spacer UFF USF On-Campus Home UFF USF On-Campus Newspage Off-Campus Home spacer

United Faculty of Florida, Fall 2008

August 21, 2008


As two debate teachers discovered recently, there are cell phones everywhere, and many cell phones are video cameras. So when two professors go over the top – while their students died of embarrassment (or worse, were secretly delighted) – YouTube can make it national news (the video describe in the AP story Kansas prof moons Pitt prof during debate competition was removed from YouTube by the person who posted it).

On August 16, YouTube said that there were 4,160 videos on "USF", starting with a clip from the West Virginia Mountaineers versus the USF Bulls posted last year. This may be a good time to recall two thoughts from a previous Biweekly article (posted on line):

First, many students arrive at USF not knowing what the rules are for recording lectures, often not knowing that there are any rules for recording lectures. While a professor has no expectation of privacy in the classroom, a professor does have (limited) authority over recording equipment in the classroom. It may be a good idea to spell out policies on cell phone and other gizmo use in the syllabus.

Second, recordings happen, even if cell phones are required to be turned off. As critical theorists have observed, even when the video hasn’t been fiddled with, it only shows what the camera was pointed at during the time it was on. In academia as in politics, videos of (apparent) gaffes should be treated carefully. The best initial reaction may be to take a deep breath and decide whether any reaction at all is called for.


Aesop tells us of a ploughman who handed his quarrelsome sons a bundle of sticks, and asked each one to break it. But none of them could. Then the old man untied the bundle, and handed out the sticks and asked his sons to break the individual sticks, which they did easily. Thus concluded Aesop, in unity there is strength.

That's why the United Faculty of Florida is always ready to sign up new members (which you can do by going to our membership page). In addition, UFF is launching an organizing campaign this fall, which includes a visit by Pennsylvania State University Paterno Family Professor Michael Berube. Berube is a leading commentator in the academic culture wars, and he will be speaking on September 23 at 5:15 pm in CHE 100. The lecture is free and open to the public. This will be one of several events organized by UFF this fall – and in particular, during the week of September 22 – 26 – to encourage faculty and university professionals to come and join the movement.


Florida's unemployment rate was 6.1 % in July, the highest in thirteen years, and had the third highest home foreclosure rate in the nation after Nevada and California. Energy prices were falling a little, but sales (upon which Florida's tax revenue depends a lot) were low, and as of last Friday the State anticipates a $ 1.8 billion revenue shortfall (i.e., short of projections when the budget was passed). "This is really unprecedented – again," grumped Florida House Minority Leader Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, but House Speaker Designate Ray Sansom, R-Destin, noted that Governor Crist has options. Like holding back money appropriated by the legislature.

When the legislature appropriates money from General Revenue, the State disburses 25 % of it each quarter. Because of the downturn, over the last five quarters the State has disbursed 24 % of appropriations, in effect a four percent cut each quarter. There are several hundred million dollars in reserves, but as we enter a hurricane season, there is a lot of wariness about spending reserves. Something has to be done, for as Senate Committee on Finance and Tax chair Mike Haridopolos, R-Osceola, told the Tampa Tribune, "The other alternative - higher taxes - is untenable." Indeed, there are tax-cutting measures on the November ballot.

There seems to be a lot of gloom about the next year or two. The Miami Herald reported that Florida now ranks last in tenured/tenure-track faculty per student, and reports that the recent cuts have led the University of Florida to cut its diabetes center and Florida International University to cut its industrial engineering program.

A comment on the Miami Herald article asked, "If it's true that public universities like FIU are bleeding then why did they just invest millions on a new stadium?" Construction money comes from other sources, like utilities taxes, and it takes a long time to get funding lined up for a building; that's why public construction tends to continue right through recessions. And politicians are grateful for the jobs and economic stimulus.

There seems to be more optimism about the longer range. Tough Choices 2008 (see the Collins Institute Research page), which is the update of the LeRoy Collins Institute's 2005 report predicting this downturn in state funding, anticipates that over the next few decades retirees will once again come to the rescue. Still, "[y]ears of funding neglect come home to roost during a budget crunch," said the report, which focused on Florida's low tuition rather than on the long term national shift of university costs from the government onto students.

The demand for higher education is still growing in Florida, but that demand has yet to generate usable political pressure for providing adequate resources to the universities. Meanwhile, with U.S. home foreclosures up 55 % over this time last year, there does not seem to be any respite soon. That means that when politicians look where to cut, the universities must have their defenses and allies ready.

