadvantage if it is the only Florida college without continuing contracts or tenure, Board member Craig Trigueiro said, "I've heard over and over we're going to damage the college if we're the only college...It can't be done legislatively this year, but perhaps it could be an agenda item for next year."
The legislature last tried doing something about tenure in 2011. Like 2011, 2017 is not an election year, and legislators may feel less inhibited next year.
The UFF Senate then unanimously resolved:
UFF has also set up an
- Whereas the State College of Florida (SCF) Board of Trustees (BoT) recently voted to end continuing contracts for new faculty members at the College's three campuses; and
- Whereas this decision reveals a profound lack of understanding of higher education and will substantially harm the State College of Florida, its students, and its dedicated faculty, and
- Whereas continuing contracts are necessary for recruiting and retaining high-quality faculty;
- Therefore be it resolved that the United Faculty of Florida strongly supports the SCF faculty, both in their vote of no confidence in their BoT and their efforts to repeal this ill-considered policy.
In addition to SCF, there were (occasionally entertaining) reports of bargaining at other institutions, various bits of union business, and the legislature: the proposal to permit guns on campus appears - but only appears - dead, and UFF is fighting for fee waivers for graduate assistants and to protect health and retirement benefits.