Archive for July, 2009

Tampa Academic-Affairs room capacities

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

The attached spreadsheet lists the maximum occupancies for a number of Tampa classrooms listed by USF Central Space. This is not a complete list of classrooms at USF or even on the Tampa campus.


Text of constitution and by-laws amendment proposals, to be voted on August 28

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

At the July 17, 2009, chapter meeting, the membership present approved language of proposed amendments for the chapter constitution and by-laws. To put it simply, the proposals would change the process of amendment from a chapter meeting (which generally is attended by less than 10% of the total membership) and to a formal paper or electronic balloting process, so everyone can participate.

The proposals will be voted on at the August 28 meeting–using the process that would be obsolete if the amendments were approved.

UFF-USF Constitution Proposed Amendment

Article VI. Amendment.

This constitution may be amended as follows: A proposed amendment shall be distributed to all members at least thirty days prior to a vote. A constitutional amendment shall be adopted by a two-thirds vote of all those present at the time of the vote.  The Chapter Executive Committee, Chapter Council, 20% of the chapter membership (by petition), or the attending members at any membership meeting may propose an amendment to the constitution, whose proposed changes shall then be sent to the membership thirty days before a paper-ballot or an electronic vote. Ratification requires approval A vote of two-thirds of those present and voting.

UFF-USF Bylaws Proposed Amendment

Article VI. Amendments.

The Chapter Executive Committee, Chapter Council, 20% of the chapter membership (by petition), or the attending members at any membership meeting may propose an amendment to the by-laws, whose proposed changes shall then be sent to the membership two weeks before a paper-ballot or an electronic vote. Ratification of the proposed change(s) requires approval vote of two-thirds of those present and voting. at a membership meeting if the members have been notified at least two weeks in advance may amend the Bylaws.


Did universities make a strategic error when outsourcing bookstores?

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Several years ago, USF contracted out the management of its bookstore to Barnes and Noble, like many universities. At the time, many faculty and staff were concerned about how the outsourcing would affect staff who had worked at the bookstore, and whether the promises about better service and a self-sustaining business model would hold true.

Well, now we know: we got snookered. We’re not alone: Penn, Harvard, Boston U., Brandeis, Case Western, Columbia, Indiana University, Ohio State, Texas A&M, and others dot the list of campuses who have outsourced bookstore management. But all of them bought into a model of university bookstores that had close to monopoly control over student book purchases. The world was starting to change; the increase in publisher short-discounting and the development of used-book markets made it harder for universities to see much margin in operating the bookstore, so many (including USF) leased the operation to others. As one community-college dean explains, internally-operated bookstores send extra revenues into the institution’s operating budget, while an outsourced operation often relies on rent for revenue.

And less than 15 years after this wave of outsourcing began, the assumptions behind that model have fallen down around everyone’s ears. Students do not rely on university bookstores, many of us receive requests from students about the book lists for semesters that start several months down the road, and a new Florida law will shortly require the online publication of all required books for courses at least 30 days before each term begins. While many students are still stuck using campus bookstores because of the financial aid voucher, that will probably be the next target of leverage by student activists and possibly the Obama administration. If we are not at the beginning of the end of the college bookstore monopoly, we’re probably less than 10 years away.

There are other directions to take. Patrick Murray-John of the University of Mary Washington has argued that universities should give up their bookstores, or rather turn them into book marts/collection facilities — essentially taking the function and logistics currently used to package preordered books and using it to let students order from anywhere to be delivered to the college bookstore, which will then package it in a way that the current experience for preordering students is identical. Then, he asks, what else could a college use the bookstore space for? Something other than branded merchandise, he suggests…

But that possibility, and others, is foreclosed if the contract with Barnes and Noble, Follett’s, or the like. Depending on the length of the contract, universities and colleges may just have outsmarted themselves, locking themselves into relationships just as the model has to change once more.


Travel reimbursement update

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

An e-mail from the provost’s office intended to reach to all faculty today:

PLEASE DIRECT ANY COMMENTS OR INQUIRIES CONCERNING THIS MESSAGE TO JOY MORTON IN THE TRAVEL DEPARTMENT AT [e-mail address].Given the problems that were encountered this past academic year with travel reimbursements, the Provost’s Office has been communicating with the Travel Department on a frequent basis. It appears that much progress has been made and the backlog of unprocessed reimbursement requests has been reduced considerably. The Travel Department believes that the campus will experience a substantially reduced time from submission to payment during the coming academic year.

