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UFF Biweekly
United Faculty of Florida -- USF System Chapter
9 February 2023
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IN THIS ISSUE

Defense Against the Dark Arts

It is possible that politicians and the trustees who they appoint might not be able to do whatever they want. That's the warning that the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities - one of the six regional accrediting organizations - just sent to North Idaho College [USF login required], an institution that has recently been on a merry-go-round of boards and presidents. Loss of accreditation would mean no more federal money for the institution or the students.

Will Florida's politicians get the message?

  • The Arrival of the High Inquisitor. Florida trustees can do what they want - but there will be consequences, for students and for the state. For details, see below or click here.
And UFF (statewide) President Andrew Gothard notes that as political invasions occur here, What Happens in Florida....

Meanwhile, in a not unrelated development, the USF's search for a new vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion has been...paused.

But it may be wise to take a breath and recall Cathy Guisewite's warning that we may become what we despise.

  • We have met the enemy, and he is us... Cancellation is not as serious or direct a problem as political invasion, but it is corrosive and it undermines the standing of academia. For more, see below or click here.
Meanwhile, when UFF members are recognized for their accomplishments, the USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida is pleased to let the world know. We are happy to recognize three UFF members who have been elected Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
  • Jennifer Collins is a professor of Geosciences, where she studies weather and climate. She is a hurricane researcher, currently studying such storms in the Northern Pacific and Atlantic oceans - and also human behavior during hurricanes. She is the lead organizer of the Symposia on Hurricane Risk in a Changing Climate.
  • Richard Dembo is a professor of Criminology, where he studies the relationship between drug use and delinquency. He helped develop the Hillsborough County Juvenile Assessment Center and collaborates with the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and the Florida Department of Health. He has served as a consultant for several agencies concerned with drug abuse and juvenile delinquency, and is past-chair of the American Sociological Association's Section on Alcohol and Drugs.
  • David Himmelgreen is a professor of Anthropology, where he studies nutritional, biocultural, and medical anthropology, including maternal and child health, food insecurity (especially for marginalized populations), obesity, nutritionally related diseases, and HIV/AIDS. He is the director of the Center for the Advancement of Food Security & Healthy Communities.
We congratulate our colleagues for their hard work and accomplishments.

Election Season!

By now, all UFF members should have received an email from the UFF USF chapter with a link to a Call for Nominations. All UFF members - and only UFF members - may run and vote in this upcoming election. If you are a member, please participate; if not, please join us.

Also, all UFF members should have received a snailmail Call for Nominations for the statewide UFF election. If you have not, please contact the chapter secretary.

Chapter Meeting Tomorrow at 12 Noon at USF Tampa in EDU415 and on Zoom

The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida will meet tomorrow Friday at 12 pm at USF Tampa in on Zoom. On the agenda: political invasion and the legislative session, the chapter election, the upcoming UFF Senate meeting, and more. And here are the minutes for the previous meeting.

Any employee in the Bargaining Unit may attend, but to Zoom in 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. Note that the February 24 Chapter Meeting is on USF Sarasota / Manatee in room B229. 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.


The Arrival of the High Inquisitor

Harry Potter fans will recall that in The Order of the Phoenix, the Ministry designated Dolores Umbridge as teacher of the Defense Against the Dark Arts. She told students that, "You will be learning about defensive spells in a secure, risk-free way" - which turned out to mean not learning how to cast defensive spells. Her curriculum was very safe indeed, but she was sweetly ferocious to any student or colleague who tested her barriers. Some did, and she soon realized that, "Things at Hogwarts are far worse than I feared." With the support of the Ministry - which granted her the well-earned title of High Inquisitor - she deposed the headmaster.

Last week, realizing that things at New College were far worse than they feared, a newly appointed board deposed the president - and there was talk about doing something about the faculty: new Board member Chris Rufo visited a radio talk show, and listeners heard…

Host: So are you going to fire a lot of the current faculty?
Chris Rufo: ...we're getting legal advice on right now. …if you shut down an academic program - let’s say gender studies, that’s on the chopping block, that’s not going to survive - any full-time faculty attached to that program you can terminate their employment.
That Rufo is not disturbed by political invasion in higher education can be seen by an exchange on (where else?) Twitter:
Johnstone Family Professor Steven Pinker of Harvard (who has endured his share of cancellation) forwarded a comment by Cathy Young in a tweet: ...using the power of the state to defeat bad ideas is not the road back to sanity.
Chris Rufo responded with …'state power,' meaning constitutionally-mandated democratic governance…Amounts to "the people can't regulate the state."
Apparently state power is popular regulation incarnate - not exactly a libertarian position.

