Academic Freedom is not like freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is a right of individuals to speak and write as they see fit (as long as they don't incite a riot or libel someone); it is a right that belongs to individuals. Academic freedom, on the other hand, belongs to the community: the community has a right to honest counsel, whether or not the politicians want to hear it - even whether or not many of the people want to hear it. A critical component of academic freedom is protection from invasion by outside interests. And there are signs of invasion in Florida.
Meanwhile, the annual election for UFF USF Chapter officers and representatives has concluded, and the results are:
Finally, April is the month for open enrollment in the Sick Leave Pool. If an employee who has been enrolled in the sick leave program for at least half a year gets seriously sick (with a documented illness) for long enough to exhaust all their leave, that employee can have access to sick leave from the pool. The sick leave program - like sick leave itself - is one of the benefits in the contract (see 17.8A on page 41). For information on the program, see the USF handout on the pool; to join the pool, submit an application to your Departmental A&L Coordinator.
The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida will meet tomorrow Friday at 11:30 noon on Zoom. On the agenda: bargaining, the chapter election, academic freedom, and more. And here are the minutes for the previous meeting.
This semester, the chapter will meet on April 8 & 22, and May 5. Any employee in the Bargaining Unit may attend, but to Zoom in you must have an invitation: contact the Chapter Secretary to get one.
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.
"He who pays the piper," goes an old Scottish proverb, "calls the tune." Kings and oligarchs have long figured that if they pay for a school, then the school should do what they say - and not do what they forbid. Floridians have seen this ancient expectation at work recently with the somewhat unusual appointment of Florida Surgeon-General Dr. Joseph Lapado as a University of Florida professor. In addition, if politicians allocate tax dollars to the schools, then the schools should refrain from irritating the politicians, and Floridians have seen the UF Administration attempt to restrain faculty from irritating politicians.
Some of the heat is coming from the public at large. AAAS Science reports that COVID-19 researchers who became prominent have been targeted. One researcher reported that when she visited a museum (in Amsterdam!), she was recognized by some museum goers who started yelling and banging, prompting Security to lock the doors. (She now notifies the police whenever she makes a public appearance.) Meanwhile, Nature published a survey which concluded that 15% of 321 scientists who frequently discussed COVID-19 in the media received death threats. (The authors of the survey observed that scientists in controversial areas like climate change have been harassed online for years.)
If scholars - students and faculty - are to have the right to learn and the right to teach, the schools have to have some insulation against passing ideological fashions and passions. This is not just an ideal; it's a fundamental principle in academic accreditation. Our accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools / Commission on Colleges, states in its Resource Manual for The Principles of Accreditation that, "Integral to strong governance is the absence of undue influence from external sources."
External influence landed in our inboxes on Monday.
Last Sunday, a Biweekly Extra advised faculty, staff and students not to respond to a survey on the political (and religious) views of respondents and their colleagues. This survey had been mandated in the 2021 legislative session by House Bill 233, which had also barred colleges and universities from "shielding" students, staff, and faculty from "certain speech" and had empowered students to record class lectures. The United Faculty of Florida filed a lawsuit to prevent the bill from being implemented, but a requested injunction against the survey was denied, and the survey was distributed on Monday. (Nevertheless, the court denied a motion to dismiss the suit.) The deadline for responding to the (voluntary!) survey is tomorrow.
The Intellectual Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity survey starts with some innocuous items (the first question is "My institution provides an environment for free expression of ideas, opinions, and beliefs" - Strongly Agree / Agree / Neither Agree or Disagree / Disagree / Strongly Disagree), but the mischief begins with Item # 8, "My institution is equally tolerant and welcoming of both liberal and conservative ideas and beliefs." Repeatedly, until the very end, viewpoints are either "liberal" or "conservative" (at the end, the word "moderate" appears). There are several problems with this:
The survey certainly did not address one important issue - "I have felt intimidated about joining academic and employee organizations that my supervisor did not approve of" - and certainly does constitute an attempt by the Legislature to exert influence on Florida's colleges and universities.
Our academic accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools / Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) presumes that "The institution’s governing board holds in trust the fundamental autonomy and ultimate wellbeing of the institution" - which includes defending the independence of the institutions they serve. So it is disappointing that WLRN Miami reported that on March 29, the chair of the State University System Board of Governors' Strategic Planning Committee complained that:
Florida's accreditor had to be gotten out of the way. Senate Bill 7044 requires that each Florida public university and college change accreditors (if it can) every accreditation cycle. Opponents of this bill (like the United Faculty of Florida) observed that as a practical matter, accreditation is necessary for student federal financial aid (and transcript credibility upon graduation) and for federal research funding. (See the Council for Higher Education Accreditation's About Accreditation page for details.)
This bill is motivated by a profound misunderstanding of what accreditors are, never mind how they work. Accreditors are creatures of their members, and their membership is interested in quality control. Accreditors are not competing businesses seeking schools to accredit; they are gatekeepers dedicated to keeping con artists, diploma mills, and ersatz institutions from defrauding students and the government. The Legislature may fantasize about accreditors offering attractive packages to Floridian institutions; but in reality, those institutions will be approaching accreditors, hat in hand, begging for at least an audience. And the clause that permits institutions to sue accreditors for upholding accreditation standards won't help.
There has been a lot of talk lately about the remarkable progress that Floridian institutions have made lately, and how that will help Florida industry be a major player in the Twenty-first century. The Legislature has just tossed a bomb into the works, and it's ticking.
It is now 462 days since the last contract "expired" and we still don't have a new contract. As noted in the 10 March 2022 Biweekly, the old contract didn't go away. It remains, freezing the terms and conditions of employment in place, until it is replaced by a new contract. Employees have all the same protections provided by the contract, but on the other hand, the Consumer Price Index has gone up 9.98% since then.
The usual process is for union and management to bargain one or more articles at a time, and when they come to an agreement on an article, the two chief negotiators Tentatively Agree ("TA") to that article, each signing off on it. Once an entire contract is TA'd, the proposed contract is presented to all the employees in the Bargaining Unit, who vote on whether to ratify it; the contract is also presented to the Board of Trustees, who vote on whether to ratify it. If the employees and the Board both vote to ratify the contract, it is ratified.
At the moment, no articles are TA'd. At the last bargaining session (recorded in three videos posted on our You-Tube channel), both the UFF and Administration proposals were discussed. The proposals formally placed on the table thus far are posted on the Bargaining a New Contract page.
The next bargaining session will be tomorrow, Friday, starting at 1 pm, in CGS 140; everyone is invited, and it will be livestreamed on our You-Tube channel.
The next chapter meeting will be tomorrow Friday, April 8, at 11:30, 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.