Archive for September, 2007

Sending a quick e-mail to your legislator on the state budget

Monday, September 24th, 2007

Political action chair Roy Weatherford notes that there’s an easy way to send e-mails to your legislators about the budget situation: Florida Education Association’s Action Alert for the budget will ask you for some information and will let you rewrite the template language. What is most important is to change the subject line to mention higher education, since legislative offices track subject lines more than body text.


Minutes, September 7, 2007, Chapter Meeting

Friday, September 21st, 2007

UFF/USF Chapter Meeting

September 7, 2007

In attendance: J. Martin, S. Dorn, M. Klisch, R. Weatherford, B. Welker, S. Ramírez Wohlmuth, M. Kaplan, A. Shapiro, R. Evans, K. de la Peña McCook, G. McColm, S. Permuth, J. Noonan, B. Ingalls



Minutes, August 24, 2007, Chapter Meeting

Friday, September 21st, 2007

UFF/USF Chapter Meeting

August 24, 2007

In attendance: J. Martin, S. Dorn, M. Klisch, R. Weatherford, B. Welker, S. Ramírez Wohlmuth, M. Kaplan, A. Shapiro, L. McBrien, G. McColm, S. Permuth, J. Noonan, B. Ingalls



Tom Auxter: Contact your legislators now

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

[The following is from statewide United Faculty of Florida President Tom Auxter:]

UFF Members

It is critical that we contact legislators now — by email or by phoning their local district offices — to make sure they understand that their constituents do not want more damage done to Florida higher education through the process of budget cuts. (You may have heard that the Governor is recommending a 6.2% cut for universities and a 4.5% cut for community colleges.) Emphasize that these cuts hurt students and deprive them of the education they expected when they enrolled.



Contact legislators about budget cuts

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

Dear colleagues,

Earlier this month Governor Crist recommended budget cuts that would gut the state university system — 6.2% of general revenues that were appropriated in the spring, with more than a third of Crist’s recommended cuts coming from higher education. The legislature will start a special session in early October, and the lobbyists that our statewide affiliate hires (the Florida Education Association) have told United Faculty of Florida officials that legislators need to hear from us NOW to forestall damaging cuts and to start a conversation about the long-term funding needs of higher education in Florida. Last month, I said that I would e-mail you again to ask for us all to call legislators, and here’s that second e-mail.

Why you should call

Let me put it bluntly: I expect that faculty and professional employees will be laid off if the governor’s cuts become reality. Even if you are tenured and protected, the people you work with will be vulnerable. Even if in-unit faculty and professional employees are spared the worst of budget cuts personally, staff layoffs will harm the people we work with, and layoffs anywhere at USF will erode our work environment. I have been told and am convinced that the governor’s recommendations would violate Florida law if the legislature enacted them, but I do not want UFF to have to test that claim in Florida’s courts. I want the legislature’s budget cuts to be appropriate, to treat higher education as the underfunded resource it is, and to protect existing programs.

One person cannot convince legislators to protect higher education in the special session. I have spoken with a number of area legislators and staff, but they need to hear from you . If we work together, we can convince legislators to make reasonable decisions, and we can begin a conversation about what higher education needs in the long term.

Don’t be silent: Call today.

The issues

When you talk with legislators using your personal cell phone or personal computer and personal e-mail account, explain how the cuts affect students. Even before cuts, Florida has the second-highest student-to-faculty ratio in the country (above Louisiana, but no one else). We know how projected budget cuts have already harmed students and faculty, as the administration has tried to save money before the special session:

  • More than 50 classes are noticeably larger this semester than they were a year ago. Several classes at USF have ballooned to more than 400 students.
  • At the start of the semester, USF’s online course management system had a capacity to handle 800 students at a time, but the system had more than 1100 students at a time trying to use it.
  • Library hours and the online course system’s technical support hours have been cut.