September 4, 2008


In 2006, the Florida legislature passed a law banning travel to nations that the U.S. State Department designated as "terrorist." This was the law described in the 2006 UFF Biweekly articles of July 13, 2006 and September 21, 2006, and several organizations, including UFF, filed several suits to overturn the law. The bill had not only banned use of state funds for travel to, say, Cuba, but also the use of any funding processed by state institutions for such travel. This restriction severely restricted research in these nations – and on them. Judge Seitz ruled that this restriction on the use of external funding interfered with the authority of federal agencies to allocate funds in Florida. Last week's ruling was for the ACLU's federal suit (UFF's suit is in state court), and the legal wrangling is likely to continue: State Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami, who sponsored the bill, hopes to appeal. Meanwhile, the state suit continues, and while we are very hopeful of victory in the end, it will take some time. And that's a reminder that even if the courts clean up a legislative mess eventually, the key word is "eventually": it is helpful if we have more sensible legislation to begin with. Something to think about during this election season. That leads us to our main article: last January, Florida State University professor Matt Childs told the St. Petersburg Times that the travel ban prevented him from visiting Cuba to complete his book on Cuban history, so he was leaving FSU to go to the University of South Carolina. There is more to attracting and retaining talent than just money, although it helps...


"Experts in economics, robotics, molecular medicine, communication disorders such as dementia and other fields have already fled this year. And states such as Texas and North Carolina are heavily recruiting more key faculty, offering higher salaries and funds for high-tech research," wrote Florida Today magazine, explaining why the Florida Board of Governors had included $ 65 million for raises in their latest $ 3.7 billion budget request for 2009 - 2010. Although "[s]mall raises for faculty alone won't right what's wrong with Florida's universities," the magazine hopes that " hikes [of perhaps 4 % or so] can help staunch the bleed of talent until the downturn ends."

This anxiety about a "brain drain" seems widespread. The St. Petersburg Times quoted Board Chair Sheila McDevitt saying, "Retention of faculty and attraction of new talent is ... the No. 1 priority other than keeping the doors open," while the Miami Herald quoted Florida International University Trustee (representing their Faculty Senate) Bruce Hauptli saying, "Why wouldn't somebody want to go to another state where they could focus more clearly on their educational objectives, instead of having to worry about cramming more students into a classroom than the fire marshal will allow?'' The Palm Beach Post editorialized that "Dr. Rosenberg points to research showing that it took Florida State University 20 years after the brain drain of the 1970s to get back to previous levels."

On August 22, WUSF aired a Florida Matters episode on "The Brain Drain" on how "... a growing number of professors have departed from Florida's public universities. Other states are luring them away with higher salaries, new labs, research assistants and other resources" (see Florida Matters).

Florida's anxiety about a "brain drain" is not new. For many years, as St. Petersburg, Tampa, and Orlando dreamed of a high-tech corridor extending along Interstate 4, boosters read Richard Florida's books about how to attract creative young people who would develop their city's economy. The obverse side of the coin, as described by economist Joe Cortright on WUSF in 2004, was that "If you're not in competition for this group of people, your economic development, your ability to attract firms, will be severely compromised"; then the president of the Ringling School of Art and Design told WUSF that 90 % of his graduates leave Florida. There were two reasons: Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Austin (!) were not only more inviting than any place in Florida, but they had jobs (see How To Stop The Brain Drain).

Here we come to the brass tacks: attracting talent costs money.


Enumerate your favorite list of places where the action was: Athens in the fifth century B.C., Alexandria's first few centuries, Baghdad a millennium ago and Toledo shortly after that, Renaissance Florence and English Renaissance London, Eighteenth Century Edinburgh, Nineteenth Century Paris and Twentieth Century New York. All these places had one thing in common: a sufficient combination of money and sense.

Ever since the invention of the city, the city has been the place to go for a youngster of ambition and talent. There is one quite practical reason: networking. Over the last few decades, sociologists have studied the connections between scholars, scientists, intellectuals, and artists, and they have found highly connected webs of personal relationships. That should not surprise us if we take seriously John Locke's theory that knowledge arises out of the combination of disparate ideas. And it should not surprise us if we are familiar with the tales of the American expatriates in Parisian cafes, English "philosophers of natural science" drinking hot chocolate in those notorious coffee houses that Charles II tried to shut down, and those scientific seminars launched in German universities.

