Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Clarification on comments in the Tampa Tribune

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

This morning’s Tampa Tribune quotes me in a story about a website allegation regarding football coach Jim Leavitt, and while it’s generally correct about what I said, it has a few things garbled.

Here is the relevant passage  from the article:

Sherman Dorn, head of the union that represents USF’s faculty, is pleased the school is conducting an investigation into the alleged incident and doing so with a committee based outside the athletic department.

He said transparency and thoroughness are important in this type of investigation.

“If there is as a serious allegation, then there should be a serious investigation,” Dorn said. “It should be done in the same way the university conducts a serious investigation of misconduct by a faculty member. The thing to keep in mind is this is a report by a Web site that has statements [supported] by one or two observers. It’s certainly appropriate for the university to investigate. There may be something to it, or maybe not.’

The correct statements in that passage (or the reasonably close ones) come from the following parts of the phone conversation I had last night with the reporter:

  • I said that the allegations came from individual reports, and I had no idea what the truth of them may be.
  • I said that when there was a serious allegation concerning any university employee, it was appropriate for the university to conduct an investigation.
  • I said that until the investigation was concluded, the university should not say anything about the matter other than that there was an allegation it was investigating.

I don’t remember saying anything explicitly about transparency, and I did not say anything about who was conducting the investigation, because I had no knowledge of who was going to conduct the investigation. Having said that, I do in fact agree that the people conducting it should be outside the athletics department.  That’s true for any investigation of allegations. For most of the investigation procedures I am aware of (whether regarding research misconduct, discrimination, or violation of human participant guidelines), there is first a determination of whether there are sufficient grounds to conduct a full investigation (to avoid spending lots of time on frivolous allegations). If the preliminary investigation suggests there is something to the allegation, there is a more complete examination of the issue. I don’t know whether that two-step process will be followed in this case, because “football coach grabs and hits player” is not a common allegation, so there hasn’t (yet) been a chance to write a procedure for this.

It would not have been correct for the university to fire a coach based solely on an allegation, in the same way that the university should not fire staff or faculty based solely on allegations of misconduct.


In-case-of-emergency-closure memo (this is about planning, not an impending event)

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

Linked below are three documents: a memo from Associate Provost Tapas Das with regard to a potential closure or serious disruption of USF from events such as H1N1 or hurricanes; a list of suggestions from the provost’s office on things to think about tied to potential closures, and a paragraph to insert in all syllabi.

There is a provision in the UFF-USF Collective Bargaining Agreement about emergency closure: all in-unit employees are paid during emergency closures. I assume that the bargaining history is related to storms rather than potential pandemics, but the effect is the same. At least in terms of the attached documents, accommodations for closures are left to the professional judgment of faculty and other instructors of record.

Tapas Das letter

Paragraph for syllabi

Things for faculty to think about regarding closure


Members to discuss merit pay in 2009-10

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

One issue coming directly from a recent membership study commissioned by the UFF-USF Chapter is the set of concerns from participants about the structure of formulaic merit pay and administrative salary discretion. This time of economic hardship is probably the best year in which to talk about long-term structures in the contract, as there will probably not be a huge amount of money in play. During the fall, I will be setting up meetings on every campus and in multiple places on the Tampa campus to talk just about merit pay and other salary issues.

This will be a member-driven process: colleagues who are not dues-paying UFF members can vote on contract ratification, but the members set chapter policy. I want to be clear about my personal interests and intended role, before the discussions focused on merit pay begin: like my colleagues, I have my own opinions and ideas about merit pay, but the collective interests of the chapter membership will determine what the chapter’s approach on merit pay will be over the next few years. In 2007 I campaigned on the pledge to follow the faculty and professional employees of USF as we changed, and from a few places (not just the membership study), I am getting the message that merit pay and discretionary pay has to change. To be consistent with what I promised, my job is to start and protect a conversation about merit pay.

From what I know already, the issues involved in merit pay are a classic wicked problem, or a complex issue that isn’t going to be amenable to a direct “here’s the cause, and here’s the solution” process. I’ve had a number of conversations about merit pay over the years with both administrators and faculty, and the tendency of many comments is to fall into a pattern: “Here’s the problem with merit pay at USF, and instead of doing it this way we should do it just like it was done at my last institution.” The reference to “my last institution” is a heuristic short-cut: well-intended but an elision nonetheless, and I will view one of my jobs in these conversations to get behind such short-cuts.

As I wrote above, I have some preconceptions about the issues and potential solutions, but I know that they are preconceptions, and it is more important that the membership determine policy than that I agree with that policy. To guarantee that the decision is membership-driven, I will argue against any unilateral setting of long-term merit-pay bargaining guidance without a membership vote.


How are USF faculty changing attendance policies in response to H1N1?

Friday, August 14th, 2009

Below are the types of comments expressed by some of the 110 individual respondents to the UFF survey this week on H1N1 and attendance policies. Please keep in mind that the participants in this survey are probably not a representative sample, and answers should be viewed as a sample of the options that faculty are considering.

