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United Faculty of Florida, Summer 2005

May 8, 2005 Announcement

Notice: During the Summer, the Chapter Meetings will be on payday Fridays, starting at 12 pm, at the old CDBs restaurant on 51st & Fowler.

May 12, 2005

The Merger

The FEA is the result of the recent merger of the NEA-affiliated Florida Teaching Profession-National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)-affiliated Florida Education Association / United. During the past few years, the union (now 125,000 members strong) has combined activists used to an NEA way of doing things with activists used to an AFT way of doing things, and seeking to form an organization with ... an FEA way of doing things.

Partly, the organizations were merged under a Transition Agreement, and then people watched to see how things worked. The proposed amendments were to formalize how things have been done during the last few years, and to clear away glitches in the new system.

The biggest change is in setting up the lines of authority.

The Delegate Assembly is the ultimate policy-making organ in the FEA. About a thousand delegates are elected by members of the union locals (the United Faculty of Florida is one of the locals, and the UFF has its delegates elected by members of the chapters, depending roughly on the number of members per chapter).

If the Delegate Assembly is the legislative branch, then the Executive Cabinet is the executive branch. The Executive Cabinet consists of the President, a Vice President, a Secretary / Treasurer, and ten others. The Executive Cabinet has a Chief of Staff who gets to do a lot of the work.

But who does the Executive Cabinet answer to? The amendments assign that job to the "Governance Board." The Board consists of about 150 members, mostly presidents of locals (a typical local represents teachers of a particular county school district, although there are a few odd locals like UFF), or elected by locals, and or chosen by some other means: members of the Executive Cabinet are on the Board.

Anyway, the idea is that the Delegate Assembly consists of people who can growl at the Governance Board on a regular basis, and then the Board can growl at the Executive Cabinet.

Another change is to move the Delegate Assembly meetings from May to the early fall, a change pushed by teachers who feel more frazzled towards the end of the school year than at the beginning. There were several other changes, mostly formalizing what people have been doing for the last few years.

The amendments, which required 2/3 majority support, were approved 79 % to 21 %.

Other Business

Any delegate may present a New Business Item to the Delegate Assembly, and so we got to consider eleven. Here are three of them.

There was also an extended discussion of Governor Bush's latest Devious Plan to eviscerate classroom size restrictions, and how to deal with the next incarnation. We may have another fight ahead of us.

About the Meeting

935 delegates arrived at the meeting, of whom 241 were first time delegates. They collectively represented the 125,000 members of the FEA.

The theme was "FEA -- Surviving the Storm," officially a reference to the hurricanes, but also a reference to the ongoing storm in Tallahassee. The union's lawyers and lobbyists are doing a good job: we were told how, at one point, Education Commissioner John Winn lost his cool and started yelling at our lobbyists for successfully bottling up so much of Governor Bush's program.

American Federation of Teachers President Ed McElroy addressed the Assembly, and said that we need to communicate more, and more effectively, with our elected representatives. He recommended former USA House Speaker Tip O'Neill's book 'Man of the House' as an introduction to practical politics.

National Education Association President Reg Weaver had a time conflict, so he addressed the Assembly by video, and spoke about the lawsuit (see above) against the Department of Education on the No Child Left Behind Act. Quote of the session: "If you regulate, you have to compensate. If you confiscate, we will agitate."

Friday's Keynote Speaker was Erin Gruwell, who started teaching at an inner city high school in Long Beach, and inspired her students to express themselves, and reform themselves, by maintaining diaries. (They learned how by reading examples like Anne Frank's Diary and Elie Wiesel's memoirs.) Selections from these diaries have been published in 'The Freedom Writers' Diary.' Much to her principal's surprise, her students not only made it to graduation, but into college, and they are graduating from there.

Saturday's Keynote Speaker was Deborah Meier, author of 'In Schools we Trust.' A long-time teacher in her second retirement, she said that when she was in school, most students did not make it into High School. She outlined many problems of teachers today, most of them being micromanagement, lack of support, and other movements to undermine teachers' authority in the classroom. Teachers, she said, were role models, and if students are to learn to think, to speak, to use their judgement, and so on, they have to see their teachers doing these things.

The meeting had two major corporate sponsors. Saturn raffled off a car, and Staples reminded delegates of its ink cartridge recycling program; for information on the program, go to the program's website.

May 26, 2005

What Children Left Behind?

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act was enacted in 1965 to help impoverished and deprived students; this was the act that launched Head Start. It must be reauthorized periodically (the first time, in 1968, saw the beginning of federally funded bilingual education). Its latest authorization is "an act to close the achievement gap with accountability, flexibility, and choice so that No Child is Left Behind" (NCLB), all 670 pages of which are on-line . The NCLB imposes a number of new federal mandates on K-12 education.

