Five years after USF won a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, USF has accepted an invitation to join the Association of American Universities (AAU). Joining the AAU has long been an major goal of USF - as it is major goal of many research institutions across the country - and being a member is not only an important milestone, it will also have an effect on USF and its community.
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: the latest on implementing new legislation, the eDues and membership campaigns, upgrading 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.
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.
In the last issue, we reported that UFF had filed eight new grievances. As sometimes happens when a bunch of similar grievances are filed, they were consolidated into a single grievance. A major issue is the annual evaluation of faculty: Section 10.3A(2) of the contract says that, "Each university department/ unit shall develop and maintain procedures to evaluate each employee ... The [eligible] employees ... shall participate in the development of these procedures and shall recommend implementation by vote of a majority of at least a quorum of those employees." If administrators ignore the contract, UFF files a grievance.
Oh, yes, we are filing another grievance this week...
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.
Yes, we are on social media.
The Association of American Universities may have Undergraduate Stories on its front page, but its membership policy has long stressed research - in fact, quantifiable products and resources, i.e., things that cost money. Indeed, it's mission statement notes that, "Our member universities earn the majority of competitively awarded federal funding for research ..."
The AAU was founded in 1900 in order to gain the respect of European academics by raising and making more uniform the standards for doctoral degrees. The AAU's historical account reflects the research orientation of the AAU, although it does not mention that the University of Nebraska - Lincoln was expelled for not doing enough of the right kind of research (notice from the membership page that agriculture and education research are explicitly lower priorities) - and that Catholic, Clark, and Syracuse walked out.
But something is happening in the AAU. The membership policy was adjusted this spring, and there are several "informational metrics" stressing undergraduate education. And two months later, the AAU suddenly invited six institutions to join, and the announcement noted that two of the invitees served numerous Hispanic students and stated that, "AAU members are distinguished by the quality of their education and research" [emphasis added].
In the AAU announcement, USF President Rhea Law said that USF "is honored to ... join the most prestigious association in higher education." It was a long journey: Faculty Senate President Jenifer Schneider said, "This is not something that happens overnight," and the Tampa Bay Times observed [USF ID required] that the invitation was "more than 15 years in the making." Indeed, a quarter century ago, UFF USF Chapter President Mitch Silverman repeatedly said that USF is the university that "they can't keep down" and four decades ago, the Biweekly editor's dissertation director told him to go to USF because it had a great future.
USF's Newsroom underlined USF's road to the AAU with the point that AAU membership will bring "extraordinary benefits to USF, Tampa Bay, and the state of Florida," noting that, "the brightest faculty, staff and students are historically known to gravitate to AAU universities located in metropolitan areas," along with about two thirds of federal funding for basic research.
It's called The Matthew Effect after Matthew 25:14-30: For to all those who have, more will be given .... Researchers with big grants tend to get big grants, highly cited researchers tend to get highly cited, and prestigious institutions more readily acquire students and faculty that enhance its prestige. AAU's brand and imprimatur puts USF in a positive feedback loop.
Actually, several entangled feedback loops. For example, Sports Illustrated once observed that all but one institution in the Big 10 football conference were AAU members. Since both AAU and Big 10 membership involve lots of resources - both scholarship and football cost money - the correlation is not that surprising. And it was compelling enough to inspire the Tampa Bay Times to ask [USF ID required] if the Power Five was in USF's future.
But these feedback loops and entanglements should not be taken for granted. Catholic, Clark, Nebraska, and Syracuse are no longer in the AAU, and only two members of the Big 12 are AAU members. It is important for an institution to distinguish between its means and its ends.
USF's membership in the AAU came amidst a stream of bad news from Tallahassee, and former Faculty Senate President Tim Boaz said [USF ID required] that joining the AAU was a "game changer" for hiring faculty - at a time when USF is having trouble doing so. Florida's politics is scaring some people away.
If all politics is local, then the difficulties that Florida universities - including USF - are having with Tallahassee politicians may reflect the lack of engagement that people living in local communities feel with their universities. For example, USF's strategic plan may be entitled In Pursuit of Excellence, but how does this "excellence" benefit people around Tampa Bay - in ways that those people can feel, see and understand?
Half a century ago, UC Berkeley Chancellor Clark Kerr proposed that colleges and universities should engage with their communities. Perhaps, as education as a public good [USF ID required] becomes fashionable again, it may be a good time for universities to show their communities how they can benefit ordinary people. That could make ordinary people less receptive to pundits and politicians who use universities as stage props for their political performance art.
When Wisconsin reduced tenure protections, the University of Wisconsin's research standing took a hit. This was not an anomaly: academies have withered under political attacks ever since Ptolemy VIII expelled foreign scholars from the Museum of Alexandria. If Florida's universities are to thrive, they have to engage with the public that they serve - in a way that gets the politicians' attention.
The next chapter meeting will be tomorrow Friday, June 16, 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.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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.