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UFF Biweekly
United Faculty of Florida -- USF System Chapter
7 July 2022
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Navigating the Minefield

Last week was the deadline for faculty teaching general education courses in fall to submit their syllabi - for political inspection. University administrations are almost apologetically advising faculty to … maybe adjust their courses a little. Not everyone is apologetic: the former chair of the University of Florida Faculty Senate and the president of the University of Florida wrote a curiously defiant op-ed saying, nothing to see here, folks (USF logon required). Nothing has changed - except what we have to do differently.

Among other things, union dues pay for lawyers to take dubious legislation to court. But litigation takes a long time - and carries no guarantees - so what do we do in the meantime? We look at three laws enacted this year.

  • Stop "Intellectual Orthodoxy". When Governor DeSantis signed a bill that messed with accreditation, tenure, and syllabi, he said it would advance accountability and transparency. For details, see below or click here.
  • Stop Woke. Advertised as the first legislation nationwide "to take on both corporate wokeness and Critical Race Theory in schools in one act," the law has a sweeping list of prohibitions. For details, see below or click here.
  • Don't Say Gay. Technically, this law does not affect us. But in reality, it will. For details, see below or click here.
Tomorrow's chapter meeting will focus on these three laws.

The ultimate source of all this is the political leadership in Tallahassee, so we should recall that we elected these politicians. So here is a reminder. The Florida primary is on August 23 and the deadline to register to vote in the primary is July 25. For anyone voting by mail, the supervisors of elections will tend to send mail ballots during the week of July 14 - 21, so we recommend requesting a mail ballot before then. For more information, see the Florida Division of Elections; to check your current status as a voter, see the Voter Information Lookup page. For more details, see the July 4 Extra.

Chapter Meeting Tomorrow at 12 Noon at USF St. Petersburg (and on Zoom)

The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida will meet tomorrow Friday at 12 noon at the USF St. Petersburg Student Center, in the Palm Room. But we will have sandwiches, drinks, and sweets first, at 11:30; we would like a head count, so please send us an RSVP. On the agenda: the legislation described in this issue. 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.

Stop "Intellectual Orthodoxy"

Senate Bill 7044 on Postsecondary Education requires that each university shop for a new accreditor and empowers the Florida Board of Governors to implement "post tenure review", and requires that faculty post information on their courses in advance - for political - er, public - er, student - inspection.

  • Regarding accreditation, even dealing with one's longstanding accreditor is a lot of work, including work by faculty volunteers. Seeking another accreditor will be a lot more difficult, and faculty who assist should be compensated. Moreover, since accreditation affects all of us, the search process for an accreditor should be transparent.
  • Regarding post tenure review, This law should remind us of the importance of annual evaluations. Our contract already enables periodic Sustained Performance Evaluations (10.3B) of tenured faculty, and these are linked to annual evaluations. So just as faculty should be involved in composing guidelines and criteria for annual evaluations, they should be involved in composing guidelines and criteria for sustained performance evaluations. And if the USF Administration wants more than Sustained Performance Evaluations, our position is that it will have to be bargained. (Incidentally, post tenure review seems to be all the rage these days: the American Association of University Professors found in its 2022 AAUP Survey of Tenure Practices that about half of all private institutions have some form of post tenure review, while two-thirds of public institutions do. What post tenure review accomplishes - besides providing fodder for election season - is unclear.)
  • Regarding posting lists of materials, the statute requires that syllabi with lists of required and recommended texts be posted "prominently in the course registration system and on its website" at least 45 days before classes start. In addition, if the course is a general education course, the post should include a syllabus with the course curriculum, goals / objectives / student expectations, and grading system. While a USF course syllabus posted in Canvas should contain more, curriculum / goals / objectives / expectations / grading is all that the statute requires, and faculty should resist demands for more, for the following reason. The Tampa Bay Times reports (USF logon required) that Governor DeSantis said that this requirement was to prevent attempts to "smuggle in ideology and politics" while House Speaker Chris Sprowls said that students would not be misled into signing up for a course on "socialism and communism" when they wanted to take a course on "what it means to be an actual American." This suggests that political operatives will be prowling through these syllabi, looking for items to be ripped out of context and blasted through social media.

