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UFF Biweekly
United Faculty of Florida -- USF System Chapter
27 January 2022
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IN THIS ISSUE

Fear of Wokeness

A spectre is haunting America - the spectre of wokeness - and many pundits and politicians are uniting to address the threat. For example, the Texas legislature just passed an Energy Discrimination Elimination Act requiring state entities to divest from companies that cease doing business with fossil fuel companies. A senior staff member of the Texas Public Policy Foundation told a committee in the organization that originated the bill that the legislation was an "opportunity to push back against woke financial institutions that are colluding against American energy producers." As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up.

Meanwhile, Florida is in the midst of a pandemic, the Tampa Bay region is in the midst of a housing crisis, and the region faces long-term threats from what former Governor Scott called nuisance flooding. But the Florida legislature will not be distracted.

  • Banning Whatever It Is. The bills to ban Critical Race Theory may not ban Critical Race Theory and may ban other things instead. It's not entirely clear what their effect would be, and that uncertainty is a problem. For more, see below or click here.
This is one of several legislative efforts to pressure or micromanage the Florida education system. Meanwhile, the last five months have seen the abrupt departures of four of the twelve State University System presidents. Maybe just a coincidence. Or maybe they saw some writing on the legislative wall. And perhaps just as coincidentally, the Legislative leadership is fast tracking a bill to reduce the sunshine on presidential searches.

Meanwhile, we have several announcements.

  • Town Hall Meeting on Bargaining. We will have an online town hall meeting on bargaining on Friday, February 11, at 4 pm. Details will be forthcoming; stay tuned.
  • Helping Hands. UFF has received support from our affiliates to have paid Organizing Fellows positions! To apply, go to: https://forms.gle/Gi3TZ8ZzcpxsrVuq7. Even if you are not interested in a paid position, we always can use volunteers. If you are interested, contact the Chapter Secretary.
  • Elections Next Spring. This spring, the Chapter is holding its annual election. All offices - president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer - are open, as are all seats for senators representing USF in the United Faculty of Florida, and for delegates representing UFF in the Florida Education Association. But only UFF members may run and vote - enfranchisement is one of the perks of membership. A call for nominations will be out shortly.
  • The Faculty Senate has a blog. There are articles on procedures, recent meetings, Senate councils, major issues, etc. Check it out.
And readers may recall UFF USF President Arthur Shapiro's Letter to USF President Rhea Law requesting that USF take more aggressive steps to protect students, staff, and faculty during the Omicron surge. Here is her response.

Chapter Meeting Tomorrow on Zoom

The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida will meet tomorrow Friday at 12 noon on Zoom. On the agenda: attacks on academia, critical race theory, the chapter election, and more, and more. And here are the minutes for the previous meeting.

This semester, the chapter will meet on Jan. 28, Feb. 11 & 25, Mar. 22 & 25, April 8 & 22, and May 5. Any employee in the Bargaining Unit may attend, but you must have an invitation: contact the Chapter Secretary to get one.

Meetings and events are posted on the Events Calendar of the UFF USF Website. Come and check us out.

Join UFF Today!

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.

Grievances

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.

USF United Support Fund for Food Pantries

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.

We are on Social Media

Yes, we are on social media.

  • We have a Facebook group: see United Faculty of Florida at USF. This page is a place where UFF members can exchange thoughts and ideas. The page is "public", but only dues-paying UFF members are eligible to post items on the page. If you are a UFF member, ask to join on the page, and the moderator will invite every UFF member that asks to join. Non-members are welcome to look (but you need a Facebook account to do that). So check us out.
  • We have a blog: see The USF Faculty Blog. This has news items as they come up.
  • We are twitter-pated: follow us on Twitter via @UffUsf.
  • We even have a You-Tube channel: check out our videos
If you want to help with media matters, contact the Communications Committee chair.


Banning Whatever It Is

This is election year, when politicians are on the front, defending their constituents from the threats du jour - and the threat today seems to be Critical Race Theory. CRT began as a theory of law, although it has been extended to cover much more of American society - see also the Wikipedia page. Oversimplified, the thesis is that race - and the "races" - are social constructs rather than physical realities, and that racist injustice is a result of the normal operations of the governments and institutions that run our society. The theory does not pin blame on individual Whites for racial injustice so much as treat racial injustice as a product of the social apparatus. The theory is subtle and complex, and has been misconstrued and misrepresented.

