Archive for April 17th, 2008

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!