In America, education was handled locally or, later, by the states. While many states -- including Florida -- explicitly require the state to provide K-12 education, the Supreme Court held in San Antonio School District v. Rodriguez (1973) that "Though education is one of the most important services performed by the State, it is not within the limited category of rights recognized by this Court as guaranteed by the Constitution." Since then, most of the effort to assure access to and equity in education has concentrated on the state level. And while the federal government has provided some funding (about 8 % historically), most educational funding (just under half each) comes from property taxes and state allocations. Similarly, most access, equity, textbook, testing, and other decisions were made locally or at the state level.

There has been a debate over the last few decades on whether America should move to a more "European" model of education governance, with access, equity, textbook, testing, and other decisions made nationally. Most conservatives opposed such measures, arguing that they violated the federalist principle on distribution of power, and that they would infringe on the autonomy of school boards and state agencies. But over the last few decades, a number of test-writing companies have appeared, some academic publishers have set up testing divisions, and even the non-profit Educational Testing Service in Princeton set up a K-12 subsidiary, which it is marketing just as colleges grow skeptical of the predictive power of the SAT. There is money to be made, and some of the money was invested in political contributions, and so some right-wing pundits and politicians have ... adjusted ... their positions on federalism in education.

Money is a difficult subject in education. After Antonio v. Rodriguez, education activists won many victories in state courts. But what often happens is that a warm and fuzzy law or initiative is not funded as the law demands, the court rules that the government must obey its own laws, and the government ... ignores the court. The problem is that the public that votes for the initiatives and supports the laws also does not like to pay taxes, and so education funding is mangled by the buzz saw of tax "reform." See an article in Rethinking Schools about both having and eating one's cake.

So when the Elementary and Secondary Education Act came up for reauthorization in 2001, some educational activists wanted more money for the schools, and coincidentally President Bush had close connections with Harold McGraw III of McGraw-Hill, a trailblazer in test-making. The result was NCLB, which had the appearance of a traditional federalistic carrot: conduct the tests and get some money. At least that is what Democrats who supported the bill thought, and Bush's reneging on that deal is one of the major exhibits among Washingtonians who say that Bush cannot be trusted to keep his word. And without the money, NCLB becomes a massive unfunded mandate that cost U.S. schools $ 27 billion last year alone.

Here is how it works (see NEA's website for details).

The act requires that as of the next academic year, students in grades 3 - 8 will be tested on reading and mathematics annually, and high school students at least once. Students also take three science tests. These tests are designed or purchased by the states, but must meet certain national criteria.

The act requires that all teachers have appropriate certification; in particular, the number of emergency certifications must decline. The requirements are things like: all teachers must have baccalaureate degrees, secondary teachers must have majored in or completed substantial coursework in the subject that they teach, paraprofessionals must have a high school diploma and at least two years of post secondary education, etc.

We pause for two observations. The first is that these two requirements appear not only innocuous, but minimal. As for the first, most states are doing this already, using cheaply graded multiple choice exams -- which are good at testing exposure to subjects but weak in testing organizational skills. As for the second, we would hope that all, or virtually all (save for the occasional autodidact) teachers satisfy these requirements. And yet many do not. And we all know why not: the school cannot find anyone with the credentials to teach geometry who is willing to work for the salary offered, so the principal hands the assignment to an English teacher, who tries hard against long odds. Exactly how this certification requirement will produce geometry teachers is unclear. Both observations turn on the economics that underly this entire issue.

Now the fun begins.

States must develop proficiency standards and each year. (That means a set of passing scores.) By the year 2014, all students -- every single one -- will, by law, meet these standards. That is what "no child left behind" means. Each school's student body is made up of several sub-populations, and each sub-group must improve its performance by preset increments, or sanctions will be imposed. The first three years of failure to meet "annual yearly progress" results in parental and other notifications, some supplemental services and a few restrictions. After the fourth year, the school district is supposed to either: fire someone, tighten control over the school (should the fired someone be the principal?), extend the school day or year, or they could employ one of those dodges favored by Dilbert fans: hire a consultant, or reorganize. After six years, the school must fire lots of people, hand the oversight to the state, get a management company, and reopen as a private charter school. Mission accomplished.

By 2014, most schools handling migrant or transient populations should be privatized, along with all schools unable to attract (or hold) strong teachers to an officially designated sinking ship. The financial opportunities are awesome, and if you invest in the right management companies now...

According to the National School Boards Association, the best that can be hoped for at the moment is to redirect the law towards the carrot that Bush originally dangled in front of educators in 2001. The National Education Association largely agrees, and has decided to go to court to get the carrot back. The point, as mentioned in the last issue of the biweekly, is Section 9527(a) of NCLB, which reads: "GENERAL PROHIBITION. Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, local education agency, or school's curriculum, program of instruction, or allocation of State or local resources, or mandate a State or any subdivision thereof to spend any funds or incur any costs not paid for under this Act. [20 U.S.C. sec. 7907(a)]" If the federal government wants to play this game, they can bloody well pay for it.

