Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! The Parents and Teachers Assocation and one of our national affiliates, the National Education Association, are calling on Americans to #ThankATeacher.
Unfortunately, Tallahassee does not seem particularly grateful. On April 30, the handkerchief dropped on one of the harshest legislative sessions in living memory.
The USF Chapter of the Uniteed Faculty of Florida is offering two Tenure & Promotion Workshops on May 14. The workshop will cover guidelines and criteria for tenure and promotion, as well as compiling the tenure and/or promotion packet. The workshop is intended for UFF members (so join today!), but attendees may join at the meeting. For more information, contact the workshop organizer; more information will be supplied to registrants.
The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida will meet tomorrow Friday at 12 noon on Zoom. On the agenda: USF reopening, the Legislative report, the membership campaign, USF's financial situation, 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.
We have just received the following message from the American Federation of Teachers, one of our national affiliates.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that they are seeking information on how to improve their processes and address obstacles. This is an opportunity for us to have our voices heard and push for meaningful changes that can make the lives of international students and scholars easier—and it doesn’t require Congress to do anything! AFT has created a survey in which members can share information about their experiences applying for/receiving/renewing visas or other immigration benefits (such as DACA, TPS, green cards, citizenship etc.) which we will compile into an AFT organizational comment. The information can be shared in the survey anonymously. The deadline to fill it out is May 7, 2021 at 5pm EST. Thank you!
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.
Times Higher Education (a spin-off of The Times of London) has announced its Impact Ratings 2021, which ranked 1,117 universities in 94 countries on performance with respect to the United Nations' seventeen Sustainability Development Goals, and USF was # 30 world-wide (and # 3 in the United States).
And USF has just announced the promotion of three distinguished university professors, including UFF member William Haley of the School of Aging Studies. He studies the effects of illness and disability on older adults and their families. Among other numerous awards, he is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychological Society, and the Gerontological Society of America. We congratulate him on his award and look forward to his presentation this fall.
In the midst of a pandemic, a consequent economic crunch, and an inexorably changing climate, the Legislature spent this year on other priorities. Education and unions were not the only targets, but we were in the line of fire. We won some battles and lost others.
Here are some bills that failed.
The USF Forest Preserve is a square mile of relative wilderness that stretches along the northern side of Fletcher Avenue from The Claw golf course at 42nd Street to USF Riverfront Park along the Hillsborough River. In addition to being the home of gopher tortoises, sand hill oaks (much of the USF area was originally an oak forest), wood storks, prickly pears, indigo snakes, butterfly orchids, and fox squirrels, it is used for education (it is used by thirteen classes taught by seven departments) and research.
The USF Administration issued a Request for Information (RFI) from "firms and other entities that may be interested in submitting a technical and cost proposal to provide USF with options for a project with a potential long-term ground lease or other contractual arrangement to develop" what the RFI calls the "Northern Property" - which includes the golf course and the park. "This RFI is for informational purposes only. This RFI is not intended as a formal offering for a future negotiated transaction. However, USF may select one or more ideas or plans described in one or more of the responses submitted by entities to this RFI as an idea/plan/project best suited for further consideration. ... USF does not intend to award a contract as a result of this RFI."
The RFI does state that the Northern Property is used for teaching and research, that it is a designated wetland, and it lists four "threatened" species that live there. In addition, there is a link to the USF 2015 - 2025 Master Plan, whose Objective 4.2 (on page 4-6) says, "The USF Forest Preserve shall not be developed."
On April 6, the USF community and stakeholders around the Tampa Bay were surprised by an "exclusive" report by the Tampa Bay Business Journal that USF seeks developer ideas for 700+ acres including golf course. The Journal said that, "The potential development of that acreage could be a financially lucrative deal for the university..." and that "it's also the perfect time to gauge interest in a property like USF's. The real estate market in Tampa Bay, particularly residential real estate, has never been hotter..." The Journal quoted the USF Senior Vice President of Business and Financial Strategy saying, "If somebody comes in with an attractive offer or construct, we will listen to whatever people have to offer." However, a USF spokesperson assured Journal readers that even if the Northern Property was developed, "we might be able to maintain a portion of [the golf course] for the golf teams to continue practicing," or at least find a new location.
The community and stakeholders did not like the surprise. WMNF reported that Students push back against possible development of USF Forest Preserve (and indeed The USF Oracle ran an opinion piece arguing that USF Forest Preserve needs saving to avoid environmental and social harm while WUSF reported that USF Students Gather Thousands Of Signatures Against Preserve Development - and here is the link to the petition) while ABC News reported that USF scientists, community members fighting possible development of 'treasured' USF Forest Preserve and the Tampa Bay Times reported that USF students, faculty balk at idea to develop untouched land near campus. And the Tampa Bay Butterfly Foundation announced that "We join USF students, Florida Native Plant Society, Little Red Wagon Native Nursery, NABA Tampa Bay chapter and many other groups in support" of the Preserve.
And the Tampa Bay Times reported that Hillsborough County Commissioner Kimberly Overman wants the environmental land program to pursue the 769 acres.
On 21 April 2021, Valerie Harwood and David Lewis of the Department of Integrative Biology appeared before the USF Faculty Senate, and Lewis made a presentation on the Preserve. Beginning with the line, "USF is the steward of this facility," Lewis told the Senate that the Preserve was an integrated array of interconnected ecological communities forming a critical link in a greenbelt that spans much of central Florida. Lewis also made his presentation at the 23 April 2021 Chapter Meeting (video recording).
Colleges and universities are notoriously possessive. The art in their museums, the books in Special Collections, the off-campus house designed by a world-famous architect - these are not for sale. With that longstanding precedent in mind, this RFI - which was, after all, a trial balloon on the possibility of compromising or destroying an irreplaceable university resource, in violation of the Master Plan - is very curious. And if the USF Faculty Senate, the involved departments and colleges, and community stakeholders were all (unpleasantly) surprised by the RFI then there was probably a procedural breakdown somewhere. Meanwhile, we await the proposals...
Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, May 7, 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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