But networking requires that people be in the same place at the same time, which is why youngsters tend to head where they think the action is, for that's where one finds the networks. And so cities that want those youngsters spend money to make themselves into the places where the action is. It doesn't require winning the lottery. True, the Persian Gulf states are now using their oil money to engage in academic headhunting throughout the Middle East. But consider Scotland, which started the Eighteenth century one of the poorest and most backward nations in Europe. With a great deal of introspection, intelligent legislation, commerce, and networking, the Scots built a feedback loop with a boom that extended from the nature of human understanding to the invention of the bank branch, with the inventions of laundry bleach and historical geography en route. Scotland's transformation from a nation that burned witches (as late as 1722) to one of the earliest experimenters in mass education also shows the importance of the cultural environment. The Scottish Enlightenment shows what is possible if people put their minds to it.


There is more to a boom than money, but money trouble can end (or prevent) a boom. When funds get tight, people can get tense and touchy and distracted by the situation, and ultimately want to be someplace else. Robotics Professor Robin Murphy explained her departure to the St. Petersburg Times with "Here [at USF] you've got salary compression, the lack of ability to hire additional faculty" while at Texas A & M, "I will go from a 20-person department here to a 45-person department in Texas, and the chance to hire two more people." And then a reminder of how an accumulation of little symptomatic things can become a problem: "We're down to the level here where they're saying you have to pay for your own printer paper."

When the excitement seems unsustainable here, when where the action is seems to be someplace else, that's where the trouble begins. The phrase "brain drain" seems to have appeared in the 1950s, referring scholars and artists migrating from Europe to America (something that had already been happening for two decades). America was where the action is. And for the last few years, in America itself, Texas oil made Texas where the action is. But it wasn't just the oil: it was that the Texas government (which is supposed to have a dubious reputation) poured some of the oil money into education. As a comparison, consider the Association of American Universities, which USF aspires to join: Florida currently has one member, while Texas has three (the third, Texas A & M, joined in 2001). Apparently, the Texas legislature knows something the Florida legislature does not.

And the travel ban is a reminder that money is necessary but not sufficient. Academics are not attracted to places where they cannot do their work, and a capricious legislature that bans travel to Cuba today can ban stem cell research tomorrow. We have to work on our relationship with the legislature. Notice the use of the word "we." That means more than just a select few. First of all, the university community is collectively stronger than any select few. Secondly, being human, we can feel disempowered when we are reduced to being spectators. The future of the entire university community is at stake, and we should all have a way to participate in reaching out to the people and the government of Florida and making our case.

September 18, 2008


The United Faculty of Florida just pressed its position in a "Step 2" hearing on two pending grievances: the proposed involuntary annual leaves of this December, and the proposed reorganization.

The union enforces the Collective Bargaining Agreement (the contract) by filing grievances, or assisting employees who file grievances, when the contract is violated. If an employee – or the Chapter – believes that the contract has been violated, the employee (or the Chapter) may file a "grievance" or formal complaint. Notice that a grievance can only be filed on a violation of the contract: stupidity and injustice are not, in themselves, grievable.

And it is important to remember that a grievance must be filed within thirty days of the time the grievant knew or should have known about the violation.

The procedure is that after the grievance is filed, there is usually an attempt to handle the problem by quiet mediation. If that fails, there is a Step 1 hearing on the case before a representative of the Administration. If that fails, the grievant may present the case at a Step 2 hearing before a representative of the Board of Trustees. And if that does not work, and the grievant and the union decide to press the case, the matter can be put to binding arbitration. At Steps 1 & 2, the union will assist a grievant if asked (the assistance will be somewhat grudging if the grievant is not a member of UFF, and the FEA will not assist if the grievant wasn't a member before the grievance was filed).

Two high profile cases were heard in a consolidated Step 2 hearing on September 5:

The contract is on-line (yes, this is the 2004 – 2007 contract, and it is now 2008, but administrative foot-dragging does not change the law, and most of the terms and conditions of the contract remain in force until a successor contract is ratified). The USF Chapter of the UFF will pursue these two grievances vigorously.


A recent survey in Georgia suggests that most students do not perceive a problem with academic bias – among faculty. And the events surrounding this survey suggest that the problems that do occur may not be due to faculty, either.

One of the newly perennial issues in higher education may be alleged liberal bias of faculty. This issue has a slight problem with the facts – see the Biweekly's Apri1 6, 2006 article – and another reality check appeared recently in Georgia.

