Archive for March, 2008

Domestic partner health insurance committee finishes work

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

At the end of the fall, the joint USF-UFF committee to look at domestic partner health insurance benefits submitted its recommendations to both sides. At the March 7, 2008, collective bargaining session, the UFF team put language almost identical to the committee report on the table.

As Chief Negotiator Bob Welker noted, the committee’s recommendations represented the work of both sides, and while those recommendations are not binding on the parties, UFF does not want the work to be wasted; regardless of financial circumstances at the moment, the two sides should be able to negotiate eligibility conditions and the general shape of benefits for when the financial circumstances allow the creation of the program.


External reviewers for tenure

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

USF is now asking faculty going up for tenure and promotion to submit names of potential reviewers to their chairs earlier than in the past. If you are up for tenure or promotion in the fall, you should begin your research into potential reviewers now, and look for a members-only tenure workshop or external-reviewers mini-workshop announcement in the next week. The following information is included in the workshop, but the tenure workshop includes a great deal more about the identification of external reviewers.

The USF tenure and promotion guidelines say that faculty and their chairs can both suggest external reviewers, and they should jointly select external reviewers. If there is disagreement, each gets to select half.

If faculty present a credible list of potential reviewers to their chairs, they make the chair’s job easier and give faculty the best opportunity to have input on the selection of external reviewers. A credible list includes at least 6-8 potential reviewers with the following information for each:

  • Name
  • Current affiliation and rank
  • Any notable professional society offices held or awards won
  • Current contact information (e-mail)
  • A brief description of why this individual would be a good reviewer
  • An explicit statement addressing any potential conflicts or an explicit statement that there is no potential conflict (e.g., “My primary contact with Peter Schickele was at the last three P.D.Q. Retrospaetzle Symposia, and he was the chair on one 2007 panel where I presented ‘The Lost Manuscript of “Three Hands Viola and the Half-Blood Piccolo.”‘”).

Below is the language from the 1998 T&P guidelines:

The department chair ordinarily will include in the tenure and promotion packet a minimum of three letters (but not exceeding six from external reviewers who are expert in the individual’s field or a related scholarly field. The candidate and the department chair will suggest external reviewers. The department Tenure and Promotion Committee may also suggest external reviewers. These reviewers should have no significant relationship to the candidate (e.g., major professor, co-author), unless there are mitigating circumstances hat would indicate otherwise (e.g., to review scholarship so specialized that few expert reviewers exist). The chair and the candidate will jointly select the reviewers. In the event of disagreement each party will elect one-half the number of qualified reviewers to be utilized. Letters from external reviewers should be in the candidate’s file prior to the final recommendations by the Tenure and Promotion Committee. All solicited letters which are received must be included in the candidate’s file.


Major higher-ed news in Florida

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

During break and in the last week, higher-education news in Florida has been dominated by the budget crunch and by Senate President Ken Pruitt proposal’s to strip the Board of Governors of its constitutional authority, replacing that authority with whatever is delegated by the legislature.

Higher education governance

The proposal by the senate (SJR 2308) would place a measure on the fall ballot to shrink the size of the Board of Governors and replace its constitutional authority to govern the university system with whatever the legislature delegates.

The universally-accepted explanation for this is that Senate President Pruitt is upset that the Board of Governors wants to exercise authority over tuition, because increasing tuition to replace cuts from the state budgets would force the legislature to restructure Bright Futures, the scholarship program that is funded partly by the lottery and party by the state budget. It is that latter part (the state budget) and Senator Pruitt’s investment of time in and identity with Bright Futures that is motivating the proposed amendment.

The amendment is sailing through Senate committees because Senator Pruitt combined the higher-education governance change with something that Senate Democrats wanted, a return to an elected education commissioner for the state.