Stop Woke

House Bill 7 on Individual Freedom (alias the Stop WOKE Act) presents a list of things that shall not be taught, ranging from "Members of one race, color, national origin, or sex are morally superior to members of another race, color, national origin, or sex" to "Such virtues as merit, excellence, hard work, fairness, neutrality, objectivity, and racial colorblindness are racist or sexist, or were created by members of a particular race, color, national origin, or sex to oppress members of another race, color, national origin, or sex" (see the proposed State University System regulation for the complete list.)

While the statute doesn't prohibit discussing these "concepts" in class - it only prohibits their "endorsement" - the list is sweeping enough to catch all sorts of course activities. Furthermore, the enforcement mechanism is to cut university funding - thus leaving enforcement to anxious university administrators. Administrations may rely on student complaints, so we've been advised that it may be wise to post a prominent disclaimer, such as…

Students are encouraged to employ critical thinking and to rely on data and verifiable sources to interrogate all assigned readings and subject matter in this course as a way of determining whether they agree with their classmates and/or their instructor. No lesson is intended to espouse, promote, advance, inculcate, or compel a particular feeling, perception, viewpoint or belief.
(On the other hand, it's a rare course that doesn't promote certain feelings or perceptions, which only shows how far down the rabbit hole we've gone.) In addition, faculty venturing into tricky topics should consider recording their lectures, as complaints may include distortions of what was actually said and done in class.

We've been advised of three strategies that faculty could follow.

  • Low Risk. Don't deal with concepts prohibited by HB 7 in class or before student or other campus groups, and remove posters and art that appear to endorse concepts prohibited by HB 7.
  • Reasonable Risk. Since the prohibited concepts can be discussed but not endorsed, these concepts can be addressed - carefully. For example, the concept that "Virtues such as merit, excellence, hard work, fairness, neutrality, objectivity, and racial colorblindness are racist or sexist or were created to oppress members of another race…" could be addressed by discussing inequitable effects of merit-based systems allegedly possessing such virtues. But noting that such discussion leads directly into critical race theory - and the use of the word "virtues" in the statute - this should be done delicately.
  • High Risk. Make no changes - but join the union just in case you get in trouble.
The USF Office of the General Counsel has also distributed an Initial Guidance for Florida House Bill 7 (which the General Counsel describes as a living document that will be updated as developments develop). It presents a similar description of HB 7, with advice for teachers - especially those leading diversity training. The General Counsel also refers to the Campus Free Expression Act, which prohibits shielding students and employees from unpleasant ideas. That Act states that "A Florida College System institution or a state university may not shield students, faculty, or staff from expressive activities," said expressive activities including "faculty research, lectures, writings, and commentary, whether published or unpublished." (This would seem to contradict HB 7, but of course, the issue is how the courts will interpret all this.) At any rate, the General Counsel agrees that if a course is going to cover challenging material, that should be announced clearly at the outset.

The Legislature has plopped us in the middle of a minefield, so while the mess is litigated, we will have to be careful. And remember, UFF can only represent an employee in a grievance if that employee was a UFF member at the time of the grievable contract violation. So join today.

Don't Say Gay

Although House Bill 1557 on Parental Rights in Education (aka Don't Say Gay) does not directly affect higher education, its indirect effects are sufficiently troublesome that faculty should be aware of it. In K-12 education, it bars instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity that is not "age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards." The primary enforcement mechanism is that parents may sue, which may intimidate teachers from addressing sexual orientation or gender identity at all. For details, see the NEA's handout on What You Need to Know about Florida's "Don't Say Gay or Trans" Bill. There are two concerns here. One is that LGBTQ students who have been neglected or mistreated because of this legislation will be arriving on our doorstep. The other is that the Legislature may decide to impose something similar on higher education.


The next chapter meeting will be tomorrow Friday, July 8, at 12:00, on USF St. Petersburg, in the Student Center Palm Room. (There will be lunch at 11:30 am.) All UFF USF members are welcome. In addition, the meeting will be on Zoom: 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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