The pebble that got that ball rolling may have been a collage that a Valdosta State University student posted on Facebook and printed in fliers and posters around campus. T. Hayden Barnes was protesting the construction of a new parking garage, and the collage with a bulldozer, an inhaler, a parking deck, and more, was entitled "S.A.V.E – Zaccari Memorial Parking Garage," apparently in honor of then VSU President Ronald Zaccari.

One of the qualifications for presidency of a university is a thick skin, especially in dealing with darts from students, but in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings Zaccari expelled Barnes, explaining that Barnes' use of the word "Memorial" showed that he was "a clear and present danger." Barnes turned to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a right wing organization with a history of defending the rights of people it disagrees with (not unlike the ACLU). Silly administrators are FIRE's lawful prey, and before long VSU's free speech zones and speech codes were talk radio fare. As of now, the Regents have reversed Zaccari's decision, Zaccari himself took early retirement, and while Barnes is at a different institution now the federal lawsuit (!) is still moving forward.

With all this to-do, it is no surprise that the Regents of the Georgia University System decided to appoint a committee to study the problem. Georgia's talk radio suggested that the problem was liberal bias in the university system; after all, last year, the Georgia legislature toyed with an Intellectual Diversity in Higher Education Act (a variant of the Academic Bill of Rights; it's posted at One of the stipulations of the Act was that each institution should "Conduct a study to assess the current state of diversity at its campus." The bill died, but the Regents decided to conduct a survey of student perceptions of academic tolerance throughout the system.

The survey results, which are posted on-line, suggest that students seem to have greater difficulties with the intolerance of...other students. As for problems with faculty, although only small numbers of students complained about faculty intolerance, more students complained of faculty intolerance of "conservative" views than of "liberal" views; interestingly, juniors and seniors complained more than freshmen and sophomores. A little analysis suggests that a small number of students saw many repeated displays of intolerance, while most students saw none.

It is interesting – and perhaps revealing – that students were not asked about administrative tolerance, even though all of the precipitating events were precipitated by administrators. Incidentally, FIRE called on students to fill out the survey and send it in, which might have influenced the relative proportion of complaints about bias against "conservative" students versus bias against "liberal" students.

As a reality check, the study may be succeeding. Georgia Representative Bill Hembree, R-Cobo/Douglas, one of the sponsors of the Intellectual Diversity in Higher Education Act, told Inside Higher Ed that, "I had heard from a number of individuals — students, citizens, voters — that they were concerned about what may be happening," but having looked at the survey results, he concluded that occurrences of faculty intolerance were "isolated." On the other hand, FIRE thought that the results showed room for improvement, for Vice President Robert Shibley told the Chronicle of Higher Education that, "I'm glad they took this survey, but I really think they should use it to focus on what they should be doing better, rather than use it as a tool of complacency."

And the lesson is: do not overreact to something appearing on Facebook. It comes with the job.


One of the duties of our union is to defend our profession from bad law. This can get expensive when it involves courts or elections. The recent success of our affiliate, the Florida Education Association, shows where that money can go: the FEA recently persuaded the Florida Supreme Court to toss Amendments 7 and 9 (which provided for public funding for religious schools) and helped persuade the Court to toss Amendment 5; meanwhile, the FEA is gearing up to support Amendment 8.

Florida's constitution says that every two decades, a Budget and Taxation Reform Commission will meet to "examine the budgetary process, the revenue needs and expenditure processes of the state, the appropriateness of the tax structure of the state, and government productivity and efficiency...." What it actually is supposed to do is hold hearings and then propose constitutional amendments pertaining to the budget, taxation, and related financial matters.

Florida's budget, taxes, and finances are a mess, and when the last Commission was formed in 2007, there were high hopes that a commission of senior statesmen and responsible community figures would propose sensible reforms to appear in the 2008 ballot. Indeed, the legislature got a lot of criticism for presenting amendments of its own, with the implication that the Commission's proposals would at least be more...grown up...than those generated by the legislature.

But as Steve Bousquet of the St. Petersburg Times noted on Jan. 13, "if the panel is a reflection of anyone, it's former Gov. Jeb Bush." (On Sept. 4, the Times reported that, "The former governor played a behind-the-scenes role in getting ... loyalists on the commission to push [Bush's desired amendments] forward.") There were high hopes that the chairman, John McKay, a longstanding tax reformer, would push through serious tax reforms. But that was not how it turned out: several measures were placed on the ballot that would have endangered Florida's already compromised educational system.