Right now, the proposal’s status is uncertain; while it moved through one committee on the House side, UFF officials know of several House Republicans who have either voted against it in committee or voiced reservations. The proposal would need 60% of each house in the legislature to go on the ballot; that means 72 votes in the House, and there are 77 Republicans. If a small number of Republicans join all House Democrats in opposing the proposal, it dies…

Thus far, the opponents of higher-education governance change include UFF, the Association of Faculty Senate Presidents, the Board of Governors, the (business-oriented) Council of 100, and every single newspaper editorial board that has written on the topic. USF’s Faculty Senate joined that list this week, and most of the system’s presidents (including USF President Judy Genshaft) have voiced extraordinary concerns about a third round of governance change this decade.

Because most of the dirty work of the legislature happens in swaps between the two leaders of the houses in the last few days, the greatest chance for passage is in one of those swaps.

Florida’s budget

In the first week of the session, the university system’s base budget was cut 1.9%, the second cut this year. The budget woes continue, with estimates that the legislature will cut more than $2 billion in the next budget. K-12 and higher education represent more than 50% of general revenue expenditures in Florida, and since the majority Republicans in the legislature are opposed to any new revenues, they will cut the state’s budget. Both Governor Crist and the Democrats have suggested dipping into the rainy-day fund, given that it’s thundering, but there are no guarantees either that it will happen or that it will be more than a small buffer against the budget tides.

What can we do

The United Faculty of Florida is asking that all members of the bargaining unit use their own resources to contact legislators about the budget and contact their representatives in the state house about higher-education governance, since it is the House that has the greatest chance of blocking governance change from getting on the fall ballot.

The chapter has decided to sponsor drawings for gift cards for faculty and professional employees in the bargaining unit who place letters to the editor during the session or write to their legislators and receive a response on either the budget or higher-education governance. For more, read


Agenda, March 21, 2008, chapter meeting

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

Chapter meeting, March 21, 2008
USF-St Pete, DAV 239

  1. Agenda
  2. Introductions
  3. “Path to Mission Differentiation”/regional campus issues
  4. Consultation topics
  5. UFF Senate meeting
  6. Reports
  7. Other busines
  8. For the good of the order

Minutes, March 7, 2008, Chapter Meeting

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

UFF/USF Chapter Meeting

March 7, 2008

In attendance: J. Martin, M. Klisch, B. Welker, S. Wohlmuth, E. Mitchell, M. Moats, J. Noonan, R. Kaplan, H. Hechiche, S. Tauber, L. McBrien, S. Dorn, E. Odgaard.



March 21, 2008, chapter meeting in St. Pete

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

On March 21, the UFF-USF chapter will meet in DAV 239 on the St. Petersburg campus of USF.


March 7, 2008, chapter meeting agenda

Thursday, March 6th, 2008

Draft chapter agenda
March 7, 2008, noon
EDU 413 (Tampa campus)

  1. Agenda amendment/approval
  2. Reminder on St Pete meeting
  3. Counting votes
  4. Budget situation/state legislative agenda
  5. Reports (if there is time)
  6. Other business
  7. Heading off to the bargaining session for those who are going as part of the team or as observers.

UFF asks you to contact legislators to retain the integrity of Florida’s university system

Thursday, March 6th, 2008

Yesterday, the UFF Steering Committee joined the Board of Governors and the state’s faculty senates in opposing Senate Joint Resolution 2308 (SJR 2308), a proposed constitutional amendment that would abolish the Board of Governors and replace it with a small group with far less authority. This proposed constitutional amendment would make the education commissioner an elected position once again, but for the university system, it would return the state to the days when the legislature not only tried to micromanage universities but had the clear constitutional authority to do so.

Six years ago, voter in Florida created a constitutional body to insulate the universities from the type of legislative interference that has been the historical norm, from witchhunts investigating individual faculty and students for supposed Communism and homosexuality in the 1960s to foisting various professional schools on the system based on political rather than educational priorities. Before voters created the Board of Governors, former universities Chancellor Charlie Reed called the state’s higher-education chaos a “goat rodeo.”

This year, we finally started to see the Board of Governors stiffen its spine and speak up for stable and predictable university funding. This is clearly a retaliatory move by some legislators.For the St. Pete Times’s view on the political dynamics, you can read its editorial, Ken Pruitt’s Destructive Fit of Pique.

SJR 2308 needs the approval of 60% of legislators in both houses. It sailed through a senate committee yesterday, but it has to go through the House Schools and Learning Council, which will probably consider it tomorrow.