Attendance requirements—what are faculty planning to do? Some of the choices faculty are making:

  • No changes
  • Case-by-case adjustments
  • Raising the limit on unexplained/unexcused absences.
  • Providing alternative assignments that enable students to make up attendance
  • Waiving in-class assignment requirements
  • Extending deadlines for assignments
  • Turning in-class work into online (Blackboard) assignment
  • Eliminating attendance requirements, with in-class exercises as extra credit


What documentation are faculty planning to require? Some of the choices faculty are making:

  • Doctor’s note required
  • Doctor’s note not required
  • No doctor’s note but prior notice required (no “oops I overslept” post-hoc inventions of flu)
  • Distinctions between regular classes and exams: flexibility for classes, doctor’s note required for exam absence


Other thoughts related to H1N1 and classes:

  • Some faculty will insist that students who are sick should stay home, quoting from Dr. Egilda Terenzi’s statement in syllabus
  • Some faculty are intending to place more material online
  • Some faculty intend to record classes to place mp3s on line for absent students
  • Some faculty intend to spend more time explaining attendance policies clearly at beginning of term and specifically how they might apply for H1N1
  • Some faculty intend to use the H1N1 pandemic to remind students that they have the obligation to contact classmates to catch up on material
  • Some faculty intend to explain the practical effect on grades of missing substantial amounts of the semester
  • Some faculty will explain that they will be more supportive of petitions for dropping/withdrawing from class for medical reasons


Additional comments:

  • There were some concerns about availability of medical care at Student Health Services
  • Some faculty expressed concerns about staff and faculty health
  • Some faculty expressed concerns about the work and security involved in creating make-up exams and suggested that USF create a testing center to provide security for make-up exams



Faculty survey shows split in responses to H1N1 virus — more details to come over weekend

Friday, August 14th, 2009

As of this morning, 110 USF faculty have responded to the online survey UFF began on Monday to gauge whether faculty are making changes to class attendance policies in response to the H1N1 pandemic. Of those responding, 40% are not yet sure what they will do, and the others are approximately evenly split between faculty making changes and those not making changes.


Another entry sometime this weekend will summarize comments from individual respondents. One early note: Some of the “no” respondents explained that they thought their existing attendance policies would be sufficiently flexible to address student absences from H1N1.


Squeaking through?

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

Tuesday’s state Revenue Estimating Conference ended up predicting a small (1%) reduction in state general revenues from the March estimate that was the basis for the state’s budget this year (see executive summary for more). That will not require a special session to cut the current year’s budget, at least for now.

The forecast for 2010-11 is also less than the 2010-11 forecast in the March estimate, but the predicted general revenues for 2010-11 is still more than 6% higher than in the current fiscal year. The continuation of stimulus funding for education means that we’ll probably see something close to a flat budget for next year, plus hopefully a minor increase depending on politics. The closer we get to the next legislative session without additional free-fall in the state’s economy, the better the state’s general budget outlook is. There will still be a fight for revenues in the legislature, but the odds are looking better that we’re not going to have additional horrid cuts.


Survey on attendance policies and H1N1 flu

Monday, August 10th, 2009

The United Faculty of Florida is now collecting information through a two-item survey from all teaching employees at USF on attendance-policy modifications that they are considering for the fall semester to accommodate student illnesses. The survey is at and results will be published by August 20, 2009.


Below is this morning’s memo from the USF director of Student Health Services about H1N1 flu.


August 10, 2009


Message from:    

Egilda Terenzi, Medical Director, Student Health Services


As faculty and staff members, you are important partners in our efforts to address the challenges of the H1N1 (swine) flu pandemic.


We have appreciated your cooperation throughout the summer, when the H1N1 flu affected many of our students and faculty and staff members. Most patients have experienced mild cases and recovered within seven days. However, a more severe form of the virus could emerge this fall.


We encourage faculty who see students who appear ill to advise them to:

·       Visit the campus health center.

·       Urge them not to attend class until well.

·       Physically distance themselves from others.

·       Remind students to wash their hands thoroughly several times a day.


Some students in higher-risk categories may experience very serious complications.  We understand class attendance is vital. However, we respectfully request that you consider relaxing your class attendance and make-up-work requirements for students affected by the H1N1 virus.


Those with H1N1 can infect others for seven days after the onset of symptoms. During that time, they would expose other students to the virus if they attended class.


Individuals with flu-like symptoms but without risk factors or complications may be instructed to stay home rather than go to a medical facility. Consequently, some students may not have official confirmation of the virus. 


We will continue to communicate regularly with our faculty and staff members about this public health challenge. We also encourage you to visit , where we will post updates and links to additional resources on the Web.


