America is in a dark winter, according to the epidemiologists, and there has been a lot of surreal behavior lately. And colleges and universities across the nation are wrestling with financial issues.
In addition, the statewide United Faculty of Florida, which represents faculty at all public universities in Florida as well many public colleges (and graduate assistants at four universities, including USF) is holding elections as well. Members will receive instructions by mail on how to nominate candidates and how to vote.
Yes, you have to be member to participate. To participate in the chapter election, either as a candidate or as a voter, you must be a UFF member by February 26, the deadline for receiving nominations. So join today!
The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida will meet tomorrow Friday at 12 noon on Zoom. On the agenda: the chapter election, USF' financial situation, the latest on the pandemic and teaching online, and more. And here are the minutes for the previous meeting.
Any employee in the Bargaining Unit may attend, but you must have an invitation: contact the Chapter Secretary to get one. We are meeting on alternate Fridays at noon over Zoom. Meetings and events are posted on the Events Calendar of the UFF USF Website. Come and check us out.
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. Here is the membership form. Come and join the movement.
If you have been the victim of a violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement or the recent Memorandum of Understanding, 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 Grievances Page.
Many of our students are struggling during this crisis, and the USF Foundation is supporting the USF Food Pantries to help out. They are accepting non-perishable donations, but one can also make monetary donations for the pantries at St. Petersburg, Sarasota / Manatee, and Tampa.
Yes, we are on social media.
Historians have described some surreal behavior in past pandemics, from flagellant movements to persecuting minorities accused of spreading the disease. Covid-19 is not comparable to the Plague, but we are seeing some strange behavior.
One thing we know for certain is that COVID-19 is indifferent to Tallahassee's political priorities, and there is no reason to believe that the virus will relent in order to suit the politicians. In fact, amidst politically motivated pandemic management, it took twelve weeks for the American death toll to rise from 200,000 to 300,000, and five to go from 300,000 to 400,000. This acceleration led Dr. Fauci to warn we face a "Dark Winter." A University of Washington model forecasted that if mask mandates were eased, the number dead could exceed 700,000 by April - about the number of American deaths during the entire 1918 pandemic.
Meanwhile, one study suggested that reopened colleges were superspreaders while cases in the vicinity of colleges that went remote declined. (The situation for K-12 schools is more complicated. A lot may depend on what is going on around the school, for it appears that when the positivity rate is low, face-to-face teaching can be done safely; of course, the positivity rate here is not low.)
Such realities led USF Professor Stephen Neely and Florida Cybersecurity Center staff director Ron Sanders to write that Depoliticizing COVID-19 may be Biden's most important task. And not just President Biden's.
As mentioned in the 13 January 2021 Extra and Tampa Bay Times, the USF Board of Trustees has approved a Strategic Budget Realignment Plan that entails $ 36.7 million in cuts - for now. The Administration has also appointed a Strategic Planning Advisory Task Force to help develop the plan.
Meanwhile, UFF has received a report on USF's financial position (see below).
During the fourteen-minute meeting, the only discussion came from Faculty Representative Tim Boaz, who sought confirmation that USF would follow the usual policy of revisiting the budget plan just before the end of the fiscal year (i.e. in June); President Steve Currall confirmed and added that USF should have a strategic plan in place by then.
So during this semester, this task force, the Administration, and stakeholders will be following the flowchart posted with the meeting agenda. The university community is invited to share their views and concerns with the task force via a survey and a comment form.
Although USF, like much of the country, has suffered financial losses because of the pandemic, when the USF Administration proposed a list of college-level cuts last fall, part of the rationale was that outside of the pandemic, USF's long-term financial position had been undermined by the Legislature's failure to provide USF the resources necessary for developing and maintaining its pre-eminent status - and by the Administration's attempts to deal with the problem by shifting money around.
The pandemic supplied urgency to the process - and it is interesting that the cuts were proposed in response to a state Board of Governors mandate to propose cuts in response to the pandemic. But cuts in programs and faculty as a response to the pandemic would be evocative of Dear Abby's description of suicide as a permanent solution to a temporary problem. (Of course, quite a few institutions have done just that - and down the road, they may well regret it.) But the USF Administration made it clear that this was a Strategic Realignment.
Part of the realignment was motivated by the pursuit of excellence, although (as previous issues of the Biweekly have observed) the Administration was perhaps over-reliant on the American Association of University's somewhat money-oriented notions of excellence.
But part of the realignment was motivated by a desire to solidify USF's financial position, which is why the United Faculty of Florida sought an outside expert in academic finances to look at USF's finances. UFF hired Social Science Research, Evaluation and Measurement (SSREM), which has conducted higher education financial audit analyses for more than a decade, examining the finances of colleges and universities coast to coast.
SSREM reports that as of a year ago, USF was in a sound financial position. Reviewing reports such as the most recent financial audit of USF by the Florida Auditor General (for the 2018 - 2019 fiscal year, reported in December 2019 and posted last year, which should at least give us an idea of USF's long-term position), SSREM concludes that, "The University’s statements of revenues, expenses and changes in net position demonstrate solid growth in total operating revenues" despite an increase in operating expenses, and that the increase in appropriations and return from investments "bode well for the future of the University." However, the pandemic has upended much. There was federal relief from the CARES Act, and SSREM wrote that "it is important to find out why the University" spent only three-fifths of those funds as of last November. For more, see the report.
Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, January 29, at 12 noon, via Zoom. All UFF USF members are welcome: for the Zoom link, contact the Chapter Secretary.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 email@example.com.