Please contact members of the House Schools and Learning Council — especially your own representative. DO NOT USE UNIVERSITY E-MAIL ACCOUNTS, COMPUTERS, OR PHONES OR THE UNIVERSITY COMPUTER NETWORK. If you click on an e-mail address, it will automatically insert an appropriate subject line into your e-mail program.

Make an e-mail or phone call very short, and here is the message you need to send:

  • The Board of Governors is doing its job the way voters wanted it to when creating it in 2002.
  • Senate Joint Resolution 2308 will harm the integrity of Florida’s university system.
  • The House should strip the Board of Governors provision from Senate Joint Resolution 2308 or reject it entirely.

Contact information for the House Schools and Learning Council members:

Chair, Joe H. Pickens (H-21) 850-488-0665

Vice Chair, Trey Traviesa (H-56) 850-488-9910

Democratic Ranking Member, Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall (H-109) 850-488-0625

Thad Altman (H-30) 850-488-9720

Marti Coley (H7) 850-488-2873

Anitere Flores (H114) 850-488-2831

Clay Ford (H3) 850-488-0895

Bill Heller (H-52) 850-488-5719

Martin Kiar (H-97) 850-487-1588

John Legg (H-46) 850-488-5522

Janet Long (H-51) 850-488-6197

Charles McBurney (H-16) 850-488-4171

Seth McKeel (H-63) 850-488-2977

Bill Proctor (H-20) 850-488-2977

David Simmons (H-37) 850-488-2231

Shelley Vana (H-85) 850-488-4791


Will the budget crisis affect tenure decisions?

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

There is something President Genshaft did not mention in her webcast Friday that I know is on the minds of many tenure-track faculty who have e-mailed me, talked with their chairs, and thought about their futures: tenure criteria. I have talked with several associate deans and with the Provost and Senior Vice Provost, and I am confident that tenure decisions next year will be made in the same way that they have been for the last several years. I have said the same thing to every tenure-track faculty member who has asked: it is in no administrator’s interest to change how tenure decisions are made because of budget cuts. Every administrator I have spoken with agrees with me on this as a matter of principle, and as the president of the faculty union chapter on campus, I will take immediate steps if I see any signs that the tenure gateway is becoming a place to address budget cuts.

For those who are coming up for tenure this fall, the United Faculty of Florida is holding tenure workshops this week in Tampa and will schedule additional workshops in Tampa and on the regional campuses later this spring. To get classroom space in the middle of the week, we had to schedule the workshops beginning at 8 am. Despite the early hour, I hope to see many of you there. These workshops are for members of the United Faculty of Florida–if you are not currently a member, you can sign up at the beginning of the workshop. More information is available at

I know that everyone at USF is affected by budget anxiety fatigue. If you are coming to one of the tenure workshops next week, we can certainly talk about it, and I encourage you to e-mail me ( if you have questions.


The right principle at work, I hope

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

In last Friday’s webcast, President Genshaft announced two promotions, of Michael Pearce to university technology officer (from associate vice president to vice president), and of Michael Hoad from USF Health communications to a new VP spot for communications. President Genshaft noted that neither received a raise with the change in title.

Over the past few weeks, UFF has made the point to the administration that in a budget crunch, the proportion of payroll that goes to upper-level administration should not rise. Faculty want to know that the core parts of USF (departments and faculty) do not receive a disproportionate cut. At the same time, I do not and will not suggest anything about an individual administrator; a reasonable approach, as suggested through consultation with several dozen union members, was that the proportion of payroll for upper administrators should not increase in a budget crisis. (By upper-level administrators, I think of anyone above a department chair in academic areas and equivalent positions in non-academic VP areas.)

I don’t know how this will all shape up, and two personnel decisions do not make a pattern; at the end of the academic year, I’ll probably look at the data we have in the chapter and maybe make a request for additional payroll data over a few years from USF. But if the central administration is listening to faculty concerns over budget cuts, and President Genshaft’s announcement is an indication of that open ear, we’ll come out much better as a university than if faculty concerns were ignored.