There are several considerations for us as we watch all this from our ivory towers.

First, while there isn't as much money in higher education, there is enough (witness Phoenix University) to make at least the 2-year institutions vulnerable to this kind of power play. If it succeeds in the K-12 system, the community colleges will be next, and then...? We saw some of this when test company lobbyist Steve Uhlfelder pushed standardized tests for undergrad students; he's gone now, but the Academic Learning Compacts remain, ready to metastasize into a money-machine right on our campus.

Second, incoming undergrads will increasingly be proficient in passing tests presented by nervous schools, which will put even less emphasis on the organizational skills required for more advanced projects. We may hope to balance this off by becoming more selective in admissions, but be prepared for more remedial work.

But finally, the old notion that education is a public good to be conducted by hoary old institutions (public schools, Catholic schools, etc.) or eccentric or experimental schools is fading: education is now a profitable enterprise, with all that that entails.

June 9, 2005

The Written Word: A Personal Reaction by Greg McColm

In 1348, the Plague arrived at Kilkenny, where John Clyn was an annalist at the Franciscan Monastery of Carrick-on-Suir. Clyn had been writing a set of Annals from the birth of Christ to his present, and during that year, he wrote of "the memorable things happening in my time, of which I was either an eye-witness, or learned them from the relation of such as were worthy of credit," and "Expecting death among the dead, ... I leave behind me parchment for continuing it if ... anyone of the race of Adam should escape this pestilence, and live to continue what I have begun."

Clyn died of the Plague himself the next year.

In leaving parchment for any successor, Clyn was expressing a sentiment that the very act of bearing witness in writing was of value, beyond the recording of events for future generations (if any, he might have added). Of course, the value a fourteenth century cleric would find in such an effort would be religious, but a modern (secular?) view might be that in writing something down one works something out. Writing is more than transcribing the contents of one's frontal lobes to paper, if only because (as we academics have long noticed) what winds up on paper is not exactly what we thought had been in our frontal lobes. And in doing the work of getting the words on parchment, one learns something about what one has seen, and what one has gone through.

At the Florida Education Association meeting last month, the first keynote speaker was California State University (at Long Beach) Distinguished Teacher in Residence Erin Gruwell, who described her first year as an English teacher at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California. In 1994, two years after the Rodney King riots, she came to her first class in pearls and a polka dot dress, into a room where the Crips wore blue and the East Side Latinos wore red. One student asked her why they should "read books by dead white guys in tights." School administrators gave her gloomy assessments of her students, and gave her the students' files, bad marks, drugs, violence, and all.

Poets, says Margery Sharp, have unusual advantages; by this Sharp meant that a poet could believe in being rescued from prison by three mice, and thus be rescued. Gruwell tried a similar approach. She talked her father into buying for each student their own copies of three books, Anne Frank's Diary, Elie Wiesel's Night, and Zlata Filipovic's Diary. Then she set her students to writing their own diaries, and getting their own demons down on paper.

One of my relatives was a community college teacher who, during the 1950s, had a similar class, and tried a similar experiment. When she went over the papers, she would cry for hours. Gruwell may have had a similar reaction.

  • "I get chased mostly by older fools with bats and knives. ... I figured ... the only way [to protect myself] was to buy a gun. ... All you need is $ 25. ... [at a subsequent shoot-out] It was just like a movie, except ... the blood is real. ... After the last shot rang out ... he disappeared."
  • "I still remember ... the night my friend died. I was ... buying candy. ... Then I heard gunshots. I ... saw ... two of my friends ... running into the store. [After the first ran in,] the other one simply fell. I looked down and saw ... blood coming out of his back and mouth."
  • "I woke up craving orange juice with a little hint of vodka. ... I walked out the door with my water bottle filled with O.J. and vodka and went to school ... [and nobody] ... had any idea I was drunk. ... [After nearly drowning during P.E.,] I ran to the bathroom and puked all over the stall."
  • "Three weeks before flying to the U.S. [from Peru], terrorists blew up the house next to mine. ... I got out of bed realizing that there was only smoke and bright light where my window once was."
  • "One day the manager knocked on the door and simply told us to get all of our things together because we only had five minutes to get out. ... we lived in hotels. When we finally ran out of money we had to resort to ... the streets."
Over the next few years, Gruwell maintained connections to many of these students, ultimately seeing some of them off to college. She has gone on to launch the Freedom Writers project: see the
Freedom Writers' web-page. All these quotes were excerpted from The Freedom Writers' Diary (ed. by Erin Gruwell).