While the FEA started saving money for fighting some of the amendments in the fall election, they also went after two of them in court:

  • Amendment 7 would "delete the prohibition against using revenues from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution," in particular to religious schools.
  • Amendment 9 would reverse "legal precedent prohibiting public funding of private school alternatives to public school programs." It also had nice language about assuring that at least 65 % of educational money is spent on instruction and reaffirming that education is a duty of the state.
There were several problems with these amendments. On a higher plane, the amendments constituted new efforts to create publicly funded elementary and secondary private religious schools. On a more mundane plane, they constituted an effort to privatize public institutions, moving jobs out of established bargaining units into non-union institutions in which there would be, under Florida law, less oversight over educational outcomes (and more business opportunities for the growing number of investors in private schools).

The case, Andy Ford v. Kurt Browning – i.e., the President of the Florida Education Association versus the Florida Secretary of State – was quickly joined by many friends of the court. On September 3, the Court unanimously ruled in favor of the FEA, tossing the amendments off the ballot. At the hearing, the Court seemed to think that the amendments fell outside the Commission's mandate, and the order promised an opinion soon (the current documents pertaining to the case are posted on-line).

Also on September 3, the Court also ruled in Florida Department of State v. Beverly Slough et al, that Amendment 5 "eliminating state required school property tax and replacing with equivalent state revenues" was off the ballot. (FEA was one of the plaintiffs in this case as well.) The Court seemed to think that the wording of the amendment description was misleading. Beverly Slough, president of the Florida School Boards Association, told the St. Petersburg Times that the ruling was a huge victory for public education.

Or perhaps just a huge relief. On Sept. 5, the Miami Herald complained that "the commission squandered an opportunity that only comes every 20 years," and other editorials echoed the dodged-a-bullet sentiment. And while Bush described the ruling on Amendments 7 & 9 as "heartbreaking," the political director of Progress Florida said that Bush and his vouchers will be back: "They're smart, well-funded and relentless." And the FEA will be ready.

Meanwhile, the Florida Education Association is campaigning to support Amendment 8, which allows for local taxes to be levied and applied for community colleges: the full text of the amendment is posted on-line.

October 2, 2008


Effective November 5, the United Faculty of Florida will not represent an employee in the bargaining unit for a grievance if that employee was not also a member of the union when the grievable action took place. In other words, it will become like an insurance policy: you need the policy in place BEFORE the violation.

This does not mean that the union will do nothing when a non-member's rights are violated. The union can provide advice. The union may even decide to file a grievance on its own behalf (more on that below). But it will not represent a non-member in the grievance process, even if that non-member joins the union while filing the grievance.

BACKGROUND ON GRIEVANCES. One of the primary purposes of a union – some would say the primary purpose of a union – is to bargain and enforce a contract. It is the contract that sets the terms and conditions of employment, and protects employees. But a contract is just a piece of paper, so no matter what the union wins at the bargaining table, it doesn't mean much if it isn't enforced.

The contract is enforced by a "grievance" process, and the contract itself defines that grievance process. The process defined by our contract – the Collective Bargaining Agreement – works as follows. A "grievance" is a complaint that the contract has been violated. The grievance must state what item of the contract was violated (notice that stupidity and injustice are not in themselves grievable: it must be an identifiable item in the contract that was violated). The grievance may be filed by the victim of the violation, or by the UFF/USF Chapter on its own behalf; the Chapter may file a grievance in order to defend its own contractual rights (if its own rights are at issue), or to defend the contract itself (which is always at issue if there is a violation).

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: The grievance must be filed within thirty days of the time the grievant knew or should have known of the violation.

THE PROCEDURE: Effective November 5, if an employee is a victim of a violation of the contract, and if the employee was a member of UFF at the time of the violation, then the employee has the right to be represented by the union during the initial steps of the grievance. The union will assign a "grievance officer" – a fellow member of the USF Chapter of UFF who has undergone grievance training and has some experience with the grievance process – to help fill out and file the forms, to handle negotiations and appear with the grievant at grievance hearings. (The grievance officer will also consult with union staff on the grievance; more on that below.) There are two initial steps.

First, there is usually a "Step One" attempt to informally resolve the matter. If the grievant is not satisfied with the Step One resolution, the grievant may appeal – again with union representation if the grievant was a UFF member at the time of the violation – and there will be a "Step Two" hearing before a representative of the Board of Trustees.

Step One and Step Two are handled by fellow UFF members acting as grievance representatives, and these representatives rely on the support and advice of the union's professional staff, and legal advice from labor lawyers retained by the Florida Education Association. All this support and advice isn't cheap, and union members pay for it with their dues: a contractual right, like freedom, isn't free.