We also know what the effect of cuts will be in the future:

  • The university will be unable to provide a full list of summer courses, delaying graduation for students who rely on summer courses and who are required to take summer courses.
  • The university will be unable to hire the new faculty it needs to teach students and conduct cutting-edge research.
  • The university will be unable to pay faculty what is necessary to retain the teachers and researchers who already are at USF.
  • Library subscriptions will be cut, subscriptions to journals that USF researchers need for cutting-edge research.
  • The university will be unable to replace the employees it will lose over the next year. Students will have longer waits to see advisors.

You do not need to mention the governor’s recommendations. I won’t. Emphasize how cuts will affect students and the future of Florida, ask for minimal cuts, and emphasize that existing programs should be protected, even if that means delaying or curtailing new initiatives.

Should you mention “revenue enhancements” (i.e., raising taxes in some way, such as eliminating some of the sales-tax exemptions)? That has to be on the table for the long-term future of the state’s colleges and universities, but it won’t be part of the special session. I’ll probably mention something about “protecting higher education this year so we can talk about enhancing it in the next few years,” but I haven’t seen any convincing arguments either to mention it or not to mention it.

How to call

Looking up legislators. If you do not know who is your state senator and representative, you can look them up with your home 9-digit zip code at

Finding contact information. State senators are listed at and representatives at

Calling them. Use your cell phone or your home phone. (Do not use university equipment or resources either for phone calls or e-mail. ) During business hours, call the district office (Tallahassee offices are second-best this week). Have notes on what you intend to say. Be brief. Be polite. Thank the staff member for listening.

But above all else, call your legislators this week.



Draft agenda for Sept 7 chapter meeting

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

Sept. 7 chapter meeting, 12 noon, EDU 413
1. Approval of agenda
2. Misc. announcements (will be written)
3. State budget and layoffs
4. Class sizes
5. Consultation
6. Reports

1. Bargaining
2. Grievances
3. Communications
4. Treasurer
5. Political action
6. Membership

7. “Over the horizon” issues
8. Other business
9. For the good of the order


The Graham-Frey lawsuit, tuition hikes, and university funding

Saturday, September 1st, 2007

With the lawsuit filed by Bob Graham and Lou Frey (and later joined by the BOG), pending budget cuts, and talk of tuition hikes on the horizon, there needs to be some general discussion of university funding in Florida. As far as I can tell, there are six sources of revenue for universities:

  • Public funding
  • Tuition
  • Donations
  • Grants and contracts
  • Auxiliary units
  • Patents and licensing

You may consolidate some of these categories or split one or two, but that’s essentially it. Because the rough political consensus in Florida has been that undergraduate students pay approximately 25% of the costs of their education, raising student tuition even a significant amount can only pay for a modest increase in a university’s overall funding. At the consultation Wednesday, administrators confirmed that a 5% tuition hike in the spring would fill less than 1% of the 4% expected cuts, and I think the state’s university presidents made that point in front of legislative committees last week. Over time, larger hikes can change the funding mix, but it won’t reap a miracle.

The same modest change is possible growing endowments, but for a different reason: people give foundations money for specific purposes, and unrestricted endowment donations are less frequent than either I or foundation officers would prefer. The result is that unless there is a specific goal and donors willing to give money to something like a an endowment for sabbaticals or bridge funding*, increasing the endowment is less likely to benefit general faculty salaries than to raise the next library or provide a stipend to a small number of faculty in endowed chair positions. The library benefits everyone, but so does a stronger sabbatical and leave program and better general salaries.

Contracts and grants are important, but even indirect costs are short-term benefits, evanescent if hit rates decline. And a surprising amount of indirect costs are absorbed in animal care. And investigators are unhappy with how post-award administration works at USF.

So while I expect tuition to go up, and I’d love there to be a successful capital campaign that raises money for new library facilities and endowments for sabbaticals and bridge funding, any of those decisions can only be part of a broader mix to support higher education. A substantial part has to come from a more secure base of public funding.