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UFF Biweekly
United Faculty of Florida -- USF System Chapter
20 April 2023
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Reality Show or Spoil System?

The sound and fury emanating from Tallahassee reminds us that politics has always meant theatre. But politics is also about who gets how much pie, and just after the previous Biweekly suggested that pillaging New College was really about boodle, the president asked seven tenure candidates to withdraw [USF ID required] - which would free up seven faculty positions for worthy young cronies in need of employment. Meanwhile, one of the governor's friends evidently needs a job, and the governor would like Florida Atlantic University to hire him.

Amidst all this principled rhetoric about freedom and alarms about authoritarianism there seems to emerge the familiar phenomenon of political patronage. It was, after all, Boss Tweed himself who said, "The way to have power is to take it."

Tweed as the Brains
One of Thomas Nast's more famous cartoons of Tweed

Unions are litigious obstacles to such bosses, so they want to get rid of us. As a matter of high principle, of course.
  • Clearing the Hurdle. A broad anti-union bill pushed by the Governor and moving through the Legislature will force some changes. For details, see below or click here.
And for those of you who are following New College, Enrollment is (unsurprisingly) falling. You can follow the drama on the Save New College website.

Meanwhile, many provosts nationwide seem not to have grasped the political realities. A recent survey of college and university chief academic officers found that 52% would favor long-term contracts over tenure and 24% intended to "increase emphasis" on "dismissing underperforming tenured faculty members." But it is not academic deadwood that irritates the politicians; it is the uppity academics who say or write or agitate inconvenient stuff that is driving the tenure "reform" movement. And what provosts face are demands by politician X or donor Y that faculty member Z be escorted off campus by security. (And a few imperious provosts have been known to be irritated by faculty who insist on shared governance.) It is the academic troublemakers who are being targeted.

  • The Politics of Resentment. On the DEI issue, the Legislature is beginning to face reality. But they aren't happy - and they are taking it out on us in another way. For details, see below or click here.
And we have just completed the UFF USF chapter election. For the coming academic year, the president is Steve Lang, the vice president is Arthur Shapiro, the secretary is Greg McColm, and the treasurer is Sonia Ramirez Wohlmuth. The FEA delegates are Greg McColm, Scott Perry, and Geveryl Robinson, while the UFF senators are Steve Lang (ex officio), Greg McColm, Scott Perry, Geveryl Robinson, Brian Turnbull, and Sonia Ramirez Wohlmuth. The results of this election leaves us with several empty FEA and UFF seats, so if you are a member and would like to serve as a delegate and / or senator, contact the chapter secretary.

We are always proud to recognize accomplishments of our members, and we are happy to see members communicate to the public about issues of the day. During the past two weeks, two members have published opinion pieces on the effect of Florida government actions on higher education.

  • Readers may recall that Adriana Novoa joined with the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression to stop implementation of last year's Stop WOKE Act. Like Hollywood, the Legislature came up with a sequel (see below), and two weeks ago, Professor Novoa wrote a column in the Sun Sentinel arguing that the sequel was worse: "This bill would grant Florida politicians nearly unconstrained power to determine which views to ban from discussion."
  • One week ago, Scott Perry published a column on why the fight for academic freedom matters in the Tampa Bay Times, in which pointed to the carnage of the Religious Wars of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth centuries and predicted that, "Banning books from libraries, mandating approved curricula and stifling free discussion in a classroom will not replace one idea with another in the 21st."
We encourage all faculty to reach out to the community, for the First Amendment means little if it is never exercised. (Our National Affiliate, the National Education Association, has posted an advisory on the First Amendment rights of faculty.) Meanwhile, Florida high school and college students are walking out 2 learn tomorrow.

And Happy Eid al-Fitr!

Chapter Meeting Tomorrow Friday at 12 Noon on USF St. Petersburg in the Student Center Palm Room - and on Zoom

The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida will meet tomorrow Friday at 12 pm on USF St. Petersburg in the Student Center's Palm Room - and on Zoom. On the agenda: eDues, recruiting, legislation, 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.