Last fall, a bill on Racial and Sexual Discrimination (House Bill 57 / Senate Bill 242) mandated a "Policy against race or sex scapegoating or race or sex stereotyping" such as teaching that "The United States is fundamentally racist or sexist," and it prohibited "Race or sex scapegoating." (The bill did ban teaching that "An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex," although the context suggests that this item was aimed at affirmative action.) The bill did not mention Critical Race Theory, but the bill's sponsors told the press that that was the bill's target.

Apparently, that bill didn't suffice, for Governor DeSantis announced a "Legislative Proposal to Stop W.O.K.E. Activism and Critical Race Theory in Schools and Corporations," which surfaced as a bill for Individual Freedom (House Bill 7 / Senate Bill 148) that more sharply focused on prohibiting teaching things like "An individual’s moral character or status as either privileged or oppressed is necessarily determined by his or her race, color, sex, or national origin." Again, while the backers publicly announced that they were targeting Critical Race Theory, the bill does not explicitly do so.

Readers may notice a lot of political concern over individual Whites feeling blamed for racism, which is not what critical race theorists are interested in (the more optimistic ones are interested in structural reforms) and which is not a goal of diversity training (which, when competently run, is more geared towards empathy and cooperation - and anyway does not depend on Critical Race Theory).

The bills differ from a policy approved by the Florida Board of Education last year that explicitly listed Critical Race Theory as a theory that "... distort[s] historical events and [is] inconsistent with State Board approved standards ..." and characterized Critical Race Theory as a theory that "... racism is embedded in American society and its legal systems in order to uphold the supremacy of white persons." In addition, the policy explicitly banned the use of the New York Times 1619 Project (text accessible through the USF Library) and prohibited defining "... American history as something other than the creation of a new nation based largely on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence."

The current hysteria over Critical Race Theory exhibits many of the symptoms of a moral panic: the efforts of a group of scholars is seen as a threat to the social order, and their project (and the scholars themselves) are targeted by the media and politicians who oversimplify and misrepresent the project while drumming up public support for suppressing the project and the scholars. Moral panics often expand to encompass much more than their original targets - witness the 1950s Red Scare, which expanded from a panic over Soviet spies into a panic over communist agents everywhere (including academia, activists, the film and TV industries, the military, etc.). The panic over Critical Race Theory seems to be similarly expanding. In Texas and Indiana, bureaucrats and politicians have apologized for telling educators that they have to present "both sides" on the Holocaust. Closer to home, a Dunedin high school teacher has repeatedly tangled with citizens on teaching African American history (notice the tired - and off-target - trope about communism), and Osceola county suddenly cancelled a seminar on the civil rights movement for fear that it might be contaminated by critical race theory (the presenter told the Tampa Bay Times that "... for people who aren’t experts in the field, CRT is becoming a euphemism for Black history ...").

The question then becomes: if such legislation with innocuously but loaded verbiage is signed into law, how will it be enforced? A sideways glance at the University of Florida, whose Administration seems to be eager to please Tallahassee politicians, is not a good omen.

High school is traditionally the place where students read books like Lord of the Flies, 1984, The Diary of Anne Frank and, ahem, Twelve Years a Slave. And college even more so. And uncomfortable citizens have long pushed back, claiming that students should not be taught bad things about their country - and politicians have long placated these constituents. For academics, who must be free to explore where facts and logic lead them, the price of academic freedom is eternal vigilance.

Whatever one thinks of Critical Race Theory, it is a matter for scholarly debate and does not justify a legislative invasion of academia. UFF members interested in educating politicians about the dangers of succumbing to moral panics should consider joining the UFF USF Government Relations committee; for more information, contact the chapter secretary.


LOGISTICS

The next chapter meeting will be on Friday, January 28, at 12 noon, via Zoom. All UFF USF members are welcome: for the Zoom link, contact the Chapter Secretary.

All UFF members are invited to attend. Non-members are also invited to come and check us out. To get the link to Zoom, contact 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.

NOTE: The USF-UFF Chapter website is http://www.uff.ourusf.org, and our e-mail address is uff@ourusf.org.

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 mccolm@usf.edu.

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