Following our last conversation, we’ve received the following request from the Travel Department, and ask that you respond to the person referenced if it applies to you:

In order to verify that no one’s request has fallen through the cracks, we are asking that any faculty members let Joy Morton know if they have unpaid Travel Expense Reports (reimbursement requests) that are older than 30 days from the date submitted to Travel. Please know that we are continuing to work to further improve the travel reimbursement process and very much appreciate the patience that you have shown thus far.

CHAIRS: Please share this request with any graduate students to whom the request applies.


Draft agenda Chapter meeting, July 17, noon at CDBs

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Draft agenda, UFF-USF Chapter membership meeting, July 17, 2009
Noon, CDBs, 5104 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa, FL

  1. Agenda and special rule
  2. Membership and introductions
  3. Proposed language for chapter constitution amendment
  4. Proposed language for chapter bylaws amendment
  5. AFSCME impasse
  6. Affiliate relations
  7. Notice of chapter council meeting
  8. ELI
  9. Reports
  10. For the good of the order

Proposed special rule: “For the chapter membership meeting July 17, 2009, all speeches shall be restricted to three minutes.”


Miscellaneous items at USF

Friday, July 10th, 2009

A few things of note for this Friday:

  •  HR will be readjusting employees’ leave balances to conform with the arbitration decision last week and the administration’s decision early this week to extend the same change to all employees who earn annual leave. After that is done, UFF will work with USF to address small numbers of in-unit faculty and professional employees who did not have leave to cover the affected days in December, who moved from 12- to 9-month contracts since December, or who have left USF.
  • The chapter has received draft guidelines for an instructor promotion track and has just distributed the draft document to chapter members along with a link to a brief survey to provide feedback. Chapter VP Mark Klisch helped draft the guidelines. The chapter has the authority to delay T&P guidelines for a year, and the chapter’s officers need to know from members whether the chapter should agree to implement the guidelines so promotion opportunities are available in 2009-10 (with new ranks to go into effect in August 2010 for those promoted).
  • There is an impasse hearing before the USF Board of Trustees next Thursday, July 16, 9-11 am, in the ROTC building’s auditorium on the Tampa campus. This is a result of impact bargaining over increased class sizes beginning Fall 2007, after an impasse between the bargaining teams and after both sides had concerns about the special magistrate’s recommendations.
  • There is a regular chapter membership meeting Friday, July 17, at noon, in CDB’s on Fletcher Ave. in Tampa. Because of the collective bargaining session starting in SVC at 2, the chapter meeting will be abbreviated.
  • There is a regular collective bargaining session next Friday, July 17, 2-4 pm, in SVC 2070.

Everyone at USF benefits from faculty union’s arbitration victory

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Late today, USF sent staff and faculty the following memo from Provost Ralph Wilcox:

As you may recall, the University of South Florida implemented a mandatory Winter Break in 2008 during a time of fiscal uncertainty and following the loss of more than 500 vacant faculty and staff positions. Given the necessity to reduce financial obligations and balance the budget, the mandatory annual leave was considered a far better option for employees than the use of furloughs and/or layoffs imposed by other universities.

USF has decided to re-credit 3 days of annual leave that were taken during the Winter Break in 2008. Any faculty member or employee, who was charged those 3 days of annual leave during the university’s mandated closing, will have the days credited back to their current leave account. This is a fair and equitable action consistent with a recent arbitration decision between USF and the United Faculty of Florida. That decision applied to in-unit faculty under 12-month contracts. However, USF’s leadership has decided that the only fair action is to extend the restoration to ALL eligible employees.

The University has engaged in communications on such challenging matters in the past. Going forward, it will be important to maintain our communication since we will not have the flexibility that we have enjoyed in the past given the difficult budget realities of today. This decision will prompt us to explore alternative strategies to balance USF’s budget in the future.

The good news, however, bears repeating. Because of the many measures USF took in 2008 to reduce costs, our budget is relatively stable today as we enter the 2009-2010 fiscal year. Our actions last year, together with the infusion of federal budget stabilization funds, have made it possible for USF to enter the next academic year without the kind of programmatic and personnel cuts that others have endured. Let us all hope that this remains the case. Both the president and I will be writing shortly to describe the strategic planning and budgeting actions that will support USF’s continued and remarkable progress.

A few personal remarks, if I may. First, the university made the right choice today, to broaden the impact of the arbitration decision so that everyone benefits. As has happened often in the past, the faculty at USF can help set a floor for other employees, and that’s a good thing both for employees and for the university’s long-term interest.