I cannot resist one curmudgeonly observation. A casual perusal of Wilson Classical High School's website shows what is now a magnet school receiving the kind of substantial external funding one would presume necessary to maintain such a project (which originally was not welcomed, as it excited a lot of insecurities). From the Diary, one gets the impression that the financial support from philanthropist John Tu played a major role keeping the project going. How such efforts would fare, in the long run, at a school without such resources is an interesting question. In fact, one thing that probably got the students into the project was getting personal copies of the three books; students usually do not get personal books from schools (unless their teachers buy them), and these books probably helped create a psychological commitment that students could respond to. That's $ 800 for one class (current prices). This stuff costs money ...

But back to writing.

Zlata Filipovic wrote Gruwell that, "writing was her salvation during the [Balkan] war and it kept her sane." The French diplomat Charles de Talleyrand said that people want to talk (and he ascribed his diplomatic success to his ability to listen). If one has no one to talk to, one can still write in a diary. And the words stay, and one can build on them, and use what one has built -- and thus can look at -- to better understand what one is facing. And the self-discipline that real writing requires can be brought to bear on on the problems one is writing about. By teaching students to read and write, we are giving them a light for whatever dark nights may come.

And that is one thing that makes real writing -- as opposed to the formulaic fragmentary blurbification encouraged by standardized exams -- so important. The skittery shallow consciousness encouraged by courses aimed at those exams are not only incapable of attending to serious academic projects; it is also incapable of dealing with life's more serious trials.

June 23, 2005

The Accountability Movement

At 1:00 am, this evening (Friday morning), WEDU-PBS will air Declining by Degrees: Higher Education at Risk, which is described so: "'Something is seriously wrong' on college campuses in the U.S., asserts education journalist John Merrow, who outlines problems in higher education as he visits the Universities of Arizona and Western Kentucky, Amherst (Mass.) College." The Chronicle of Higher Education may label this as "A Whining View of Higher Education" (and reviewer Robert Zemsky may claim that, "the fundamental assumption that guides this [show] is wrong ... American colleges and universities have never been stronger ..."), but the fact that PBS -- now under siege from the political right -- is running this show is a sign that higher education is in the same line of fire as elementary and secondary education.

The Spring, 2005 issue of the AFT American Educator, featuring Standards-Based Reform and Accountability, which is on-line, presents several views of one popular solution: the setting of standards and the use of standardized exams to test how the standards are being met. The feature article, Getting Back on Course (Fixing Standards-Based Reform and Accountability) by Lauren Resnik and Chris Zurawsky, briefly outlines the recent history of the Accountability movement, and how it arose in the aftermath of the 1983 publication of A Nation at Risk, and the subsequent observation that American students were not preforming as well on European-style standardized exams as European students who had studied at schools with nationally centralized curricula. So by the early 1990s, people were calling for a more European system in America, based on standardized exams and similar measures.

The argument, presented in glowing terms in the lead article by Texas Federation of Teachers President John Cole, is that if we create standards, and then measure student performance against those standards, we can tell how they are progressing and how we can help them proceed. If we measure teachers and schools by how well their students are doing, we can then decide what works and what doesn't, who needs help and who can help. Schools and teachers will tend towards more successful pedagogical techniques.

There are two problems.

One problem, according to Resnik and Zurawsky, is that in order for standardized exam results to measure student progress relative to certain standards, there must be some standards that the exam is built on. But that is not the way American standardized exams work. Many exam-writers test a number of questions, hunting for those that generate many correct and incorrect answers. They then construct a test composed of such questions, and the student scores spread out widely, making it easy to assign percentiles. There are many difficulties to this approach, including ... such tests can be, and often are, designed without any standards in mind at all. All these tests do is measure how well one student -- or one group of students -- does compared to other students; and this only measures the relative ability of students to pass this artificial exam.

This problem was highlighted in an article by Roger Shattuck, who described his years as a school board member of Vermont, and his discovery that Vermont ... does not appear to have a state curriculum. Of course it has a 600-page document called "Curriculum Guidelines," but this document turns out to be stuffed with abstractions and buzzwords, and is not very useful for designing any test of what students at a particular grade know or can do. Indeed, he reports that at the high school he oversaw, the curriculum (for all practical purposes) consisted of the choice of a textbook. He hints at one reason for this: designing a workable, multi-year curriculum would take a lot of work, perhaps more than the State of Vermont was willing to undertake (Shattuck also noted that few people seem to have read the Curriculum Guidelines, so if it really had contained a curriculum, it wouldn't have mattered much). He doesn't mention another reason: school boards do not like and do not trust state experts. The effects of all this on Vermont's standardized exam scores can be imagined.

