One of the complaints about the budget cutting process was that cuts were not being guided by any strategic plan. The last plan had run out in 2018, and while there had been work on a plan for 2019 - 2024, much of USF's planning resources were consumed by consolidation. But now, strategic planning has started, and in theory, USF will have a strategic plan by about the time that the budget cuts are finalized. So this may be an unusually high stakes enterprise, and we should all pay close attention.
Meanwhile, while the Legislature doesn't convene until March 2, politicking began last fall and is now well underway. The budget is a big unknown - a lot depends on what Congress passes for COVID relief (in particular, whether there will be any money for the states) - and what the Legislature does in response. Meanwhile, many legislators regard the election as a mandate to do whatever they want to do, so all sorts of bills are in the hopper.
Meanwhile, 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. By now, all UFF members should have received by mail a post card calling for nominations; all nominations must be received by tomorrow. We encourage all UFF members to participate in the state wide election.
Finally, the USF Faculty Senate will be holding its elections - department by department - and we encourage all faculty to participate.
The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida will meet tomorrow Friday at 12 noon on Zoom. On the agenda: the chapter election, the latest on budget cuts, the latest on teaching online, the use of Academic Analytics, 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.
Like many universities, every few years or so, USF comes up with a new five year plan. This plan sets goals and consequently organizes priorities and ultimately guides decision-making. That makes planning a high-stakes operation, especially during a crisis, when the university must decide where to focus its efforts and attention.
USF's last plan ran out in 2018, which readers may recall is the year when the Legislature passed its last major union-busting bill, USF adjuncts voted in favor of union representation, the Legislature forced USF into consolidation (and USF responded by setting up a task force), USF celebrated getting a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, and President Judy Genshaft announced her retirement. Perhaps it is not surprising that a successor plan did not materialize (although one had been in the works).
The plans have evolved over the years. The 1985 - 1990 plan was 48 pages (with 38 photos), the 1992 Planning Commission Report ("Shaping Our Future) was 37 pages (with eight photos), the 2000 Strategic Plan was 24 pages (and twenty photos), the Strategic Plan 2007 - 2012 ("Transforming Higher Education for Global Innovation") was also 24 pages (with 28 photos, some of them quite large), and the 2012 Performance Update : Advancing USF's Strategic Plan was 168 pages and full of metrics and specifics (but only nine photos), and was largely devoted to assessing where USF was with respect to membership in the American Association of Universities (AAU): the string "AAU" appears 1,362 times in the document, or just over eight times a page. Finally, the 2013 - 2018 Strategic Plan ("A Global University Dedicated to Student Success") was 13 pages long (with 28 photos) and mentions the AAU five times.
Strategic planning and strategic renewal are concerned with very similar issues and express similar metric-driven goals (according to the Strategic Renewal Framework Network, USF's two goals are to become one of the top 25 public research universities and to achieve eligibility for membership in the AAU).
Umm, becoming one of the top 25 (according to your favorite ranking agency) or achieving eligibility in American Academia's most exclusive club are benchmarks. Goals are things like: anchoring the I-4 high technology corridor by graduating the young people that forward-looking firms want to hire, supporting and maintaining connections with academic institutions worldwide to develop solutions to global problems, acting not only as a resource but as a proactive participant in building the social networks that are the grassroots of democracy in the Tampa Bay area, and so on. Of course, we should develop benchmarks for measuring progress towards whatever goals USF aspires to achieve, but just taking a pair of vanilla-flavored goals - which is what many lesser institutions are doing, too - is not setting us on the path to reach our full potential.
Strange as it may sound, but we are hearing reports that the recent election has left legislators feeling ... invigorated. The Tampa Bay Times reported that the Legislature is working on bills that have nothing to do with fighting the pandemic or helping with the economy. The Times quoted Senator Janet Cruz of Hillsborough grumping that these were "statement bills" to use in "sound bites" for the 2022 election: "This is flexing of muscles because they are feeling empowered...We are in the midst of a pandemic and a tough time, and we are running these statement bills." For example:
Our state affiliate, the Florida Education Association (FEA), representing K-20 teachers statewide, is educating legislators about the consequences of passing these bills. But the FEA is focusing on education funding: "Our top state legislative priority, as always, is funding. We hope to preserve the 2020 budget that they passed last year, and which funds the state through the end of June 2021." The FEA is also working to address COVID-19 issues in schools, as well as the usual wage and job security issues. (For example, House Bill 553 / Senate Bill 176 would waive fees for graduate assistants, a major issue as fees have risen substantially over the last few years.)
Feel free to tell your representative how you feel about any of these bills: you can find your House representative or senator and mail, phone, or send an email. But you may not use a university machine, you must use your own phone or computer. We also recommend that you deliver a short, polite message that says just one thing.
Remember, if your representatives don't hear from you, they may feel that whatever they are up to is just fine with the folks back home.
Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, February 11, 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.
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