Archive for May, 2008

De facto differentiated staffing

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

Twenty years ago, Frank Borkowski became USF’s fourth president, promising to raise the institution’s research activities and national profile. Per-pupil state funding of Florida’s universities peaked halfway through his tenure with a downward trend since, and yet USF’s profile today is one of a major research university. That says much about the work of hundreds of faculty, but there have been costs to the institution. As state funding falls yet again and all of Florida’s universities face unstable and unpredictable funding, we need to see what that 20-year trajectory has done to faculty work: it has encouraged administrators to created a de facto differentiated staffing model, without a clear set of rewards for anyone. While President Genshaft has talked about rewarding academic superstars (her choice of words from the fall 2007 state of the university address), and while the provost puts together a task force without asking the faculty union to participate on the steering committee, we all need to understand that we already have a differentiated staffing model, and it’s one that is demoralizing or demeaning to many employees.



Draft agenda, May 30 chapter meeting

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

Draft agenda, May 30, 2008, UFF-USF chapter meeting
Noon, CDB’s (Fowler at 51st)

  1. Introductions and agenda amendment/approval
  2. Membership
  3. Budget cut news & responses (includes Communications)
  4. Stipends for one-time tasks (action requested: approve stipends for members learning about grievances)
  5. Bargaining
  6. Grievances
  7. Treasury
  8. Other business/for the good of the order

Minutes May 16, 2008

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

USF-UFF Chapter Meeting
Minutes, May 16, 2008

In attendance.

Sherman Dorn, Rod Evans, Susan Greenbaum, Hiba Hechiche, Mark Klisch, Jana Martin, Lynn McBrien, Greg McColm, Steve Permuth, Arthur Shapiro, Paul Terry, Bob Welker, Keith White, Sonya Wolmuth (more…)


USF Health budget reduction plans

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

The budget reduction outline for USF Health is now online. There are 2 layoffs from COPH, but the outline doesn’t specify whether those positions are staff or faculty, and given the <1.0 FTE in hard money for most Public Health faculty, I’m not ruling out the possibility of in-unit layoffs there until I hear otherwise, but the probabilities just went down dramatically (and that’s true for both staff and faculty).


FIU plans cuts over 3 years

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

FIU’s draft plan released today differs from USF’s and UF’s in two significant ways, process-wise:

  • The timeline gives several weeks for key stakeholders to respond to the specific proposals
  • The timeline is for reductions over three years, not a single year, using university resources to buffer programs in the first few years.

Substantively, FIU would close a number of academic programs, and it looks like more faculty jobs are at risk than at USF, unless they can be saved through attrition.

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Why UFF watches what happens with layoffs

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

The following is from the May 15 layoff process timeline under notification periods:

Faculty ‐ Minimum 90 days notice or end of current semester if in teaching capacity (no later than 15 days following the official close of Fall Semester) [emphasis added]

The collective bargaining agreement stipulates that “where circumstances permit,” the layoff notice for in-unit faculty and professional employees should be six months for those with less than 3 years’ service and one year for everyone else. There are important exceptions: those in visiting lines and on soft money do not have a right to notice of nonreappointment when either the immediate visiting term ends or grant support ends. But given the extensive unrestricted assets of the university (even if one accepts at face value every claim made by USF yesterday) and the relatively small number of those anticipated to be laid off from the UFF-USF bargaining unit, we think these are precisely the circumstances that permit the default layoff notice.


Budget reduction plans

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

Today’s Trustees meeting (video) approved a general outline for budget reduction plans as President Genshaft presented them (PDF) to the faculty senate. The handout only included specific information on potential layoffs within Academic Affairs and some other entities such as Student Affairs, so the regional campuses and in-unit parts of USF Health were not included. President Genshaft said that she did not intend to lay off tenured or tenure-track faculty, and this is definitely a good (or less-bad) outcome.

