Archive for March 20th, 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