The other problem was described by Richard Elmore, and it is one we all face in different situations. If we know we are doing something wrong, what do we do about it? He describes several "nearly failing" schools. The teachers and students are working hard, their classrooms are orderly, and if the students overwhelmingly come from impoverished backgrounds, the schools themselves have considerable resources. Elmore describes some of the problems, and they are not obvious ones. He also describes what a school can do, and what happens to test scores as reforms are undertaken; it is almost like medicine, and it requires many skills. Further, he says that at a certain point, a school in trouble needs considerable external support. (Curiously, if it does get this support, and starts getting a feel for how to do things, the test scores then tend to go flat for a while; since the No Child Left Behind Act relies on a ratchet, a school that undertook serious long-term reform would be penalized.) In general, Elmore calls for a major effort to develop the expertise and resources needed to help troubled schools.

It is interesting to notice that in this issue there is very little historical perspective. None of the articles mentioned that education reform is a traditional American obsession, and Resnik and Zurawsky were quite wrong when they said that the Standards based movement began fifteen years ago. For example, a hundred years ago similar complaints led to a similar movement. In the June 1996 issue of the Notices of the American Mathematical Society, John Ewing wrote in 'Mathematics a Century Ago -- A Century From Now,' (on-line for registrants at ) that, "In 1903 at Yale a survey showed that the average senior spent less than an hour a day preparing for classes. At Harvard some students received A's in courses they had never attended. An observer of Harvard commented, 'Perhaps in no institution is the value of the A.B. degree so indeterminate.'" By the 1930s, educators in pursuit of objective standards were using an array of standardized exams, from the European IQ test to the American SAT.

So the contributors do not mention a historical problem the Vermont situation should remind us of: Americans like standards in theory, but not necessarily in practice. For example, national science standards may sound reasonable, but can congresspeople from Kansas and Massachusetts agree on federally mandated standards for a high school biology curriculum?

The contributors to this issue would agree that the Standards movement provides one of those crisis and opportunity moments. Certainly, when WE assign grades, we assume that those grades mean something, and that they serve as feedback to students. The same could be said of a meaningful measure for evaluating teaching performance. The key adjective here is "meaningful": does the measure actually measure anything, and if so, what could we do about it? The authors believe that this would be a good time to push for standards, for meaningful measures of those standards, and for developing resources to help schools achieve these standards. And looking at SUNY's recent experiment with standardized exams (and they did have standards, largely politically motivated), or the original exam-based proposal for Academic Learning Compacts for Florida university students (pushed by a lobbyist for exam-writing companies), this issue has already arrived at the universities. It will likely be around for awhile.

July 7, 2005

Twelve Months a Year

The word "faculty" refers to an ability to do something. It used to refer to membership to a scholarly or professional community (and their apprentices or students), but in the last century, its boundaries have become less defined, sometimes including secretaries and administrators.
spacer For the United Faculty of Florida, "faculty" has come to mean people who hold one of the forty job descriptions (in relevant units) listed in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, i.e., the contract between the USF faculty and the USF Board of Trustees. These titles range from "Graduate Research Professor" to "Curator" to "Music Specialist." This list is not logical, as it includes some
Administrative and Professional (A & P) titles and does not include all Faculty titles. Moreover, there are lots of quirks in membership, most notably the exclusion of most (but not all!) of the Health Science faculty.
spacer This is a result of historical accident. When the union was first formed, the organizers and the administrators (and the state labor agency) all dickered about how the bargaining unit was to be defined. But however we got in the same boat, here we are, and one thing that unions have learned from hard experience is that we sink or float together.
spacer That is why, when the Administration last summer proposed a divide-and-conquer salary scheme with non-ranked faculty getting a 2 % mean raise only, the union insisted that the mean raise be the same for ranked and non-ranked faculty. A union that lets some members be treated better than others based solely on job code will find that the list of favorable job codes shrinks, and its own membership riven by fairness issues.
spacer But the differences in job descriptions means that differences have to be addressed in the contract. So one should open the 102-page PDF file containing the Collective Bargaining Agreement and look at what it has to say (and notice that Appendix A defines membership of the Bargaining Unit).
spacer First of all, a lot of things are the same. For example, Article 5 on Academic Freedom applies to librarians, counselors, specialists, and other professionals for the same reason it applies to instructors and professors. So does Article 6 on Non-Discrimination, which not only prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, age, veteran status, disability, political affiliation, marital status, or union activity, but also requires that, "Personnel decisions shall be based on job-related criteria and performance."
spacer This brings up three articles that everyone (9-month and 12-month) should always be cognizant of:
spacer Article 9 on Assignments. By Section 9.3, each faculty member should receive a written assignment describing their duties (by 9.2(E), the assignment cannot be "imposed arbitrarily or unreasonably," and there is a procedure for dealing with arbitrary or unreasonable impositions). The assignments must provide opportunity for advancement, but scheduled hours should fall within an 8-hour day and a 40-hour workweek.
spacer This leads directly to Article 10 on Evaluations. An annual performance evaluation is an assessment of the employee's performance on the employee's assigned duties. All faculty in the bargaining unit have the right to receive their annual evaluations on a timely basis, in writing, assessing their performance, and may contest their evaluations per 10.3(A)(1). All these evaluations, and other relevant documents, are kept in an Evaluation File, described in Article 11. These files are confidential, open to inspection by the employee, and may not contain any anonymous material except for student evaluation results.
spacer Article 20 contains much of the enforcement machinery of the contract. How is the union to compel the Administration to abide by the contract? By a formal grievance process, which applies to ALL members of the bargaining unit. If an employee is victimized by a violation of the contract, that employee may file a grievance for redress. Notice that a grievance is filed over a violation, not over an inequity or a stupidity. THIS GRIEVANCE MUST BE FILED WITHIN 30 DAYS OF THE MOMENT THE GRIEVANT KNEW OR SHOULD HAVE KNOWN OF THE VIOLATION. A grievant has the right to union representation during the grievance process. If you are a victim of a contractual violation, you should contact the chapter's Grievance Chair, Dr. Mark Klisch (a 12-month person!).

