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UFF Biweekly
United Faculty of Florida -- USF System Chapter
18 May 2017
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Chapter Meeting Tomorrow in Tampa

The Chapter will meet tomorrow Friday at 12 noon in Perkins Restaurant in Tampa, on 5002 E. Fowler Ave. (at the intersection of E. Fowler Ave. and N. 50th Street, on the southeastern corner of USF Tampa). Lunch is on us, and all USF employees are invited, especially UFF members and employees thinking of becoming UFF members.

The Chapter will meet this summer on June 2, June 16, June 30, July 14, July 28, and August 11, at 12 noon. All meetings - except the July 28 meeting - will be at Perkins Restaurant in Tampa on 5002 E. Fowler Ave.; the July 28 chapter meeting will be on USF St. Petersburg at a location TBD. Come and check us out.

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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; see also the main article (left).

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Wrap-up (Maybe) of the Legislative Session...

Otto von Bismark once compared politics to making sausages: squeamish people should not look at it too closely. One did not have to look closely at the last legislative session to feel squeamish. For one thing, it went into overtime because of squabbling over the budget, and this time USF got bit in that last minute squabbling. In this issue:

  • The Legislative Session. The scorecard is largely (but not entirely) on bad legislation that got passed, and bad legislation that didn't. For details, see below or click here.
  • About those Performance Metrics. USF got bit, and how we got bit is a cautionary tale about politicized metrics. For details, see below or click here.
Meanwhile, there were 38 applicants for the six $ 500 travel scholarships offered by the Chapter last spring. (That's about 8 % of the entire UFF USF membership, which suggests a serious need for more travel funding.) The six recipients were selected by lot, and were Lindsay Boggess, Darline Demarie, Elizabeth Metzger, Christina Partin, Brook Sadler, and Lisa Starks. The travel scholarship program is on the agenda for tomorrow's chapter meeting.

In addition, thanks to everyone who participated in the National Association of Letter Carriers' 25th annual Stamp Out Hunger food drive. Final results may not be in for a while, but last year's drive collected 40,000 tons of food from ten thousand cities. (The NALC was founded by Civil War veterans in 1889, and is one of the oldest unions in the nation. One of their first victories was a Supreme Court decision enforcing the eight hour day.)

The Legislative Session

It was apparently Gideon Tucker who wrote that "No man's life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session." Much of the union's effort in educating politicians were aimed at explaining the consequences of bad bills. According to The Tampa Times, only 12.6 % of the filed bills passed and are now awaiting Governor Scott's signature - or veto pen. UFF and the Florida Education Association watched some bills closely, and here is how some of them turned out:

  • Graduate Assistants' Fees. A bill to waive some fees for graduate students died.
  • Guns. Bills to permit gun owners, usually with concealed carry permits, to carry guns on campuses, into courthouses (to be surrendered to security personnel), legislative meetings, private schools, current gun-free zones, and openly almost everywhere all failed. However, a bill to state that concealed carry permits does not authorize licensees to carry guns in such places also failed.
  • Health Insurance. A proposal to move to a multi-tiered program (which the AFL-CIO fears could raise our premiums and deductibles) was quietly folded into 76-page bill at the last moment, and passed. This bill also strikes a blow at the financial security of retirees: it changes the default option of the Florida Retirement System from the defined benefits plan to the defined contributions plan. The FRS is sound now, but the long-term consequences of this legislation may be dire.
  • Higher Education. Senate Bill 374 is 291 pages long and provides more money for students, restricts uses of foundation money, modifies funding benchmarks (see below), and renames the state college system the Florida Community College System (!), with some corresponding changes in their management. Meanwhile, a bill to conceal information about applicants for top academic posts failed.
  • Union Certification. In Florida, a union represents a Bargaining Unit if a majority of its employees vote in favor of representation. This status can be challenged, and if it is, the union must win another election. That does not mean that the employees the union represents are members - you have to join and pay dues - but it does mean that all the employees are represented in bargaining a contract. (Grievances are another matter: in grievances, UFF represents members only.) Representative Scott Plakon and Senator Dennis Baxley proposed that a union be automatically challenged every year that a majority of the employees it represents are not members. This would burden unions - like UFF - where many employees prefer to be represented for, ahem, free (at USF, about a third of the faculty and professionals UFF represents are members) (and thank you for supporting your union). Fortunately, this pair of bills failed.
And recalling USF's role in investigating Dozier school, we should note that the Legislature resolved to apologize to the boys who were victimized.

