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UFF Biweekly
United Faculty of Florida -- USF System Chapter
1 June 2023
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About Academic Freedom

It says something about spring's legislative session that for colleges and universities, there was a massive increase in "PECO" funding for buildings and maintenance - a fourfold increase for universities and a sixfold increase for colleges - while at the same time, Postsecondary Academic Library Network funding was cut 22%. Well, the PECO funding is certainly welcome - in fact, overdue - but libraries are important, too.

The education legislation concerns what can be taught in schools, colleges, and universities, but there are also some mandates.

  • What's Going On. The campaign against academia in general - and academic freedom in particular - may be national, but it's concentrated in Florida. For details, see below or click here.
There are two legal obstacles to the effort to control the curriculum with legislation: the Florida Constitution and the U.S. Constitution - which brings us to our contract.
  • The Contract and the Law. The constitutions and the contract provide some protections against rampant legislatures.. For details, see below or click here.
Speaking of the contract, some of us may be taking summer easy, but the Grievance Committee's work is never done. As of the end of this week, since the last Biweekly, the Committee will have filed eight new grievances. Each Biweekly, you can scroll down to the Grievances announcement for the latest.

And speaking of academic freedom, freedom to teach was only half of Wilhelm von Humboldt's mantra, which also included freedom to learn. While many are outraged and some are suing over Florida's book bans, we recall Rex Stout's observation that the purpose of obscenity trials is to popularize literature. With that in mind, adventurous adolescents will be please to know that the Florida Department of Education will soon post a list of books that only bad teenagers read. Unfortunately, the list will go up in July, when summer is half over. Impatient teenagers will have to make do with PEN's list - and so far this year, Gender Queer, Flamer, and Tricks remain the top three most banned books.

Incidentally, some faculty may be … disappointed … that two of these top three are graphic novels. Welcome to the Twenty-first century…

Chapter Meeting Tomorrow Friday at 12 noon on USF Tampa in EDU 161 - and on Zoom

The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida will meet tomorrow Friday at 12 pm on USF Tampa in EDU 161 - and on Zoom. On the agenda: cucumbers for USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota / Manatee, membership, publicity, and more. 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, 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.

Check us out each issue for the latest news and a reminder. The latest news is that as of the end of this week, eight new grievances will be filed. And remember, UFF can only represent an employee in a grievance if that employee was a member at the time of the contract violation, so join today.

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.

What's Going On

Academic freedom is a national issue, involving political invasion of academia [USF login required] as well as cancel culture - the latter being the alleged motivation for the former.

Nowhere is political invasion of academia more pronounced than in Florida, and the American Association of University Professors has just released a preliminary report making four points:

  1. The governor undertook a "hostile takeover" of New College as a test case in transforming public higher education in Florida.
  2. The leaders of public higher education have remained silent.
  3. The Legislature has passed and the governor has signed bills that restrict and constrict the higher education curriculum.
  4. All this has had a chilling effect on higher education faculty.
We recommend that all faculty and administrators read the AAUP report, and we have the following comments on these four points.
  1. The statement of New College faculty censuring the Board "for failing in their fiduciary duties" suggests something more sordid is going on. The takeover of New College, with its dismissal of numerous administrators (and possible departure of many faculty) will open many vacancies for family, friends, and allies of the new leadership. After all, one may be reminded of Boss Tweed's highminded effort to replace Harper textbooks with those produced by his new company:
    The new Board is clearing the way for jobs for the boys; as South Florida State College trustee Louis Kirchner told the Tampa Bay Times [USF ID required] after three presidential candidates withdrew, leaving only a Tallahassee politician in play - "You have to understand that we are political appointees, and they were all Democrats."
  2. Taking the silence of the college and university presidents [USF ID required] to be consent might not be appropriate, for the situation is complicated [USF ID required]. But as Winston Churchill observed, appeasing a crocodile only delays the inevitable.
  3. The Biweekly has already reported on the legislation: see Spring 2023 back issues for details.
  4. One aspect of the situation is that as all this reverberates through the internet, some of the more excitable members of the audience take action into their own hands. Faculty have been receiving hate mail [USF ID required] for some time, and the recent (world-wide!) surges in hate mail to meteorologists, physicians, and election workers suggest that the situation for faculty could get worse.
Censorship - and cancellation - is like Tolkien's Ring. There are those who sincerely if deludedly believe that it can be used for good. There are those who desire the ring to further their own ambitions.
Reconstruction of the ring by Peter J and others
But it corrupts all who wield it..

The Contract and the Law

Legal protection for academic freedom is a complicated business. In the United States, the American Association of University Professors pushed for protecting academic freedom by adapting tenure as advanced by labor unions: tenured faculty cannot be fired except for cause. But tenure has been fading during the last few decades - as of now, 38% of the employees in the UFF USF Bargaining Unit are not on tenure track - so faculty organizations have sought other ways to protect academic freedom.

Academic freedom, as a separate right, has a tenuous hold on the judicial conscience. In Urofsky v. Gilmore the Fourth Circuit held that institutions, not individual faculty, had academic freedom, and in Garcetti v. Ceballos, the Supreme Court ruled that a district attorney may discipline a prosecutor who repeatedly complains about police misconduct (!) - a decision that was later applied in Hong v. Grant to uphold a university administration's retaliation against a faculty member for opposing the administration's position in a committee.

That brings us to constitutional law. The First Amendment provides some protection, although judicial opinions vary on applying it to classrooms. On a different tack, Article I, Section 10, Clause 1 of the U. S. Constitution says, "No State shall ... pass any ... Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts ...." What sort of contracts? Article I, Section 6 of the Florida Constitution says, "The right of employees, by and through a labor organization, to bargain collectively shall not be denied or abridged."

We have a contract, ratified by both the UFF USF employees and the USF Board of Trustees (acting on the authority of the Florida Board of Governors). Both sides agreed to it. And Article 5, Section 2 says, "Academic Freedom is the freedom of an employee to discuss all relevant matters in the classroom, to explore all avenues of scholarship, research, and creative expression, to speak freely on all matters of university governance, and to speak, write, or act as an individual, all without institutional discipline or restraint."

Notice the word "relevant": a classroom is not a forum for a faculty member to preach on unrelated topics to a captive audience. The point is that if critical race theory is relevant to the subject of the course, then a faculty member may present it in class provided that in that faculty member's professional judgment, it is appropriate to do so.

But this protection of academic freedom in the classroom depends on the contract; if the contract ever went away, so would this protection.


The next chapter meeting will be tomorrow Friday, June 2, at 12 noon on USF Tampa campus in EDU 161 and on Zoom; for the Zoom link, contact the Chapter Secretary. All UFF USF employees are welcome.

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.

If you do not want to receive the UFF Biweekly, you can unsubscribe below or contacting the Chapter Secretary. If you do not receive the Biweekly, but want to, contact the Chapter Secretary.