Archive for April, 2008

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio challenges USF to provide domestic partner benefits

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

According to the Tampa Bay Gazette report on the LGBT Alumni Society’s Annual GALA Reception and Awards ceremony (p. 17), Tampa’s mayor criticized USF for not providing domestic partner benefits:

Dr, Wilcox praised the USF Pride Alliance as a leader helping the University to increase its tolerance for diversity. He also shared his vision of USF earning the prestigious Association of American Universities status. “No city can be truly great without an AAU University,” he said. Mayor Iorio accepted the challenge, but also reminded Dr. Wilcox that a universities [sic] should be a leader in the community with regard to social progress, referring to her 2004 executive order establishing Domestic Partnership benefits for City employees, while USF still does not offer such benefits.

UFF does not think there is any conflict between the two challenges: The vast majority of AAU universities have domestic partner benefits.


Join UFF May, June, or July and don’t pay dues until August 1

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

The United Faculty of Florida understands that money is especially tight for nine-month faculty who do not have much summer pay, and it is working with the Florida Education Association this year so that if you join UFF between May 1 and July 31, you do not pay any dues until August 1. Download the membership form, fill it in, sign it, and send it to 30238 USF Holly Drive.


Small comforts in Tallahassee

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

The St Petersburg Times higher education reporter blogged in the late afternoon that the House leadership had pulled the senate’s constitutional proposal on education governance off the floor calendar, and according to what she wrote, that makes bringing it up in the next few days very difficult. If so, it is a tiny measure of hope that one bad measure was stopped.

It is a small consolation in a very bad budget year, and one in which the legislature took the majority of money set aside for merit-evaluated proposals for Centers of Excellence and gave it to a low-rated project. As the Tampa Tribune editorial on the subject noted, “Consider the handling of the Centers of Excellence money a preview of the shenanigans to come if this effort [to gut the Board of Governors] succeeds.”

If the university system has dodged the governance bullet, the next issue to watch is whether Governor Crist attempts to strike the modest tuition hike from the appropriations bill.


UFF sponsors visit of Michael Bérubé to USF in September

Saturday, April 19th, 2008

At yesterday’s meeting, the USF chapter of the United Faculty of Florida agreed to sponsor the visit of Michael Bérubé to campus as part of the fall membership activities. Bérubé has agreed to come, give a public lecture, and also talk with both faculty and graduate-assistant activists and union members. While the exact dates of Bérubé’s public talk and other events are not set yet, it will be in the early part of the week of September 22-26.

Michael Bérubé is Paterno Professor in English Literature and Science, Technology, and Society and the author of What’s Liberal about the Liberal Arts?, Higher Education under Fire, Rhetorical Occasions, The Employment of English, and Life as We Know It, among his books. He is also a member of the National Council of the American Association of University Professors.

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Agenda, April 18 meeting

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

Agenda, April 18, 11 am (NOTE DIFFERENT TIME!!)
EDU 413

Draft agenda

  1. Agenda approval/modification
  2. Membership
    1. Incoming forms
    2. September 22-26: Michael Berube?
  3. Consultation report/announcements
  4. Summer activities
  5. NEA/AFT conference
  6. UFF Senate
  7. Bargaining
  8. Grievances
  9. Communications
  10. Other business
  11. For the good of the order

Addressing the budget separately from long-term issues

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

Last Friday, department chairs and school directors made one point clear with the Provost: there had been insufficient open discussion about reorganization issues within colleges. In an e-mail to chairs over the weekend, the Provost agreed to address budget issues separately and on a different schedule from anything that falls under “realignment” for longer-term reasons.

In the past few months, several faculty have made comparisons between our current situation and the recent book by Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine (you can read an online summary of her argument). Klein argues that advocates of free-market or neoliberal policies have deliberately crafted a strategy of waiting until a natural or economic disaster strikes and then pouncing with policies that would never be approved in a stable environment. I have heard the argument that there are always ideas and vague plans for restructuring that float around USF, and they become viable when there is a shock such as the current budget crisis. Whether or not the idea is tied to the concrete circumstances we face, it becomes far more likely.

There is also the sociologists’ term institutional isomorphism (JSTOR article) to describe the diffusion of institutional structures. In some cases, the parallels are coerced, as when the No Child Left Behind Act required that all states receiving Title I fund (for the education of poor children) also agree to test all children, every year, in grades 3-8. In other cases, the parallels come through a normative process, and there is no doubt that the language of the USF Strategic Plan is all about this type of institutional isomorphism. Our Board of Trustees wants us to be AAU (the American Association of Universities), AAU eligible, or at least like AAU institutions. This institutional ambition isn’t new at USF, and plenty of other institutions have trod in the prior path of higher-status institutions (or tried to follow the trajectory of aspirational peers, if you prefer that language). And to some extent, faculty and departments will use such isomorphic tendencies to their tactical advantage when seeking faculty lines, operational support, and so forth.