If the grievant is not satisfied by the Step Two ruling, the union may choose to initiate arbitration. Notice that it is now the union's decision whether to proceed. Since arbitration generates precedents (and is expensive), the union is very careful about which matters to move to arbitration. The grievant may move the matter to court, but courts do not like meddling in academic matters, courts are very expensive, and labor law is a bit thin in Florida.

So, what if the grievant was not a member of the union when the violation took place? The Grievance Committee needs to know about contractual violations occurring on campus, so the Grievance Committee does want non-members to contact them about such violations (contact the Grievance Chair, Mark Klisch, at Grievance representatives may give advice about how to identify the item in the contract at issue, and advice on how to fill out forms, and even advice on retaining legal counsel if the grievant desires legal representation. In addition, if the Grievance Chair believes that letting the violation pass will endanger the contract or encourage administrative misconduct, the Grievance Chair may file a grievance on the Chapter's own behalf. But in that case, the Grievance Chair will be representing the Chapter, not the individual grievant.

This was not an easy step to take: for many years, UFF has been the only local (out of 103) in the Florida Education Association that represented non-members in grievances. But the burden was becoming too great, and as court rulings in Florida have tended to assign unions a greater legal responsibility to union members, and as it is union members who are do the work and pay the bills, the Senate chose to follow the rest of FEA and cease representing non-members in grievances.

UFF will continue to represent ALL employees in the bargaining unit during contractual negotiations. That will not change. But even there, UFF's ability to get the best deal depends greatly on having a large and supportive membership. We strongly urge all non-members in the bargaining unit to consider joining TODAY: it's as easy as clicking the link to the Join UFF page.


At the Friday evening reception, four politicians spoke to senators about the fall election.

Heller, Fitzgerald, and Vasilinda have been endorsed by the UFF. One of UFF's national affiliates, the AFL-CIO, has also issued endorsements for west central Florida races, and they are posted at the UFF blog.

October 15, 2008


Seventy-nine senators came to the UFF Senate meeting in Orlando over the September 20, 21 weekend, and the primary topic was money.

UFF (statewide) President Tom Auxter reported that the Florida legislature had just voted down a bill eliminating some tax exemptions on a party-line vote, and that our lobbyists expected the legislature to meet after the election for a mid-year (fiscal years run from summer to summer) budget cut. The "hold back" could be the same 4 % that we have been experiencing for the last few quarters, but it could be as high as 14 %.

(On October 12, the Tampa Tribune reported that Governor Crist's advisor for higher education told university trustees and the Board of Governors that "state funding per student is down for both the state university and community colleges almost 15 percent," and that "there probably would be further cuts this year. We expect three to four percent in cuts in the budget year 09-10." Interestingly, he also told trustees that "Your job as a trustee is to hire and fire presidents and to give and raise money. Everything else they give you to do is just show-and-tell in my view, and the presidents are just humoring you.")

Auxter reported several efforts by the legislature to try to do things on the cheap. One of the motivations for empowering community colleges to award bachelors' degrees is the belief that it will save money. In addition, legislators are still convinced that distance learning can be done cheaply, and have been pushing distance learning not only at the planned twelfth university, but also elsewhere in the State University System.

On a related issue – related because the legislature's recent attempt to "reform" the Board of Governors was at least partly motivated by appeals by the governors for more resources – UFF (statewide) Director Ed Mitchell talked about UFF's ultimately successful efforts to block that reform (which would have eviscerated the Board); Mitchell also encouraged senators to speak to Florida legislators about the effects of budget cuts on students.

There was a discussion of the November elections. During the last eight years, unions have suffered a series of adverse rulings and policy decisions by the Department of Labor, and both the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO have endorsed Barack Obama in the presidential race. President Auxter talked about adjusting the "balance of power" in the Florida legislature, and the UFF Senate endorsed Amendment # 8, which would permit county commissions to ask for county referenda for sales taxes for local community colleges; this amendment requires 60 % support to pass.


by Lynn McBrien, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Social Foundations of Education at USF Sarasota

As part of an annual membership drive, UFF invited Michael Berube, Paterno Professor of English Literature and Science, Technology, and Society at Pennsylvania State University, to the Tampa campus of USF to speak on Sept. 23. That morning, Berube was interviewed by Ryan Iacovacci of the student radio station WBUL, and that afternoon, he held a conversation with humanities professors in the Grace Allen Room of the library before presenting his public address.