There are several other articles that apply to all of us.
spacer Article 14 on Promotion applies to all of us. Criteria for promotion must be written down, and must follow a standard procedure.
spacer Article 16 on Discipline and Job Abandonment also applies to all of us. "Discipline" may be applied for incompetence or just cause (which are terms with heavy legal connotations), and must be preceded by written notification. The article says that an employee has the right to union representation during any investigatory questioning; in fact, according to federal law, if an employee is in any meeting in which the discussion turns into an investigation that could lead to discipline, the employee has the right to stop the meeting in order to arrange for union representation. The contract says that discipline should be "progressive," i.e., the discipline for a first infraction should be moderate, with discipline for subsequent infractions being increasingly severe (that is to say, the administration is not supposed to start with severe discipline at the first infraction).
spacer Most of Article 17 on Leaves applies to all of us (medical leaves, family leaves, etc.), but notice that Section 17.5 says that professionals working on schedules should get holidays off. And those of us who work over nine months a year, and are not on an academic year schedule, accrue annual leave at the rate of 14.667 hours per month.
spacer Article 18 on Inventions and Works also applies to 12-month people. "Works" including works of art, engineering designs, websites, etc. Employees have full rights over inventions and works they develop on their own time with their own resources, but anything developed on the job, or with any use of university resources, must be shared. This leads to the awkward issue of Article 19 on Conflict of Interest / Outside Activity. Employees are required to report outside activities which "the employee should reasonably conclude may create a conflict of interest." Needless to say, the administration is always interested in potential financial conflicts of interest, and in fact requires that employees inform the university of all compensated outside activities: while an employee can freelance or even moonlight as long as it does not conflict with their university responsibilities and or create a conflict of interest, the employee has to tell the administration about it, per Section 19.4.
spacer Article 22 is entitled "Professional Development Program and Sabbaticals." The "Sabbatical" part refers to tenured faculty; the Professional Development Program is a similar program for non-tenure-track professionals.
spacer And Article 23, on Salaries. Amidst that complicated array of formulas, a mean raise of 5 % for the entire bargaining unit.

And there is a point of particular interest to 12-month faculty (or 9-month untenured faculty).
spacer Article 12 on Non-Reappointment. Legally, we are all reappointed annually, but for tenured faculty, the procedure is pro forma. But some professional lines can be reassigned from contract to contract, and some can disappear and reappear. So for some of us, non-reappointment is a real possibility. Non-reapointments generally are not grievable, although if a non-reappointer has been indiscrete enough to leave evidence of an improper motive for non-reappointment (e.g., discrimination in violation of Article 6), the non-reapointment may be grievable. With certain exceptions, employees have the right to advance written notice -- usually something like ninety days -- that they are not being reappointed. If the motivation was financial, the administration has the obligation to make a "reasonable" effort to place the employee elsewhere. Incidentally, tenured faculty who think that they are not vulnerable to this kind of thing are invited to visit the harsh realities of Article 13.

July 21, 2005

Reclassification Warning

During the recent struggle over union recognition, the administration said that they had no intent of harming the rights of anyone but were just following legal requirements. UFF Chapter President Roy Weatherford said that could not be true because "Nobody disputes that the university could, if they chose, voluntarily continue to implement all contractual rights. They're trying to [expletive indicative of harming one's interests deleted] us!"

Now we discover that one of the ways they were covertly trying to [harm our interests] was to surreptitiously reclassify people out of the bargaining unit so that they would no longer have contractual rights when the contract was (inevitably) restored. Just as they failed to recognize their legal obligation to notify the union when reclassifying individuals, they also failed to have the common courtesy to do so. We don't yet know if and how they notified the individuals involved.

An alert member in advising evidently found out about this and tipped off the union. We immediately requested that the university provide us with all available information on the reclassification, but we still don't know how many individuals were affected.