But now we face a budget crisis, and anyone who looks at the university should fear that USF’s language of AAU status is looking less realistic and more like the “high school script” that almost all high schools follow, which Mary Metz described almost two decades ago. Are we an AAU-worthy institution, or will we just play one in the movies? The aftermath of reorganization beyond budget cuts will be embedded in the academic culture of an institution. The productivity costs of reorganization are real, and while they may be justified in some cases by budget savings, to use the budget crisis to reorganize beyond what is necessary has impeded the type of transparency that both Renu Khator and Ralph Wilcox promised.

Reorganization may be useful, or it may drive faculty away from USF and set us spinning our wheels for several years just responding to the reorganization. The chairs are correct: the two sets of decisions (addressing the budget crisis and addressing long-term issues) need to be done on separate schedules.

(This entry is adapted from a longer discussion of the WST, AFA, IBL, and ISLAC situation.)


What to do if your department is merged

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

I am in one of the departments that may be affected by departmental reorganization within USF. My dean has called a meeting with my department for this afternoon, and I strongly suspect that we will be merging with another department. The faculty in both departments have made their preferences known, as has our dean to the provost, but I suspect we’re merging anyway. There are some important practical matters after merger to pay attention to, and this is solely about those practical matters.

Transitions on annual evaluations: faculty have the right under Article 10 to be evaluated every year under procedures and disciplinary criteria that department employees approved by vote. When departments merge, the annual evaluation policies for the component units will almost certainly be different, and department faculty have at least three choices:

  • Draft an entirely new set of evaluation procedures.
  • Adopt one of the former department’s procedures as the procedure for the entire unit, entirely or with slight modifications.
  • Vote to treat faculty from the former departments separately and under the former procedures of their former departments for a transition period, until there is time to craft a unified set of procedures.

If my department is merged, as I suspect, I will recommend the last option to my current and future colleagues; we don’t need to be spending our time and energy on something when we can agree on a transitional framework that will last us for a year or so.

Tenure and promotion issues: The bottom line for the chapter is that reorganization should not force tenure-track faculty to educate a new batch of colleagues about their work at the department/unit level. At a consultation between the UFF-USF chapter and the administration Tuesday, the administration agreed to written, binding agreements so that tenure-track faculty could retain continuity of colleagues for T&P evaluation purposes. The devil’s in the details, and the chapter will be looking after those details for any affected tenure-track faculty.

Summer teaching opportunities. The common expectation of both UFF and the USF administration is that each unit has an explicit set of procedures on offering teaching opportunities (covered under Article 8). Merging departments will not be able to address the transition in the same way as for annual evaluations, and it is important that faculty in any merged units talk in the summer and craft a single policy in the fall, well before summer 2009 comes around.

Other governance issues. While most other departmental governance issues are outside the collective bargaining agreement, merged units will also need to figure out how to handle governance. In some cases (as in course/program approval processes), transitional arrangements with minimal disruption may be possible.

Have more questions on practical issues? E-mail me!


Non-reappointment and union protections

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

There are hundreds of employees at USF who are not represented by any union, and this is what can happen if your employer can change the terms and conditions of employment at whim: USF is shrinking non-reappointment notice requirements for those outside bargaining units. Inside the unit, apart from soft-money (grant-funded) positions, a professional employee has one semester’s notice for the first two years and one year’s notice afterwards. Outside the bargaining unit, the new rules give only 30 days’ notice of nonreappointment in the first two years and three months’ notice afterwards. Non-reappointment is ending employment without cause; in the unit as well as out of it, USF has the right to terminate people with cause, after due process. One of the protections for professional employees inside the bargaining unit is a longer non-reappointment period.


Florida’s War on Knowledge

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

This week, Anthropology Chair Elizabeth Bird’s column appeared in the St Petersburg times: Florida’s War on Knowledge. In it, Professor Bird captures the problems with Florida higher education policy and the dangers with budget cuts and a threatened governance change.

The public needs to know more about the effects of budget cuts, and the position of the UFF chapter is that all faculty at USF should participate in educating the public and policymakers. See for more information on the chapter’s gift-card drawings tied to educating the public.


External reviewer mini-workshop to go

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

Going up for tenure and needing help putting together a proposed list of external reviewers? Put together a small group of colleagues and you get a mini-workshop brought to you.

Here’s what you do:

  • Find a colleague or two to work with: both must be union members or willing to sign up (this is a member-only mini-workshop)
  • Check my calendar for times before 2:30 pm that I am free (I generally am not free after 2:30 pm)
  • Get a room
  • Send me an e-mail with two proposed time slots (45-60 minutes are enough, if you’re at Tampa, and if you’re at another campus, I’ll figure out the drive time).
  • I’ll respond within a day or two to say if I can make one of those times.
  • I bring materials, you bring a list of potential reviewer nominations and what you know about them