Layoff numbers in general: Within Academic Affairs, the outline is for a loss of two instructional faculty (non-tenure-track) positions and five non-instructional faculty lines (which may or may not be in the UFF-USF bargaining unit). There are dozens more staff who may lose their jobs, many USPS (represented by AFSCME), and a number probably A&P, and these latter may include some in the UFF-USF bargaining unit. I spoke with one regional-campus head, whose best impression was that no in-unit employees at that campus were layoff targets (and this was with a caveat that the campus head was not entirely sure about the unit boundaries), and VP Klasko (Health) promised me after the BOT meeting to get me more specific information about Nursing and Public Health. (He made the same promise to Faculty Senate President-Elect Larry Branch at the faculty senate meeting: kudos to Larry for being the first to point out the missing information.) If the information from Academic Affairs is scaled to USF Health and the regional campuses, there may be 5-15 layoffs within the bargaining unit. Auxiliary units and entities such as Physical Plant were not included, so several dozen USPS and A&P staff may be at risk. In general, it was frustrating not to have information about the entire university, and that was echoed by one trustee who was concerned that the board was approving the outline without much chance to reflect on it or complete information.

Reorganizations: The Academic Affairs outline referred explicitly to the move of three academic units between colleges: Economics from COBA to CAS, Rehabilitation Counseling from CAS to FMHI, and Architecture absorbed within VPA. The specifics within colleges were vague, and my impression is that some things may still be in flux, or the last details may still be in the process of being nailed down.

Unrestricted assets: On pp. 7-8 of the president’s speech to the faculty senate, or on a pie chart also passed out at the senate meeting, you can read specific claims that the administration makes about the $240m in university-only unrestricted assets, specifically that they are previously committed:

  • The statutory mandate of a 5% reserve
  • The trustees’ preference for a month (or two) of payroll in reserve
  • Overhead accounts for faculty research
  • Florida Phosphate Research Institute funds
  • Summer tuition that was lying over between fiscal years
  • Debt service and operations for auxiliary units

Administration staff also circulated a printed pie chart (I haven’t seen it online) with percentages and amounts tied to the claimed commitments. In addition, President Genshaft said that the amount of unrestricted assets were necessary to maintain the university’s bond ratings for bonded projects, and that unrestricted assets could not be used for recurring expenses, since they are one-time-only funds. The last is absolutely true in terms of the core amount of assets (though not interest earned on the assets). A number of faculty at the senate meeting in the early afternoon had some questions, as do I, and probably the best path to follow is to check the accuracy of these claims in terms of several issues:

  1. Is there documentation of these commitments as of summer 2007?
  2. Are the claims consistent with the growth in unrestricted assets — that is, is the claim of prior commitments for the 2007-2008 financial statement also true for prior years, and if so, how did the assets grow so quickly if prior years’ funds were similarly committed?
  3. What is the likely end-of-year portrait of unrestricted assets for 2007-08, and is that consistent with the claimed commitments?
  4. Are the claims consistent with the GASB definition of unrestricted assets? I thought that if money is pass-through or externally restricted (as in the Florida Phosphate Research Institute funding or overhead accounts with typical F&A restrictions), that shouldn’t be included in unrestricted assets. I may be wrong, but this is something to check.
  5. Why are auxiliary-unit debt service obligations and operating expenses coming out of the unrestricted assets of the university (auxiliary units excluded)?
  6. Is there any standard of practice in higher education for holding a very large reserve of fairly liquid assets?
  7. Is the amount of unrestricted assets a high priority in determining bond ratings, and how does it compare with other factors such as an income stream devoted to debt service, the institution’s history of prior projects, and the institution’s general managerial competence?

I suspect other faculty may have additional questions. Beyond the factual question, there is also the question of values and priorities: should a university’s highest priority be to keep a stash of cash when there is a legitimate financial problem that is causing damage to the institution’s core mission, and should the bond rating be a higher priority than the institution’s academics?

Addendum. Some other observations about the president’s speech to the faculty senate:

  1. The president mentioned the concerns she had with stagnant faculty raises. The faculty have even greater concerns and is glad that she shares them!
  2. The president said USF would investigate the direct student loan program. Good!
  3. The president said HR would do what the chapter had asked in the fall, which is the creation of a single point of contact for employees who receive layoff notices, to receive outplacement assistance as well as internal placement in other openings.