If you are uncertain about your status, ask your supervisor or otherwise determine what your job classification is and compare it to the list at the end of the contract (see pp. 87, 88 of the 102-page PDF file), then let us know if you have been removed from the bargaining unit against your will (or with your consent, for that matter -- we don't fight to impose our views on individuals who prefer not to be covered by the contract). If confidentiality is a concern, use a non-university computer to communicate with Roy at (the 'D' is for Doris Weatherford, the distinguished writer on the history of American women who is the important one in the household).

We are cautiously optimistic that we can set this aright, as the recent decision of the District Court of Appeals should, among other things, reinstate the original description of the bargaining unit and invalidate any unilateral changes. But we need your help and support to win this and all the other fights for people's rights.

Statements on Academic Freedom

A few weeks ago, the Hillsborough County Commission adopted a new policy: henceforth, the Commission shall exercise veto power over book displays in county libraries. Most of the subsequent debate was over the Commission's choice of a display to veto -- on gays and lesbians -- but some observers did note that the Commission was invading the traditionally indendent librarian's domain. Alas, it is true that this is not the first invasion, but it may be a sign of the times.

From China to Egypt to the United States comes news of censorship of scholars and retaliation against scholars. It has reached the point that a Scholars at Risk Network has decided to survey ten nations to determine the situation. It could be quite subtle, as Central University of Venezuela Sociology Professor Orlando Albornoz told the Chronicle of Higher education: "'Academic freedom is not merely "the difference between being in jail and out of jail ... It's more than that."' (Chronicle of Higher Education, May 20, 2005). Indeed, one subtlety recently appeared in the global warming debate, when Texas Congressman Joe Barton sent letters (which Mr. Barton proudly posted) to several scientists, asking for information in apparent preparation of a Congressional investigation into, er, research bias.

So it is not surprising that scholars are concerned. One expression of that concern was issued by the first Global Colloquium of University Presidents, which met at Columbia University in January. (Columbia is one of the five sponsors, the other four being NYU, Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale.) The Colloquium concentrated on two issues, migration and academic freedom. The Colloquium considered these issues in separate sessions, then together in a plenary session chaired by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The results are posted at a Columbia website.

The May 26th Statement on Academic Freedom starts by enumerating three principles of academic freedom proposed at a 1950 UNESCO conference at Nice: the right to pursue knowledge and truth, toleration of diversity, and the obligation of academic institutions to promote certain civic virtues. The statement then defines academic freedom as "the freedom to conduct research, teach, speak, and publish, subject to the norms and standards of scholarly inquiry, without interference or penalty, wherever the search for truth and understanding may lead."

The Statement contends that universities are especially important to society in this era, and from this importance it concludes that "Academic freedom is ... distinct from -- and not a mere extension of -- the freedoms of thought, conscience, opinion, expression, assembly, and association ..." It also enumerates responsibilities of scholars (essentially tolerance and resisting corruption) and the rights (autonomy) and duties (social good) of universities.

The Statement was signed by fifteen university presidents from all continents save Antarctica. (An interview with Bangkok University President Thanu Kulachol is on-line.) Meanwhile, the American Council on Education produced a shorter statement on Academic Rights and Responsibilities, which was presented as a basis for public debate. The statement enumerated five points:

  1. American academies are very diverse, and should determine their own academic freedom policies.
  2. Academies should welcome pluralism and debate.
  3. Evaluations of students should be independent of ideology.
  4. There are criteria for measuring the academic merit of ideas, and these criteria should be used.
  5. The "government's recognition and respect for the independence of colleges and universities is essential for academic and intellectual excellence." (Notice the lame language: the committee must have had a lot of trouble agreeing on this one.) Academic institutions have "a particular obligation to ensure that academic freedom is protected..."
This statement was shorter, and was endorsed by 28 organizations, including the American Association of University Professors, the Association of American Universities, the Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities, and the College Board.

The statement promptly got some flak from American Federation of Teachers, which was unimpressed by the language: AFT Vice President William E. Scheuerman said that the fifth point should say something a little more direct, like "Keep government out" (his language); the AFT posted a statement at . On the other hand, Center for the Study of Popular Culture president David Horowitz, the leading exponent of the Academic Bill of Rights currently popular on the right -- and a leading exponent of government invasion of academia -- praised the statement, saying, "This is the first time the door has opened to a conversation"; see also Horowitz's statement. Horowitz also condemned the AFT for not signing it.

The possibility that the ACE was "caving" into Horowitz, whose academic freedom campaign is widely regarded as sheep's clothing, has helped generate a lot of the heat. Inside Higher Education ran an article, Not a Consensus on this statement, which is regarded as anything from appeasement to compromise to a judo move.

But there is a reality check to remember. The June 30 Chronicle of Higher Education story on the Global Colloquium concluded with the observation attributed to Columbia law professor Michael Doyle: governments that oppose academic freedom would prevent university presidents from signing a petition like the statement. But with a glance at David Horowitz's enthusiasm for the ACE statement, it is more likely that such governments would encourage their university presidents to sign -- for publicity purposes. Making the ideas take life is more difficult.

