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UFF Biweekly
United Faculty of Florida -- USF System Chapter
29 June 2023
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IN THIS ISSUE

Grievances, the Contract, and Accreditation

Bargaining the contract is only part of the union's job: the contract has to be enforced. The union enforces the contract by filing a grievance when the contract is violated. In addition, employees may file grievances when their contractual rights and privileges have been violated - and (dues-paying!) UFF members have the right to union representation.

  • What the Contract Says About Contract Violations. The contract sets the grievance process - which thus cannot be changed unilaterally. For details, see below or click here.
This year's legislative session may be over, but we are still in strange times. Perhaps the strangest spectacle was the Florida government suing the federal government to stop using accreditation to set minimal standards for colleges and universities. But behind the rarified rhetoric about how accreditation maintains standards versus how it interferes with elected state governments, the bottom line is that accreditation is the device by which the federal government discourages fraud in higher education. And this is not metaphorical fraud - it's the real thing.
  • The Latest About Accreditation. The rationale appears to be that Wokeness should not be imposed on Floridian colleges and universities. But something more sordid in in play. For details, see below or click here.
It was just confirmed by a court ruling that effective Saturday, July 1, UFF members may no longer pay dues by paycheck dues deduction. But in order to remain in the union, you must pay dues - which are 1% of salary. If you are a union member and have shifted to eDues, thank you. If you are a union member and you have not shifted to eDues, please get the "I'm sticking with my union" eDues email and shift today. If you are having difficulties, please contact the Chapter Secretary.

If you are not a union member, please join today, for we need 60% membership in order to maintain certification to represent UFF USF employees in bargaining - and UFF members in grievances.

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: eDues and the membership campaign, the chapter council and committees, grievances, 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.

Grievances

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 this Biweekly, we review the grievance process. Two important things to remember:

  • UFF can only represent a UFF USF employee in a grievance if that employee was a dues-paying member at the time that the employee knew or should have known about the contract violation. So join today - or, if you are a member, be sure to get signed up for eDues.
  • If you are a victim of a contract violation, you have thirty days to file a grievance, so don't delay.

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 the Contract Says About Contract Violations

Our strongest job protection comes from the contract.

But what happens if the contract is violated?

If an employee's contractual rights or privileges were violated, that employee may file a grievance, which is a complaint of a violation. The grievance process is defined by Article 20 of the contract. The Administration may not unilaterally change the grievance process defined by the contract. This is how it works.

  • If an employee's contractual rights were violated, that employee has 30 calendar days to file a grievance. If the employee is a UFF member, and was a member at the time of the violation, then the employee has the right to union representation.
  • Step 1. This is usually an "informal resolution period" when the union and the Administration attempt to resolve the issue quietly. If that doesn't work...
  • Step 2. There is a hearing, which produces a written decision. If that doesn't work...
  • Arbitration. If the grievant and UFF are not satisfied, UFF can escalate the grievance to arbitration, in which both sides present their cases to an outside arbitrator. This final step not only provides a grievant with the opportunity to get a ruling from someone outside the Administration, it also keeps the system honest and sets precedents.
One final comment from Article 16 on Disciplinary Action and Job Abandonment: in Section 16.3, it says, The employee has a right to union representation during investigatory questioning that may reasonably be expected to result in disciplinary action. But the employee has to tell the organizer of the meeting that the employee will seek union representation before the meeting goes any further - and then contact the union. USF employees in the Bargaining Unit can contact the Grievance Committee via its web-page.

The Latest About Accreditation

At the top of the ticker is a lawsuit by the State of Florida against six senior officials in the U.S. Department of Education. "Congress has ceded unchecked power to private accrediting agencies to dictate education standards to colleges and universities," giving the accreditors "near limitless power over state institutions." Moreover, of Florida's regional accreditor - the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) - the lawsuit says, "None of SACS’s actions have any relationship to education quality or to protecting Congress’s investment in students. Instead, SACS insists that public colleges and universities be free from 'undue influence' - a euphemism for SACS's position that these public institutions be unaccountable to the people or their elected representatives."

Stripping away the lawsuit's euphemism, the State of Florida wants politicians to be free to meddle in higher education - and no interference from SACS.

The lawsuit's complaint is that unaccredited institutions will lose their federal funding. "I will not allow Joe Biden’s Department of Education to defund America's #1 higher education system all because we refuse to bow to unaccountable accreditors who think they should run Florida’s public universities," said the governor, and his attorney-general added, "For too long, private academic accreditors have been holding our colleges and universities hostage."

The White House contented itself with an email to several outlets saying, in part, "Governor DeSantis is now bringing his culture wars, like book bans, to the long-standing system that helps ensure students receive a quality college education..."

The White House was pulling its punches, for the guts of the matter lies in Item #32 of the lawsuit: "The federal government, now providing financial assistance to certain students via the G.I. Bill, sought to ensure that federal funds flowed to reputable institutions." That's putting it very mildly, and here is a blunt account. An assist to World War II veterans from a grateful nation was exploited by opportunists who defrauded veterans with "…an explosion of misleading advertising, predatory recruitment practices, sub-standard training, and outright fraud …." Congress investigated and concluded that many of these for-profit schools "offered training of doubtful quality" (sometimes for jobs that didn't exist) to the veterans they swindled.

As part of the crackdown, the federal government asked "accreditors" to vet institutions. Students attending institutions that met their accreditor's minimal standards would be able to get federally funded financial aid, while faculty at those institutions would be able to apply for federal grants. But federal money would not go to institutions that failed to get accreditation.

So, who are these accreditors?

The higher education accreditors had been around for decades, and they were run by the institutions they accredited. For example, our own SACSCOC is run by a Corporation consisting of the accredited institutions, and "Accredited institutions are members of the Corporation so long as they continue to meet the requirements of accreditation." So accreditation is a mechanism by which accredited institutions are held accountable to each other. Responsible institutions have a vested interest in accreditation - a higher ed version of Sir Thomas Gresham's Law would say that diploma mills drive out good institutions - and members of accreditors (and the public!) have an interest in maintaining standards.

Students also have an interest in accreditation: schools that fail to get accreditation will not be able to swindle students out of their federal funding. Similarly, faculty have an interest in accreditation, for it marginalizes exploitative institutions. Of course, there is a conflict of interest in institutions policing each other, but for now, peer pressure seems preferable to regulation by a less expert federal bureaucracy.

The lawsuit asks the U.S. District Court to declare the requirement for accreditation (in order to get federal funding) unconstitutional, or, failing that, to at least let Floridian institutions shop for accreditors. But beware of what you ask for.

  • If the courts find that the federal government cannot delegate the vetting process to outside accreditors, the federal government will have no choice but to throw together a bureaucracy to do the vetting itself. (The alternative would be an explosion of misleading advertising, predatory recruitment practices, sub-standard training, and outright fraud - which we would hope is not what the governor has in mind.) How Florida's de-Wokefied and politicized colleges and universities would fare with this bureaucracy is an interesting question.
  • If the courts merely empower Florida colleges and universities to shop for accreditors, a typical institution will wind up at the door of an accreditor asking to join its voting membership - and this because it had problems with the standards of its previous accreditor. And by the way, if the new accreditor is mean to a Floridian member, that Floridian member can sue - which, in effect, means it can sue its fellow members (this might make Florida institutions unattractive recruits). Florida may find itself blackballed.
Of course, this lawsuit could just be a media stunt. If so, the governor is betting on the courts to show more sense than some pundits and politicians. We can only hope so.

LOGISTICS

The next chapter meeting will be tomorrow Friday, June 30, 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.