At 5:15, Berube delivered an open lecture on academic freedom in the Chemistry Auditorium. He began by quoting from the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom published by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), which defines the term as full freedom in research and dissemination of results, autonomous from interference by outside sources such as alumni, trustees, parents, or ecclesiasts. Berube explained that the freedom was necessary for free development and flow of ideas that had been hampered historically by church and state. He used the example of Sidney Hook, the conservative author of Academic Freedom and Academic Anarchy, and his defense of Eugene Genovese, a Marxist and professor at Rutgers in 1965. When Genovese proclaimed that he would be happy to see a Viet Cong victory, Hook defended his right to free speech and to retaining his job. According to Fish, those professors certified as professionally competent had the right to academic freedom, no matter what their beliefs.

More recently, Stanley Fish described academic freedom as "a fancy name for being able to do your job" in the Chronicle of Higher Education (see Academic Freedom Is Not a Divine Right by Stanley Fish). Fish wrote that within the realm of research, it is critically important not to know the outcome of one's questions prior to the research. As professors and researchers, we must be free to learn and explore the implications of our questions. This does not mean that we are free to say or do anything. Certainly imposing one viewpoint as the only or the right viewpoint is an abuse of academic freedom. Fish indicated that it is an abuse of academic freedom to profess a viewpoint that one embraces. Berube disagreed and suggested that professors discuss points of view that they embrace as well as alternatives. He said, "I'd sell my classes short if I did not include my beliefs" as well as others that he studied as a scholar.

Other legitimate restrictions on academic freedom were discussed, such as including only topics relevant to the course objectives and those in which one is certified as an expert. Here, Berube said that there is considerable room for disagreement. For instance, some critics assert that some subjects, such as women's studies or queer studies, are not legitimate subjects for a university course at all. Others would offer varying definitions of expertise. Berube offered himself as an example of someone whose academic training is in literary studies, but who has become something of an expert in special education, as he was led to study it extensively after his wife bore a son with Down's Syndrome.

Berube suggested that, although the 1990s became known as the years of the "PC wars" that affected teachers of the humanities, those currently affected are teachers who used to feel protected from such debates, such as biologists, geologists, and marine scientists. Today we are as likely to encounter highly emotional debates about evolution or global warming, for instance. Berube offered ideas for handling such controversies. One, he suggested modeling for students what it is like to take the other side, whether one agrees with it or not. He discussed playing the role of "devil’s advocate" and trying to turn students' emotions into thoughts. Second, he spoke of finding ways to "agree to disagree." Berube suggested using the following question to lead students beyond shallow arguments: "What internal protocols do you have in your belief system that would allow you to change your opinion, even if you don’t ultimately change your mind?" What, for instance, would you need for proof that the New York Times was correct (or incorrect) in refusing to print the Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed that incited Muslim fundamentalists to violence? What would it take to change your mind? Addressing such questions can move a debate beyond parochialism to help individuals better understand their own belief systems and knowledge acquisition.

Berube discussed the right of religious institutions to limit academic freedom based on beliefs held by those religions. Notre Dame, for instance, is within its rights to prevent its professors from teaching that there is anything beneficial to artificial birth control or abortion, as these ideas are antithetical to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church that governs this institution. This is, however, not academic freedom. Public institutions, no matter the beliefs of the majority of the community, must remain free to teach beliefs commonly held by the academic community. Berube cited his own context in rural Pennsylvania, where many citizens would dispute evolution or argue that Harry Potter novels are inappropriate reading materials for children.

Berube concluded that the classroom must always be a place in which controversy and debate can occur freely. In addressing the conservative concern that academic institutions are "overrun by liberals," he expressed his wish that more conservative scholars would chose an academic life, and he suggested that when an institution is dominated by one group, then discourse can indeed become lazy. His talk was both inspiring and provocative. If you were unable to attend any of the events on September 23, do visit the radio interview site for a taste of Berube's philosophy.

October 21, 2008 Extra


The Florida Education Association is the state affiliate of both the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). With nearly 140,000 members, it is the largest union in Florida; the United Faculty of Florida is but one of the 103 union locals of the FEA.

The Delegate Assembly is the primary policy-making body of the FEA, and it meets once a year to review the past year and to look ahead. This year, the Assembly spent much of its time looking ahead to the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November, which is Election Day. There was a lot of talk about whom or what to vote for, and also some talk about making sure that, ahem, one's vote was actually counted.

