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UFF Biweekly
United Faculty of Florida -- USF System Chapter
6 August 2015
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Chapter Meeting Tomorrow Noon in Tampa

Tomorrow Friday the Chapter will meet at 12 noon at CDB Restaurant in Temple Terrace, at 5104 E. Fowler Ave., just east of USF Tampa. There will be pizza, salad, and soda. Check us out. Join the movement. Bring a colleague.

This will be the last chapter meeting this summer. The first UFF USF Chapter Meeting of the fall will be during the first week of class, time and place TBA.

Last Call for UFF USF Travel Scholarship Applications

Tomorrow, the USF Chapter of the UFF will award four $ 500 Travel Scholarships for this coming fall and spring.

All UFF USF members are eligible for one of four $ 500 travel scholarships to be randomly selected at the August 7 UFF USF Chapter Meeting. Any member may submit a proposal - a paragraph describing the professional activity for which the travel scholarship will be applied - to us by campus mail (UFF Membership Committee, 30238 USF Holly Drive) or by email; all proposals must be received by August 6. See the flyer for UFF members and the flyer for UFF non-members.

This initiative is part of our membership campaign. If you would like to become active in the UFF USF Membership Drive, Adrienne Berarducci.

Join UFF Today!

Download, fill in, and mail the membership form. 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. Come and join the movement.


If you have been the victim of a violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, 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 online contact form. For more information, see our web-page on grievances.

Visit Us on Facebook

Visit the United Faculty of Florida at USF Facebook page. 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, or contact the Communications Committee. The Committee will invite every UFF member that asks to join. So check us out. UFF members are welcome to join, and non-members are welcome to look.


Grants and Politicians

We conclude the summer with two quite different articles. One is on the time and effort required to get grants, and the other is about politicians picking on higher education.

  • Getting Real About Grants. Getting grants requires a significant fraction of a faculty member's time and effort, and faculty at all ranks are applying for and getting grants. For a look at what is involved, see below or click here.
  • Interesting Times for Academia. While our legislature seems to have stopped sticking pins in us - they seem to have more important things on their agenda right now - other state governments have been chipping away at their universities. For some signs of the times, see below or click here.
The article on grants is the latest installment in our series on tenure and promotion. Past articles are linked to the UFF USF webpage. For those tenure applicants facing the year of decision, the president of the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity has posted a column on Surviving Your Tenure Year.

Getting Real About Grants

At two of the USF workshops on grant writing last year, both presenters emphasized that writing grants is not like writing up research. While it does entail a lot of literature searching, grant writing is in many ways a competitor with teaching or research, the competition being for time and energy.

Notice the "teaching and research." Federal agencies like the National Science Foundation offer grants for developing new teaching techniques, and USF is a recipient of millions of dollars of federal money for such grants. (The state also offers grants for teaching projects.) Grants for teaching and grants for research have one thing in common: writing the proposal is a major endeavor that takes time and effort away from actual teaching and research.

At the workshops, the amount of time and effort to produce an NSF grant proposal was estimated at up to six weeks of solid work. A faculty member can spend all her research time of one semester just writing one good grant proposal.

Most grants are not funded. In 2007, the NSF reported that the proportion of successful applications had fallen from one in three to one in five over the previous six years (see also the Chronicle's summary), and of course it's gotten worse since then. The reason is simple: there are more applicants (as more universities demand grants in tenure and promotion packets) while funding has remained relatively flat. One can improve the odds by having experienced faculty look over the proposal; some colleges have experienced faculty available for reviewing proposals, so applicants should contact their department's sponsored research associate for details on getting assistance.

A little arithmetic will illuminate the problem. Suppose a faculty member wrote ten distinct proposals (as independent trials, for those interested in the jargon) where each had a one in five chance of success. There is about one chance in ten that all ten proposals would be declined, or a 90 % chance that at least one is funded. Not too bad, and that thought motivates the advice at one workshop that a faculty member on tenure track write two or three proposals each year. At six weeks a proposal, that's all summer just writing proposals. This leads to two points (besides the thought that there is something broken in this system).

  • Persistence. Aspiring writers are told that the key to getting their novels published is persistence. You are not a real writer until you can paper your wall with rejection slips. That applies to grant writing as well.
  • Collaboration. Many grants are team efforts, and faculty can get credit as co-Principal Investigators in grant applications. That spreads the work among many hands, and an application with a senior Principal Investigator has a better chance at funding.
This means that senior faculty should try to help junior faculty into the system. The honor society Sigma Xi conducted a survey of postdocs in 2003-2004, and The Chronicle summarized the report with, "Postdoctoral scientific researchers are more likely to be happy with their jobs and to publish copiously when they receive a lot of structured training and advice from mentors."

USF will continue to run grant-writing workshops during the coming year, and it may prove useful to attend a few.

Interesting Times for Academics

Academia has always had mixed relations with the public and the politicians. Academia appears to be crucial for running a civilized society - civilizations from ancient China to medieval Europe relied on academics for important tasks from training bureaucrats to casting horoscopes - but academics are uppity and the whole business costs money. Since trouble often comes in waves, it is worthwhile to keep an eye on trends. And we need look no further than attacks on NASA and the NSF to see politicians unhappy with uppity academics.

One popular target is academic tenure, and there are occasional scandals, like Marquette University's suspension of John McAdams and Continental Resources' attempt to pressure the University of Oklahoma into panicking (which UO has thus far resisted).

But while targeting individual faculty makes good theatre for politicians seeking the lowest common denominator, a more wholesale approach would be to attack tenure itself. It was long assumed that no state would do this: any university system not offering tenure would knock itself out of the research market. There are fifty states and thousands of private institutions, and however appealing the abolition of tenure would be, abolitionists would prefer that someone else would go first. So no one expected a serious assault on tenure in the United States.

But now, Wisconsin is testing the waters. Wisconsin was a good place for an empirical test: unlike other states, it had a law protecting academic tenure, so a cautious step in the abolitionist direction would be to repeal that law, have the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents enact tenure as a policy, and then publicly observe that now they are in line with many other states. And that is what Wisconsin did: Governor Scott Walker announced he was going after the law protecting tenure, faculty objected, the Regents approved a policy to protect tenure should the law pass, and the law passed, but because of the Board's policy, tenure is still intact. But as one Wisconsin faculty member observed, the step has been taken, and its success has national implications. If it can happen at Wisconsin-Madison, it can happen anywhere. And it was just the first step...

Another wholesale approach is to eliminate programs inhabited by uppity faculty. The University of North Carolina's Board of Governors has just shut down three politically inconvenient research centers, one of them a poverty center at Chapel Hill and another a biodiversity center in the East Carolina University's Department of Biology. This is part of a major effort to cut programs that produce undesirable scholarship at North Carolina.

East Carolina's motto is "Tomorrow starts here," and that may be the problem. Meng Ke (Mencius), who lived when China was divided into squabbling states, warned that before trouble came, there were signs that an observant scholar could recognize and act on (i.e., leave) before the serious trouble arrived. It would be melodramatic to compare those times with ours, but there are signs in our times, too. When Texas legalized concealed weapons on campus, Texan campus administrators and faculty worried about faculty retention. It isn't just gun carry - Utah has had that for years - it is, as Mencius would warn, a sign of things that may come. The University of Texas isn't the only place that should worry.


Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, August 7, in Temple Terrace at CDB Restaurant, 5104 E. Fowler Ave., just east of USF Tampa.

There will be pizza, salad, and drinks. All UFF members are invited to attend. Non-members are also invited to come and check us out. 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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