Tampa Tribune article on budget cutting

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

This morning in the Tampa Tribune, Adam Emerson’s story USF Union Seeks Budget Cut Delay appeared. For the most part, it represented faculty concerns well in terms of faculty’s wanting there to be more deliberation about reorganization and budget cuts, and I have two short comments.

First, this story has the very first response of the university to faculty questions about the origins of the unrestricted-assets growth, in terms of VP Michael Hoad’s responses to Emerson’s questions. I don’t understand Hoad’s apparent answer, but it’s a first step in the right direction, and there needs to be much more openness about the assets. (Emerson wrote, “For example, the budgets for auxiliary services, such as alumni and athletic associations, originate in this ‘unrestricted’ classification,” which doesn’t make sense since unrestricted assets represent the growth of unspent funds, not operating expenses, and the $240 million was in the university itself, not the auxiliary units, which had $88 million in unrestricted assets at the end of last June.)

Second, Emerson made a leap between the discussion of the assets and the chapter’s resolution asking for a delay in reorganization. In talking with me over the phone, he asked if there was a link between Friday’s resolution and the discussion about the $240 million in unrestricted assets. I told him that was a logical connection, but that that hadn’t been explicit in the discussion on the motion. I had been reading the motion to be parallel to the letter the majority of CAS chairs sent the provost some weeks ago, asking that the discussion of reorganization be slowed down and separated from budget cuts; if there was a link between the two issues, it was more likely to be the fact that unrestricted assets should give USF some maneuvering room. But that’s a relatively minor quibble.

What is true in the story is that USF faces choices about what to do with the budget cuts given the unrestricted assets. The Board of Trustees can ignore the existence of the unrestricted assets and cut far into academic programs. The trustees can ignore the existence of budget cuts and absorb all of the appropriations gap through unrestricted assets. Or the trustees can recognize that we have both a long-term change in what the state is appropriating AND a large cushion that we can use to make the change much smoother.


Faculty senate special meeting (update)

Monday, May 19th, 2008

Wednesday at 1 pm, in the Westside Conference room E, the faculty senate will be meeting in special session. Last Thursday, Faculty Senate President Michael Barber sent the following e-mail to faculty senators:

Dear Senators,

As you know, President Genshaft will be addressing the USF Faculty Senate on Wednesday May 21 at 1 pm at Westside Conference Center Room E (To find Room E take the covered walkway passed the entrance to rooms A-B-C, to the set of double glass doors). I understand that the President has also requested that Deans also attend that meeting so that all might hear first hand what steps she intends to take in response to the institution’s budget situation.

After President Genshaft’s presentation and discussion, if the Faculty Senate would like to continue to meet to discuss the President’s plan we may do so. The room is reserved until 5 PM. However, our administrative specialist, Ann Pipkins, will be on vacation, so we will not have minutes from the previous Faculty Senate meeting to approve, nor will minutes of any discussion we might have be recorded, unless we have a volunteer. But if it is the will of the Faculty Senate to remain to discuss the President’s plan after she and the other administration representatives leave, I will be pleased to preside over that session.


Michael Barber
President, USF Faculty Senate

The USF Board of Trustees will be starting its own special meeting (PDF of agenda) starting at 3:30 in the Marshall Center Ballroom.


Background on UFF-USF resolution on reorganization

Monday, May 19th, 2008

Last Friday, the chapter approved the following resolution (which went through rephrasing overnight Friday and early Saturday):

The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida strongly recommends the immediate suspension of all efforts in progress to reorganize the colleges and subunits thereof pending further deliberation by the faculty and the substantial involvement of the faculty in considering, making and implementing any plans regarding such reorganization.

The reorganization specifically was not on the agenda. The issue came up in discussion of the budget cuts, and the initial motion was made by a faculty member in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). The discussion focused on the judgment that reorganization was being tossed about in far too rushed a manner. As far as I recall, there was no discussion of administrative intentions, but as several dozen CAS chairs had noted in a letter to the administration several weeks ago, there was a clear sense that addressing the current budget crisis should be done separately from larger organizational issues, and that a rush to change based on the end of the fiscal year would cause considerable harm to USF’s academics.