Thank you for your cooperation and dedication to our students’ health and well-being.  For answers to frequently asked questions about H1N1 flu, please follow this link:



Egilda Terenzi, MD

Medical Director

University of South Florida

Division of Student Affairs

Student Health Services

4202 E. Fowler Ave, SHS100

Tampa, FL 33620-6750

Tel:   813.974.1815

Fax:  813.974.8391


Travel reimbursement update

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

An e-mail from the provost’s office intended to reach to all faculty today:

PLEASE DIRECT ANY COMMENTS OR INQUIRIES CONCERNING THIS MESSAGE TO JOY MORTON IN THE TRAVEL DEPARTMENT AT [e-mail address].Given the problems that were encountered this past academic year with travel reimbursements, the Provost’s Office has been communicating with the Travel Department on a frequent basis. It appears that much progress has been made and the backlog of unprocessed reimbursement requests has been reduced considerably. The Travel Department believes that the campus will experience a substantially reduced time from submission to payment during the coming academic year.

Following our last conversation, we’ve received the following request from the Travel Department, and ask that you respond to the person referenced if it applies to you:

In order to verify that no one’s request has fallen through the cracks, we are asking that any faculty members let Joy Morton know if they have unpaid Travel Expense Reports (reimbursement requests) that are older than 30 days from the date submitted to Travel. Please know that we are continuing to work to further improve the travel reimbursement process and very much appreciate the patience that you have shown thus far.

CHAIRS: Please share this request with any graduate students to whom the request applies.


Miscellaneous items at USF

Friday, July 10th, 2009

A few things of note for this Friday:

  •  HR will be readjusting employees’ leave balances to conform with the arbitration decision last week and the administration’s decision early this week to extend the same change to all employees who earn annual leave. After that is done, UFF will work with USF to address small numbers of in-unit faculty and professional employees who did not have leave to cover the affected days in December, who moved from 12- to 9-month contracts since December, or who have left USF.
  • The chapter has received draft guidelines for an instructor promotion track and has just distributed the draft document to chapter members along with a link to a brief survey to provide feedback. Chapter VP Mark Klisch helped draft the guidelines. The chapter has the authority to delay T&P guidelines for a year, and the chapter’s officers need to know from members whether the chapter should agree to implement the guidelines so promotion opportunities are available in 2009-10 (with new ranks to go into effect in August 2010 for those promoted).
  • There is an impasse hearing before the USF Board of Trustees next Thursday, July 16, 9-11 am, in the ROTC building’s auditorium on the Tampa campus. This is a result of impact bargaining over increased class sizes beginning Fall 2007, after an impasse between the bargaining teams and after both sides had concerns about the special magistrate’s recommendations.
  • There is a regular chapter membership meeting Friday, July 17, at noon, in CDB’s on Fletcher Ave. in Tampa. Because of the collective bargaining session starting in SVC at 2, the chapter meeting will be abbreviated.
  • There is a regular collective bargaining session next Friday, July 17, 2-4 pm, in SVC 2070.

Everyone at USF benefits from faculty union’s arbitration victory

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Late today, USF sent staff and faculty the following memo from Provost Ralph Wilcox:

As you may recall, the University of South Florida implemented a mandatory Winter Break in 2008 during a time of fiscal uncertainty and following the loss of more than 500 vacant faculty and staff positions. Given the necessity to reduce financial obligations and balance the budget, the mandatory annual leave was considered a far better option for employees than the use of furloughs and/or layoffs imposed by other universities.

USF has decided to re-credit 3 days of annual leave that were taken during the Winter Break in 2008. Any faculty member or employee, who was charged those 3 days of annual leave during the university’s mandated closing, will have the days credited back to their current leave account. This is a fair and equitable action consistent with a recent arbitration decision between USF and the United Faculty of Florida. That decision applied to in-unit faculty under 12-month contracts. However, USF’s leadership has decided that the only fair action is to extend the restoration to ALL eligible employees.

The University has engaged in communications on such challenging matters in the past. Going forward, it will be important to maintain our communication since we will not have the flexibility that we have enjoyed in the past given the difficult budget realities of today. This decision will prompt us to explore alternative strategies to balance USF’s budget in the future.

The good news, however, bears repeating. Because of the many measures USF took in 2008 to reduce costs, our budget is relatively stable today as we enter the 2009-2010 fiscal year. Our actions last year, together with the infusion of federal budget stabilization funds, have made it possible for USF to enter the next academic year without the kind of programmatic and personnel cuts that others have endured. Let us all hope that this remains the case. Both the president and I will be writing shortly to describe the strategic planning and budgeting actions that will support USF’s continued and remarkable progress.

A few personal remarks, if I may. First, the university made the right choice today, to broaden the impact of the arbitration decision so that everyone benefits. As has happened often in the past, the faculty at USF can help set a floor for other employees, and that’s a good thing both for employees and for the university’s long-term interest.

Second, I am not surprised by how the administration’s language tries to paper over the fundamental mistake it made, to try to dismiss the bargaining authority of UFF and other employee unions. This is a continuing pattern at USF, and it is not in the university’s long-term interest for upper-level administrators or the trustees to try to circumvent bargaining. For the past decade, communication between the administration and all its employees (faculty and staff) has been a consistent weakness. As I told the Tribune’s reporter, Lindsay Peterson, President Genshaft could have picked up the phone and called me any time in the past two years to discuss the financial troubles of USF and the future, and she hasn’t.