The big item was the budget, and the governor is apparently unhappy. If he vetoes it, the Legislature may have to start over again in a special session.

About that Preeminence Metric

For USF, the session ended with a bang. The session was supposed to end on May 5, but as of then the Legislature hadn't produced a budget, the one thing that they have to do. So Florida Senate President Joe Negron and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran met and hammered out a compromise, a compromise that has costed USF millions of dollars and raises serious questions about the Legislature's use of metrics for funding.

According to the Legislature, once upon a time the Legislature allocated funds based on staffing. In the 1990s, the Legislature decided to allocate money based on costs, with the central issue being funding for undergraduate education. Then about four years after the publication of The Hunger Games, the "stakeholders" started working on a system of Performance Metrics in which those institutions that met a list of criteria got to share a pot of money; these included items like the six-year graduation rate - all were concerned with undergraduate education.

The Performance Metrics were not aimed at graduate education, research, or scholarship, and the Legislature created a Preeminent State Research Universities Program and then an Emerging Preeminent State Research Universities program, based on a different system of metrics. The Preeminence metrics were different enough from the Performance Metrics to create dilemmas for some institutions, but they still had some metrics on undergraduate instruction - including the six-year graduation rate.

There were twelve preeminence benchmarks, and an institution that met eleven of them was "preeminent" (with all the money that that implied); an institution that met six of them was "emerging preeminent" (with some money). Last year, USF met nine of the benchmarks and filed a five year plan that was hoped to get USF into full preeminence (more millions of dollars) by 2018.

What happened in Spring is a cautionary tale. In January, parallel bills appeared in both houses of the Legislature that changed the six-year graduation rate benchmark (70 % graduating within six years) to a four-year graduation rate benchmark (50 % graduating within four years). (Reality check. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that in 2012, for "4-year public institutions", the six-year graduation rate was 57.2 % while the four-year graduation rate was 34.4 %.) USF is now reporting a 54 % four-year graduation rate, so it looked as if USF would become preeminent this year (and start getting the full amount of preeminence money this year). With those two bills making their stately progress through the legislature, everyone from legislative committees to the Board of Governors started making plans based on this new benchmark.

Then two weeks ago, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron decided to change the benchmark to a four-year graduation rate of 60 %, which USF did not expect to meet before 2020. Despite a last minute push by Tampa Bay pillars of the community (including the UFF Biweekly, which apologizes for erroneously stating that the Legislature would meet on May 7), the Legislature passed the budget with the 60 % benchmark in place.

So USF isn't preeminent - unless the governor (who is very unhappy about the budget) doesn't sign it, in which case the Legislature starts over again from wherever it is now.

The Chair of the USF Board of Trustees remains bullish, but two significant changes in a critical benchmark during a single legislative session suggests a fumbled interception or something. It also suggests that these metrics - which are useful only if they are stable over time - are not stable over time. In particular, it suggests that in 2020, USF may fail to achieve some adjusted metric as a result of a similar shenanigan.

The bottom line is that these metrics are as political as anything else in Tallahassee, and whatever the Legislature's pretensions, getting funding remains an exercise in politics.


Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, May 19, at Perkins Restaurant, on 5002 E. Fowler Ave., in Tampa.

We will have lunch at the meeting. All UFF members are invited to attend. Non-members are also invited to come and check us out. Come and join the movement.

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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