Clearing the Hurdle

Two decades ago, Governor Jeb Bush attempted to get rid of some public employee unions that he didn’t like - including the United Faculty of Florida and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the latter of which represents staff. Getting rid of a union in Florida is difficult because the state constitution says,

The right of employees, by and through a labor organization, to bargain collectively shall not be denied or abridged.

Bush pushed through a reorganization of the State University System, whose new leadership claimed that since universities were reorganized, they no longer had unions. That was probably a violation of the constitution, but litigation can take ... years ... so instead of going to the courts, the union conducted an organizing campaign to get faculty to sign a petition; this petition was to have a referendum of the faculty to determine if there would be a union. After UFF overwhelmingly won the referenda at two universities, the rest voluntarily recognized the union. And that ended the Governor's crisis.

We now have another governor who is trying to get rid of the unions, and his method is probably just as illegal as Governor Bush's. But once again, litigation can take years, so the union is once again turning to an organizing campaign.

  • Senate Bill 256 / House Bill 1445 requires at least 60% of represented employees be dues-paying members. About a third of the USF faculty in the UFF USF Bargaining Unit are dues paying members, so we will conduct a recruiting campaign to sign up new members. Since greater membership "density" translates into more clout in bargaining and handling grievances, this is probably just as well.
  • Senate Bill 256 / House Bill 1445 bars dues payment by paycheck deduction. The new dues payment system will be by direct payments from checking accounts. The union has arranged for the digital finance company Plaid to handle the details (the union itself will not have access to checking accounts - and Plaid will have access to the information that appears on a check).
This bill probably violates the state constitution: requiring 60% of represented employees to be dues-paying members implies that in order to have the right to collectively bargain, many employees have to pay. The courts won't like that, eventually, but litigating that point could take years, so in order to maintain our right to collectively bargain, we need to recruit members and make a transition to a different dues payment system.

All this is going to require a lot of work, and we welcome volunteers: if you would like to help out, contact the Chapter Secretary.

The Politics of Resentment

Meanwhile, something very interesting happened to the Son-of-Stop-Woke Act that the Governor is pushing. Specialty accrediting agencies are following professional societies in instituting Diversity / Equity / Inclusion statements, criteria, etc. The motivation for the professional societies is not entirely altruistic: the percentage of white males is falling just as the demand for technically proficient youngsters is increasing, so the professional societies are trying to make themselves more welcoming and some professional accreditors are following suit.

So one of the messages that UFF delivered repeatedly to legislators is that banning DEI would mean trouble with the accreditors. And finally, the legislators listened. Reference to DEI has been removed from the Son-of-Stop-Woke Act [USF login required].

On the other hand, the Son-of-Stop-Woke Act [lines 264-273] has acquired language to shut down the top of the grievance process: when a UFF member files a grievance, the legal process goes through two "steps" (heard before the Provost's office) and, if that does not resolve the matter, it can go to arbitration before an ouside arbitrator. Arbitration is useful in keeping the two preceding steps honest. The bill would shut down arbitration. It is not clear why the Legislature wants to meddle in our contract - possibly culture warfare, possibly spite - but probably unconstitutional.

And the Son-of-Stop-Woke Act still has a mutually contradictory array of requirements, repeatedly barring faculty from teaching that "systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege are inherent in the institutions of the United States" yet also "Social science courses must afford students an understanding of the basic social and behavioral science concepts and principles used in the analysis of behavior and past and present social, political, and economic issues" and yet ensuring that students engage in "traditional, historically accurate, and high-quality coursework." This mouthful is an invitation to administrative contortion and caprice.


The next chapter meeting will be tomorrow Friday, April 21, at 12 pm on USF St Petersburg campus in the Student Center's Palm Room 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.

If you do not want to receive the UFF Biweekly, you can unsubscribe below or contacting the Chapter Secretary. If you do not receive the Biweekly, but want to, contact the Chapter Secretary.