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UFF Biweekly
United Faculty of Florida -- USF System Chapter
23 February 2023
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Confronting the Crocodile

Half a century ago, Jacques Cousteau met Fidel Castro on television, and 25 minutes into the episode was the following exchange:

COUSTEAU: What you’re working for is the happiness of your people. But, I also have the impression that you think that the only good way for happiness is your way…
CASTRO: I am absolutely convinced that the system we are using is the most adequate for our people…
Castro was evading Cousteau's point, which wasn't whether Castro's way was the "most adequate" way, but Castro's ferocious intolerance of any talk of other ways.

There is something of Castro's attitude in the air. From the signing laws to control curriculum content to the proposal to ban the Advance Placement Courses and replace the SAT in Florida [USF login required] with the more parochial Classic Learning Test (which is not taken seriously by many institutions that Florida students aspire to attend), disagreement is being met by retaliation - no matter what the ancillary damage to the people and the state.

In a folktale, a street entertainer encourages his monkey to dance by killing a chicken. Look what can happen to you. And indeed, for all the business community's anxiety about current anti-DEI policy, business leaders hope that by appeasing the crocodile, the storm will pass before it is their turn to be devoured.

The United Faculty of Florida does not believe in appeasing crocodiles, and we are not alone [USF ID required]. UFF has fought the crocodile on the campuses, in the courts, before the legislature, and in the media, and we invite everyone with something to fight for to join us. First of all, one must make plans.

  • Senate Report. The (statewide) UFF Senate is the primary policy-making body of UFF, and it met last weekend to make plans for confronting the crocodile. For a report, see below or click here.
With the legislative session coming up, one of the most important things faculty can do is educate legislators about the consequences of some of the things that the state is doing.
  • Talking to Politicians. Never has it been more important to tell our representatives what is at stake in higher education - but that means talking in their language. For more, see below or click here.
Meanwhile, we saw different side of the crocodile when the New College Board decided to more than double incoming President Corcoran's salary [USF login required] (but still $316,956 less than the presidential salary of Corcoran's aspirational peer, Hillsdale College); it's an "interim" position, although at 18 months it didn't sound particularly interim at yesterday's Board of Governors' meeting. With apologies to Leo X, the attitude seems to be, "The Crocodile has given us New College, let us enjoy it."

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.

Chapter Meeting Tomorrow at 12 Noon at USF Sarasota / Manatee in B229 and on Zoom

The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida will meet tomorrow Friday at 12 pm at USF Sarasota in B229 and on Zoom. On the agenda: New College, the legislative session, the recruiting drive, membership dues, 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. 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.


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.

Senate Report

The UFF Senate is the primary policy-making body of the United Faculty of Florida. Its members are elected by the dues-paying members of the union, and it meets twice a year, typically in February and September, to hear reports, make plans, and set policy. Since the Florida legislature meets in spring, the meeting focused on the governor's announcement that he intends to bust Florida teachers' unions (although that's not exactly how he put it).

The meeting opened with UFF (statewide) President Andrew Gothard telling the Senate that, "Authoritarians don’t go after groups that are ineffective; they go after groups that get things done." And UFF is getting things done. "In difficult times, it is the time to turn to our helpers….We are the helpers. Our core is not tested when times are easy; it is tested when times are tough." Gothard noted the while the political establishment in Tallahassee is hostile towards public education, local communities are proud of their local higher education institutions: "No matter what passes out of that legislature…they will see what a grassroots movement looks like when it stands up and says, 'enough is enough.'"

And the authoritarians have reason to be irritated with UFF. UFF - and its state affiliate, the Florida Education Association (FEA) - managed to get some of the bills last year watered down, we are leading or participating in several lawsuits against some of last year's legislation (including the Intellectual Diversity and Stop Woke Acts, and we have reason to be optimistic about them), and our public comment campaign persuaded the Board of Governors to adjust the Post Tenure Faculty Review proposal - among other things, by removing age discrimination (!), explicit reference to the anti-Woke Act, and application to non-tenure-track faculty at institutions with tenure from the proposed regulation (here is the current version).

Incidentally, there is an injunction against the Stop Woke Act, which, alas, has not prevented some college administrations from pandering to the Crocodile.

So, the governor has decided to do something about the UFF - in fact, about the Florida Education Association in general - and has proposed a number of laws, notably:

  • …require school unions to "represent" at least 60% of employees eligible for representation… Unless at least 60% of the employees in the Bargaining Unit are dues-paying members, the union must have an annual certification referendum - a major distraction (which is probably the idea).
  • Prohibit any union representing public employees from having its dues and assessments deducted by the public employees' employer. Currently, most members have their dues deducted from their paycheck; unions would have to develop an alternate way to collect dues (which are necessary for paying for staff, lawyers, etc.).
Since the governor won by nearly 20% in the last election, and thus the political establishment appears to be in a crocodile appeasement mode, it is quite possible that this legislation will be proposed and pass. So UFF (and in fact, all of FEA) is preparing for a new normal by taking the following steps:
  • Launch an organizing campaign to reach 60%+ membership. This will allow the union to focus on bargaining and enforcing the contract - which is our primary duties under the law. In addition, the experience of other unions is that bargaining and contract enforcement works much better if a lot of the employees are dues paying members.
  • Shift to electronic dues payment. FEA is developing a secure bank-to-bank system in which FEA itself will not collect or store banking information. This is a system similar to one used by some utilities and other services.
These two efforts will strengthen the union: we can accomplish more when we have more members, and with our own dues-collection system, we are not dependent on university administrations. Meanwhile, we will continue to fight on all fronts for higher education in Florida and for the faculty who make it work.

Talking to the Press and Politicians

A lot of UFF's work is talk and writing, especially to journalists and politicians.

The USA is a democracy, and politicians represent us while in office or on their seats. We elect them. So it is not an imposition to ask them to listen to us. But if we want to influence what they do, we have to speak effectively.

Meanwhile, journalists want stories that they can write about. It has to be specific, it has to be accessible, it has to be confirmable, and it has to be about something that will interest and engage their readers.

The most effective way to influence the press and the politicians is via personal relationships. People tend to rely more on people whom they know (or think they know - witness the trust people put in celebrities), so over the long haul, it is useful to build connections. The USF Chapter has a Government Relations committee that visits legislators and other politicians, and over time, we get to know each other. UFF has found these personal connections useful in influencing legislation, and anyone who wants to join us is invited to contact the Government Relations chair.

But if you would like to send a letter to a politician or a Letter to the Editor, be polite, precise, and focused: a short clear letter that says one thing is most effective. (You probably want 200 words or less.) One important point: university machines (including machines acquired using grant money) may not be used to lobby politicians; moreover, all email (including deleted email) are backed up and subject to public document requests. So use your personal laptop, phone, desktop, tablet, etc.

And remember, silence betokens consent. If you don't want to consent, speak up.


The next chapter meeting will be tomorrow Friday, February 24, at 12 pm on USF Sarasotoa / Manatee campus in B229 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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