Florida is not unique: as of last Friday, eighteen states have imposed restrictions or bans on teaching "critical race theory". But Florida is at the vanguard. And Florida has the nation's attention: the editor-in-chief of Science, one of the two top science journals in the world, wrote, "If politicians can paint academics as master indoctrinators around Black history and political rhetoric, then they can do the same thing with issues such as climate change, evolution, and public health topics spanning COVID-19 to gender-affirming care, abortion, and gun control."

But if anyone is to defend Florida's educational system, it is Florida's educators. The United Faculty of Florida is moving, and we invite everyone to come join us. If we stand together, we can prevail.

We have met the enemy and...he is us

One of the most important things students can learn in college is that there are intelligent and honorable people whose views are different from one's own. In a free society, we will never achieve a delightful uniformity of opinion. Attempts to enforce such uniformity are at best delusional, for as Viscount Morley observed, "You have not converted a man because you have silenced him."

But for some students (and alas, a few faculty) who have difficulty enduring disagreement, silence is enough. "Cancellation" is often more about crowd behavior than invasive politicians - although panicky administrators can make things worse. For example…

Representational art - particularly of divinities - has been a contentious issue ever since the commandment that Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image. Some Muslims adhere to the proscription against images of the Prophet as part of their faith while others do not (hence the nuanced positions on the subject by some Islamic organizations). But when a Muslim student taking an art history course at Hamline University complained about such an image being displayed in class, the administration escalated the complaint into the dismissal of the instructor [USF login required], a gigantic media row, the university president's defense of her actions - and the subsequent partial repudiation of the president's actions by the Board - and (of course) a lawsuit - all because administrators couldn't recognize a teachable moment.

In another episode, Stanford University had a rather different reaction. A recent Snapchat image of a Stanford student reading Mein Kampf went through Stanford's Protected Identity Harm Reporting system, which led to an email to concerned students assuring them that "…university administrators are engaged with the issue" among other equivocation. So far, a lot of people are unhappy, but that's all.

The University of Wisconsin conducted a survey on UW System Student Views on Freedom of Speech, and found (although the authors don't quite say so explicitly) that students reported that fellow students were more closeminded on contentious issues. Still, many students reported that "when viewpoint diversity is relevant for the class", instructors "encourage students to explore a wide variety of viewpoints." The complaints seem to be more about other students (much of it "conservative" students complaining about "liberal" students - although how much of that is about anxiety is unclear). Afterwards, faculty and politicians recognized that what Wisconsin found was pressure on students from students.

If the biggest problem is peer pressure, it is not clear how putting faculty in straightjackets will help. On the other hand, if the goal is to discourage students from exploring a wide variety of viewpoints, then straightjacketing faculty will further that goal.

One problem is that while providing a safe place is a reasonable goal, providing an intellectually comfortable place is not. Education is often an uncomfortable process. And returning to Dolores Umbridge, one goal of faculty is to teach students how to defend themselves against dark arts - and we won't do that by making them continuously comfortable. And in this era of whataboutism, our standing is compromised if we behave like Umbridge.

Another difficulty is that some attacks are on marginalized groups are real, running the spectrum from a provost's bestiality joke when asked about Black and LGBTQ+ faculty to a knife attack by an assailant who thought his victim was Chinese. Many students - especially those used to an insulated or culturally homogenous environment - may need help and guidance getting used to a variety of people and their world views. And it would be helpful if administrators (and board members and politicians) remained calm.

Still, many students tolerate or even embrace a cosmopolitan attitude and express curiosity about people from different worlds. Witness the Palm Harbor high school students who protested the removal of Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye from their high school bookshelves. They could teach our politicians a lesson or two.

LOGISTICS

The next chapter meeting will be tomorrow Friday, February 10, at 12 pm on USF Tampa campus in EDU 415 and on Zoom; for the Zoom link, contact the Chapter Secretary. All UFF USF employees are welcome.

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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