August 4, 2005

Academic Freedom is for Everyone

The notion that counselors and ministers need the freedom and independence to counsel and minister may go back to the freedom of prophets, soothsayers, and jesters to speak when others dare not, and we can see it today in the independence of judges and the immunities of physicians and the clergy. And we also see it in the "academic freedom" of scholars, who have enjoyed certain protections since the Middle Ages. It is not just a perk for professors; it is a necessary shield for all faculty who may research, teach, or serve in ways that irritate the powers that be. Modern academic freedom was imported into America (along with hypercentralized university administration) from Germany, where scholars had claimed freedom from the teeth and claws of authoritarian administrations and the petty German fiefdoms those administrators served. And so we scholars in American Universities also claim freedom from the teeth and claws of our hypercentralized administrations and the petty state governments our administrations serve.

But the courts, always jealous of their own judicial independence, are less respectful of these traditions as it applies to others. Indeed, the legal principle seems to be that "he who pays the piper calls the tune." (Well, not quite: it is not the people who pay the tuition and taxes that call the tune, but their representatives.) Anyway, this principle was approved by the Supreme Court in its 1991 decision in Rust v. Sullivan, in which the federal government argued (in fact, then Principal Deputy Solicitor General and current Supreme Court nominee John Roberts argued) that if the government paid for medical consultation for poor women, the government had the right to forbid the doctors from discussing abortion with those women. The court held that "There is no question ... [that the] prohibition is constitutional, since the Government may make a value judgment ... and implement that judgment by the allocation of public funds"; to the predictable criticism that of all people, a doctor should be free to give advice to patients, the Court dismissed the criticism, saying that the burden of the regulation on this issue (abortion) was not "significant." While most observers were concerned with the abortion aspects of the case, the point for us is that there does not seem to be any tradition of a right of a professional to give professional advice that the Court need respect on constitutional grounds. (Except for the independence of judges, of course, and lesser if similar rights for legislators and other lawyers... .)

In other words, if the piper is to protect the freedom of song, the piper is going to need a contract that explicitly protects that freedom. And at USF, Article 5 of the contract provides such protection -- within limits. Ever since the "Freedom to Teach" and the "Freedom to Learn" were proclaimed at the University of Berlin two centuries ago, academics have claimed that academies need academic freedom for teachers. In America, the notion expanded to cover research and public discussion of academic subjects as teachers were fired not only for teaching evolution but also for giving public lectures on the distribution of wealth. The historic reasons for academic freedom thus apply not only to professors, but to all who teach and do research, on soft money or hard. And the contract makes it clear that anyone USF puts in front of a class, or supports in a research project, should be a person whose academic freedom the university can and does respect: if the university administration contends that some of the people who teach or research at USF should not have that respect, the administration that hired them undercuts its own credibility.

But there is more than teaching and research. There is also service.

Service involves the ancient tradition of self-governance that the caged universities in Germany evaded, a tradition that goes back to the original Academy in Athens and was quite strong in Medieval Europe. Self-governance requires the freedom to speak and to participate. When we have a community, along with the freedom that makes participation possible, those who are assigned that freedom are effectively members of the community. Or if the legal governance is centralized in the hands of the administration, there remains the obligation to speak truth to power, or as Confucius (who was very suspicious of flatterers) put it, to withstand a ruler to his face. The point is that a ruler needs honest counsel, and if governance is shared, then the counsel should be shared among the governors. There is no greater fool than a ruler who demands not to receive bad news or criticism, and that is why wise government requires institutional protection for critics and bearers of bad news.

Service goes beyond governance, however, and freedom is necessary to discharge one's professional duties. This has been recognized by professional organizations whose members are often subjected to pressure. For example ...

The American Library Association, which is always fighting against censorship, has a very strong commitment to intellectual freedom: its Code of Ethics says that, "We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources."

Thought control is not the only corruption that professionals face. There is also fraud. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants has a code of ethics that deals with the problem of what to do if one's superior tells one to cover up. The code "...prohibits a member from knowingly misrepresenting facts or subordinating his or her judgment when performing professional services."

The problem that CPAs face is a conflict of interest, between the CPA's superior and the public interest. A similar conflict faces counselors, who, according to the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics, must "... inform clients of the purposes, goals, techniques, procedures, limitations, potential risks, and benefits of services to be performed, and other pertinent information." A counselor relying on government funding (like USF counselors who are paid by Florida taxpayers) could be instructed by the government to violate this clause, and not have any protection without the contract.

In order to do our jobs and serve the public interest -- as opposed to official whims -- we all must have a degree of freedom to function. And so Article 5 protects all of us, and we all need its protection.