Second, I am not surprised by how the administration’s language tries to paper over the fundamental mistake it made, to try to dismiss the bargaining authority of UFF and other employee unions. This is a continuing pattern at USF, and it is not in the university’s long-term interest for upper-level administrators or the trustees to try to circumvent bargaining. For the past decade, communication between the administration and all its employees (faculty and staff) has been a consistent weakness. As I told the Tribune’s reporter, Lindsay Peterson, President Genshaft could have picked up the phone and called me any time in the past two years to discuss the financial troubles of USF and the future, and she hasn’t.


Outsourcing in Florida

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

As public-agency budgets around the state tighten, we’re likely to hear a push for more privatization both inside and outside higher education. But this isn’t a new call, either in Florida’s state government or in higher education nationally. In the last few years, UFF members participated in a downtown Tampa protest of a city privatization effort, and USF student protests helped the USF uniformed police (represented by PBA) gain a contract even after the university first tried appeasing students by outsourcing some security operations to AlliedBarton.

While outsourcing is part of a repertoir that both Democrats and Republicans have used, Jeb Bush’s administration is the political tenure in Florida most closely associated with outsourcing. Bush’s record on privatizing public services is mixed at best. In 2004, Lucy Morgan reported on an auditor’s finding of rampant conflict of interest in the awarding of the statewide PeopleFirst contract. At the end of Bush’s second term, reporter Joni James wrote a critical review of the Bush privatization record. From James’s article:

For every success Bush can point to – cheaper Florida Lottery overhead, better third-party Medicaid collections – there has been an embarrassing misstep and sometimes corruption. And undermining the privatization push is a stunning lack of information about how well it has performed in the past eight years. Audit after audit, including some from Bush’s own inspector general, concluded that the savings or other benefits of such private deals were often impossible to deduce because the contracts written early in Bush’s administration lacked clear parameters.

Privatization continues in the state, with new scandals, including claims of a “rigging of the process” by one prison system vendor and allegations of conflicts of interest (with one administrator allegedly pushing to have his friend hired by one vendor). USF’s staff is represented by AFSCME Local 3342, and the national AFSCME keeps a watch on privatization: see their list of Florida stories here.

There are commonly two public arguments made in favor of privatization or outsourcing, and one private motive on top of that (at least for elected officials). The two common arguments in favor of privatization are that a specific function is the core of a private vendor’s competence and outside the competence of government; and that a private vendor can do the same job more cheaply. The private motive is that outsourcing public-agency work often provides business to companies who can thank the officials authorizing the outsourcing by campaign donations or other support (which can shade into bribery, kickbacks, or side hirings, as has been alleged in Florida).

As noted in the Joni Jones column, often privatization does not save money for agencies, because to do so, the vendor must reduce the pay of employees (from the pay and benefits of public employees) sufficiently to provide the vendor’s desired profit margin and any additional savings the public agency expected. Earlier this decade, Florida International University tried to outsource its janitors, but when the janitors successfully organized as private employee, the vendor asked for more money to cover the (decent) pay and benefits, and FIU realized it was cheaper to bring the janitors back in as university employees. USF has outsourced staff jobs in some cases in the past decade, most visibly the outsourcing of the bookstore’s management to Barnes and Noble. A blog entry later this month will discuss issues related to university outsourcing more specifically.


Arbitration award in annual-leave grievance

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

On July 2, USF and UFF received the arbitrator’s decision in the grievances filed over the University’s taking three days of leave last December from all annual-leave-accruing employees. Here is the heart of the decision:

The University, under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, cannot require bargaining unit employees to use annual leave. The University, under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, does not have the contractual right or the statutory right to require bargaining unit employees to take accrued annual leave. The required use of annual leave resulted in the employees being required to waive benefits provided by the Agreement, and to suffer a loss or diminution of contractual rights for which they were otherwise eligible. Specifically, the employee’s contractual rights and benefits to accrue the days for their use in accordance with the provisions of the contract…. After full consideration of the circumstances, this arbitrator agrees that the remedy must be for the University to reinstate the three days of accrued annual leave to the members of the bargaining unit who were required to take them.

The arbitrator has ordered the university to return three days of leave to all in the UFF bargaining unit who lost them in December. This is the result of the grievance process at its final step: a binding arbitration, and in this case, the arbitrator ruled that the United Faculty of Florida was correct in its interpretation of the contract, that the university did not have the authority to take three days of leave without bargaining a change at the table. Members’ dues pay for contract enforcement, and it is in the grievance process that UFF can hold the university accountable when it violates the contract.

Chapter grievance chair Mark Klisch processed the grievances at the local level; UFF’s executive director, Ed Mitchell, was the chapter’s representative at the arbitration hearing, and chief negotiator Robert Welker helped with preparation for the arbitration hearing.

Arbitrator Cary Singletary decision text, July 2002