Anxiety, says Merriem-Webster, is an "apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness usually over an impending or anticipated ill" or "an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked ... by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one's capacity to cope with it." With a pandemic of a virus more than ten times as lethal as the flu, leading to social distancing (which is hard on social primates like us), including taking courses online in the middle of a semester (and meanwhile, the economy is taking a hit), this is an anxious moment. C. S. Lewis once observed - in the midst of World War II - that anxiety itself was an additional burden when dealing with an anxiety-inducing situation. A recent study suggests that physicial exercise is useful in reducing anxiety. And as noted in the previous issue, some people turn to humor.
The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida will meet tomorrow Friday at noon on Zoom. On the agenda: teaching online and other coronavirus issues (including how to count ballots in the UFF USF Chapter election - whose deadline for ballots is tomorrow - while letting UFF members Zoom in), consolidation, and other pending concerns.
This is our first meeting on Zoom. We will meet on March 27, and April 10 & 24. Any employee in the Bargaining Unit may attend: contact the Chapter Secretary for the Zoom link. Meetings and events are posted on the Events Calendar of the UFF USF Website. Come and check us out.
The USF Chapter of the UFF will award six $ 500 Travel Scholarships for next spring and summer. This will be for travel for participation in a professional activity. All applications are due by April 22, and only UFF members are eligible. In addition, no recipient of the Fall or Spring cycles of travel grants is eligible to apply. The six recipients shall be selected by lot at the April 24 chapter meeting. For more information, see the Travel Scholarship Flyer.
This initiative is part of our membership campaign. If you would like to become active in the UFF USF Membership Drive, contact the Membership Chair, Debra Sinclair (click here).
In order to be a member of UFF, one has to join. To join, download, fill in, and mail the membership form. Benefits of membership include the right to run and vote in UFF chapter and statewide elections; representation in grievances (UFF cannot represent a non-member in a grievance or litigation); special deals in insurance, travel, legal advice, and other packages provided by our affiliates; free insurance coverage for job-related liability; and the knowledge you are supporting education in Florida. Come and join the movement.
If you have been the victim of a violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, you have thirty days from the time you knew or should have known of the violation to file a grievance. If you are, and at the time of the violation were, a dues-paying member of the United Faculty of Florida, you have the right to union representation. To contact the UFF USF Grievance Committee, go to the online contact form. For more information, see our web-page on grievances.
Yes, we are on social media.
This week, thousands of USF faculty are teaching tens of thousands of USF students on a medium that neither anticipated. Faculty are at home, with a home computer (which may or may not have been upgraded in the last five years), while students are dealing with upended room and board and possibly health issues, and may or may not have the computer equipment that some official website somewhere says that they are supposed to have. In fact, many students are back home, some lacking the high speed internet connections of the sort required by some of our online tools, and many have no connections outside of cell phones.
We are getting a vast amount of contradictory advice. On the one hand, USF (like many universities) has a vast array of tools (see the toolkit), and that is only a small fraction of the systems faculty have used for online education: off-campus, there are also conferencing programs like Skype and Zoom, gaming programs like Discord, and video platforms like Twitch and You-Tube.
On the other hand, we are strongly advised to keep it simple; tell your students you care. While some students have mastered the latest technology, others stuck to exchanging images and videos on phones and are a bit overwhelmed. And students are facing more upheavals than faculty and are very likely distracted. But we are distracted as well, and Rebecca Barrett-Fox has posted a reality check (which has gone viral) about how much can be accomplished in half a course after suddenly being pushed online - and the necessity of thinking now about what one wants to accomplish in that time.
"A fox knows many things," wrote the Greek poet Archilochus, "but a hedgehog knows one important thing." A fox will look at all the toys offered by IT and want to investigate them all. A hedgehog will want to choose one that works and stick to it. But if one is not used to online teaching, one may want to remember Aesop's warning that using a lot of tricks requires a lot of advance planning.
Meanwhile, some students are organizing aid networks, a reminder that this technology can also be used for things beside online learning. For example, for some people, the social distancing required to slow the spread of the virus also leads to social isolation. Writing for The Conversation, a platform launched by several universities (including USF), two psychologists recommend reaching out to family and friends, commenting (in reaching out to lonely people) that a videochat is better than an audio call, but an audio call is better than a text.
Alas, some recent efforts are less helpful.
Like many students, many faculty like to have many resources handy. The Director of Faculty Development and Technology Innovation at DePaul University has a Google Docs page with links to resource sites for several hundred universities (including USF), and The Chronicle has posted a free article collection, Moving Online Now: How to keep teaching during coronavirus. And on Friday, the Chapter will consider steps the union can take.
Meanwhile, back in Tallahassee...
Many, if not most, USF students have been sent away, and that means that the university will not be providing them with room and board. Like many institutions across the country, USF may wind up issuing refunds. And this is only a cost we can anticipate: a pandemic may be expensive in unanticipated ways. One thing is certain: coronavirus is going to cost the university money, and not just this semester: summer enrollment and, more to the point, fall enrollment will be affected - in what way remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, in a seizure of fiscal responsibility, the Legislature decided to fill the hole in the Florida Retirement System that they and Governor Scott opened over the past decade; of course, this will cost money (over $ 400 million according to the Florida Senate summary), and the public agencies (in our case, USF) gets to pay for the Legislature's past irresponsibility. And by the way, the Legislature expects USF to absorb the costs of consolidation.
There still are performance, pre-eminence, and other games to be played, but at the moment it looks as if the USF System gets cut $ 3 million, or over 0.7 %, of its half billion "Education and General" funds. The three other institutions in the State University System experiencing cuts (at this point) were the Florida Polytechnic University, New College, University of West Florida; all the other institutions get increases. Exactly why we four institutions got cut is unclear.
So unless someone relents, the next academic year is going to be tight. And according to Moody's Investors' Service, a lot of institutions are in the same boat - or worse off (and many cases, much worse off).
William Haley is a professor in the School of Aging Studies. He received a $ 500 travel scholarship to attend the American Psychological Association Convention last year in Chicago, where he chaired a symposium on Taking Care of our Own: Diversity in Caregiving Across the Lifespan and presented a paper. This is his account.
I used my $500 UFF Travel Scholarship to support my travel to the American Psychological Association conference in Chicago during August 2019. I chaired a symposium, Taking Care of our Own: Diversity in Caregiving Across the Lifespan and presented a paper on Diversity in Transitions to Caregiving in Older Adults. This research is funded by the National Institute on Aging, and the paper reported on changes in well-being in 251 older adults from a large population-based study who transitioned into the role of caregiving for an impaired adult over a 10-year period, compared with 251 matched noncaregiving controls. As expected, we found that becoming a caregiver led to substantial worsening on measures of perceived stress, depression, and quality of life. However contrary to much of the literature, we found that the effects of this transition did not differ by gender, race/ethnicity, or whether the care was for a spouse or partner, adult parent, or other relationship. Our project is also studying the effects of transitioning to caregiving on biomarkers of immunity and inflammation. Thanks to the UFF for its continued support of our faculty.
Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, March 26, at noon, via Zoom.the Chapter Secretary. Come and join the movement.
Membership: Everyone in the UFF USF System Bargaining unit is eligible for UFF membership: to join, simply fill out and send in the membership form.
About this broadcast: This Newsletter was broadcast from uff.ourusf.org, hosted at ICDsoft.com, and is intended for all members of the UFF USF Bargaining unit (USF faculty and professionals at most departments). A (usually identical) version will be broadcast to USF-News and USF-Talk from firstname.lastname@example.org.