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UFF Biweekly
United Faculty of Florida -- USF System Chapter
12 May 2022
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Searching for a New Provost

Last November, USF Provost Ralph Wilcox, who has served as provost since 2008, announced that he was resigning as provost and returning to the faculty. WUSF's report noted several positive trends at USF occurring during his tenure while the Crow's Nest recounted his history as provost (see also the reports in The Oracle and The Tampa Bay Times).

So ... where do we go from here? We have a new president and, as The Crow's Nest observed, we will soon have a number of new senior administrators (and the list has grown since that article). We return to the points made in the 9 September 2021 Biweekly, the 1 October 2021 Extra, and the 21 October 2021 Biweekly - that hiring such a senior administrator entails a decision on where USF is going and is to go, and that that should be a decision made with substantial input from the faculty, the students, and the USF community.

  • Where are We Going? According to a number of metrics, USF is enjoying a meteoric rise. But where are we going, and are we going where we want to go? One time to think about this is when hiring a new leadership team. For more, see below or click here.
Meanwhile, we are in the process of ratifying a new contract. All ballots are due (in our hands) today. They will be counted tomorrow Friday in a joint meeting of the UFF USF Chapter and the UFF USF Bargaining Team at 12 noon in EDU161 on USF Tampa. All UFF USF employees - UFF members and non-members alike - are welcome to observe. This will be a hybrid meeting, and anyone who wishes to attend may come to EDU161 or ask the chapter secretary for a Zoom invitation.

Chapter Meeting Tomorrow in EDU161 at 12 Noon - and on Zoom

The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida will meet tomorrow Friday at 12 noon in EDU 161 on USF Tampa. On the agenda: counting the ballots and plans for the summer. And here are the minutes for the previous meeting.

This is the first chapter meeting of the summer. Any employee in the Bargaining Unit may attend, and there will be sandwiches, fruit, drinks and sweets. It will be hybrid, 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.

Annual Letter Carrier's Food Drive

Every year, the National Association of Letter Carriers - a fellow union under the AFL-CIO umbrella - holds a food drive. But because of the pandemic, the drive was not conducted in 2020 or 2021, but with food prices squeezing the food banks, the need is as great as ever.

If you want to contribute, put your non-perishable containerized items in a bag by your mailbox on Saturday, May 14, and your friendly neighborhood letter carrier will deliver it to a local food bank. For more information about this food drive, check out this YouTube video.

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.

Where Are We Going?

G. K. Chesterton's Father Brown once claimed that, ``The masters of the modern world don’t matter. Even the real masters don’t matter much...,'' but, those who ``...stand up stark and dark like disregarded sign-posts, down all that smooth descending road ... Dean Swift and Dr. Johnson and old William Cobbett...'' do matter in what ultimately makes a difference to the world.

We see the truth of this in academia. Who was the provost (``vice chancellor'') of the University of Cambridge while Isaac Newton was the Lucasian Professor there? Who was the rector of the Albertus University of Königsberg while Immanuel Kant was Professor of Logic and Metaphysics there? Who was chancellor of the University of Oxford when J. R. R. Tolkien was the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon there?

Of course, university leaders of vision and ability (e.g. Wilhelm von Humboldt of the University of Berlin, Charles Eliot of Harvard University, and Booker Washington of the Tuskegee Institute) can make a difference - often by launching or raising an aspiring institution. It is the vision, the ability, and the hard work that makes the difference. Of course, rising institutions usually enjoy social and / or economic uplift, and as the late UFF USF Chapter President Mitch Silverman frequently observed, USF was the institution that "they couldn't keep down," which means that there are underlying forces in the Tampa Bay that an active and visionary provost could harness.

Wanted: a provost with vision, ability, and an unlimited supply of elbow grease. For an aspiring institution.

As she announced on April 18, on April 16, President Rhea Law charged a committee consisting of one trustee, one former trustee, ten administrators, and six faculty members to produce an unranked list of finalists for the position of provost, together with confidential recommendations on the candidates. She had already contracted with a headhunting firm, Storbeck Search, a "Diversified Search Group" whose recent placements include the president of Temple University, the president of Michigan State University, and the president of Haverford College.

On their website, Storbeck Search says that they start by listening, and on Wednesday, May 4, Managing Director Shelly Weiss Storbeck chaired an online meeting sponsored by the USF Faculty Senate on the search. Most of the 37+ attendees were USF faculty, and they had a lot to say to the search committee. Here are some of the main points made.

  • What credentials will the next provost have? Attendees would like a provost with substantial academic administrative experience (administrative experience in non-academic fields would not suffice) and substantial academic credentials.
  • What commitment will the next provost have to USF? Both presidents and provosts have shorter tenures these days, and perhaps consequently, some provosts and presidents treat their tenure as an additional item for their resume. We need someone with a greater commitment.
  • Will the next provost focus on what USF needs? There were comments on holes in USF's infrastructure and resources - and the tendency of USF leadership to be distracted by bright, shiny, and ephemeral objects.
  • How will the next provost deal with Tallahassee? There was some concern about Tallahassee using higher education for target practice, but also the low level of support for USF compared to its performance. The questions were: are the candidates aware of what they would be getting into - and what would they do about it?
  • Will the next provost stand up for faculty? Getting specific about problems with Tallahassee, attendees noted recent legislation concerning tenure and academic freedom, and want a provost who will defend the independence of the university and the rights and privileges of faculty.
  • What commitments will the next provost have towards diversity? Diversity in the student body and the faculty are two distinct if related issues, and involve both recruitment and retention.
There was the perhaps predictable discussion of the use of metrics to measure progress towards ... towards ... anyway, to measure progress, which led inevitably an aspirational goal mentioned twelve times in the Strategic Plan: membership in the Association of American Universities. As the AAU makes clear, membership in the AAU is driven by metrics in some areas of scholarship - for example, AAU treats education (where US News & World Report lists USF as tied at #48 among public institutions) as a "second tier" field. As for the humanities and fine arts - don't ask: there isn't enough money in them for the AAU's money-driven metrics. (Agriculture is similarly denigrated: agricultural powerhouse Iowa State University has just left the AAU.) And the AAU's obsession with metrics can become self-parody: the University of Missouri's recent travails within the AAU have revealed that the AAU conducts rankings of members, apparently for hazing purposes. Perhaps USF should have higher priorities than membership in an exclusive fashion salon.

Perhaps we need a provost who is not interested in leading a generic institution with a generic array of (quantitative) goals, but one with its own history and mission to the community that supports it. One participant at the meeting mentioned the 2021 USF Presidential Search Brand Book (augmented by the USF Points of Pride), which mentioned some positive aspects of USF (e.g. in the past nine years, USF has risen in the US News & World Report rankings from #100 to #46, and USF was awarded a Phi Beta Kappa chapter in 2018 - both being recognition of USF's undergraduate program). The Book also enumerated "Opportunities and Challenges" like "Leveraging the unique attributes of each campus," "Enhancing USF's infrastructure," and "Recruiting and retaining USF's world class people" (emphasis added).

It would be interesting to know what the next provost thought about USF and the local business community's aspiration to make the I-4 corridor into a high-tech hub, USF's geographic position in a metropolis with seaport access to Latin America, and in general USF's position as a laboratory for addressing challenges facing Florida in the coming century.


The next chapter meeting will be tomorrow Friday, May 13, at 12:00, in EDU 161 on USF Tampa, or via Zoom. All UFF USF members are welcome: for the Zoom link, contact the Chapter Secretary.

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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