So there were posters, and a curious kind of balloon: stiff sausage-shaped balloons that could be clapped together to make a very satisfying noise. There were also fliers for Amendment # 8 on Community Colleges, which the FEA has endorsed: Amendment # 8 would permit county commissions to ask voters to enact sales tax increases to support local community colleges. There was some regular business and a theme ("Our history calls us to action!" – a slogan that will be explained in a subsequent report), but speakers kept returning to the election.

1. NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen

Indeed, the election was the first topic to come up (after an enthusiastic – and loud – performance by a Bloomingdale High School Drum Line), when National Education Association Vice President Lily Eskelsen told delegates that 2008 was a high stakes election year. She enumerated several issues on which Senator Obama disagrees with Senator McCain, particularly the No Child Left Behind Act (or NCLB: see the May 2005 UFF Biweekly article), which Eskelsen described as an example of what happens when "we leave Congress without adult supervision":

  • Eskelsen warned that as of 2014, NCLB requires that ALL students in a school must score at minimal grade level, or that school will be subject to sanctions. She said that several states have studied the program and expect at least 99 % of all schools to fail.
  • One of the common criticisms of NCLB was that it was sold to Congress as a mandate with federal money attached, but that money has never materialized. One of the videos played at the Assembly showed Obama vowing to fund NCLB.
Eskelsen concluded with a conversation she had with an Ethiopian taxi driver. When the driver turned out to be quite knowledgeable about the USA, she admitted she knew very little about Ethiopia, to which the driver responded: "America's decisions affect the whole wide world," which is why "the whole world is watching us."

2. FEA President Andy Ford

Eskelsen had commented on how American politics had become a "privateers' game," with politicians insisting that there should be a profit aspect to libraries and schools. FEA President Andy Ford picked up on this theme in his Annual Address, saying that while studies since the 1980s had shown that economic problems were the result of bad corporate policies, "public education is the whipping boy" for corporate interests. His primary example was vouchers, noting that "voucher advocates claimed you can't solve education problems by throwing money at them, while scrambling for money." Although FEA had persuaded the Florida Supreme Court to throw two voucher-supporting amendments off the ballot, "Vouchers are the hydra of the [privatization] movement."

Ford also called for activism in more local races. Currently, said Ford, the Florida legislature cuts public schools in order to cut corporate taxes, cuts vital services in order to build prisons, and cuts homeless services in order to fund vouchers. Ford said that we need to elect legislators who will "address the relevant side of the budget." In order to deal with the current fiscal crisis in Florida, he proposed a 1 % sales tax increase, to last during the next three years (the projected period of the oncoming economic downturn).

In a later speech, Ford expressed his concern about Amendment # 2, the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment. While the Amendment is being sold as a buttress to a state law forbidding same-sex marriage, Ford warned that it could compromise the rights of any kind, of domestic partners of any kind, including rights won in contract negotiations. (Editorial comment: while UFF regards domestic partnership rights as a justice issue, many UFF members regard it as a crucial recruitment and retention issue.)

3. U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky

Several political guests spoke at the Assembly, and some of them discussed the coming election.

U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois (Chicago) is the Deputy Majority Whip, and her top priority is universal health care. A former elementary schoolteacher, she compared Senator Obama and Senator McCain on education (one of her examples: Obama has supported Head Start, which McCain has voted against). But her primary message was on making sure that votes are counted. She urged delegates to vote early, because if a problem materializes, there is time to deal with it. She mentioned two potential problems for voters:

  • In Florida, a voter can be prevented from voting because of a paperwork error by the Election Supervisor. For example, if a voter's name is spelled incorrectly in the roster, the voter will not be permitted to cast a regular ballot. If a voter discovered the problem in advance, there is time to fix the problem before the election.
  • Voters might have their status challenged by observers at the election site. Schakowsky did not go into details about this, but one of the mechanisms for combating voter fraud is to permit observers to challenge voters requesting ballots (Florida Statute 101.111 permits any voter to challenge any other, but a frivolous challenge is a misdemeanor). As with paperwork errors, a challenged voter may submit a provisional ballot, and as with paperwork errors, the issue must be resolved by Nov. 6 in order for the ballot to count at all.
Schakowsky said that the Democratic Party will have lawyers on call for challenged voters, but emphasized that it was much easier to deal with these problems before Election Day.

5. Senator Bill Nelson

Senator Bill Nelson is a familiar guest at FEA Delegate Assemblies, and this time he started with a description of his longstanding colleague, Senator Joe Biden: "I always learn something from Joe Biden," he said, saying that Obama had made a good choice for a vice president: "Joe Biden is not a yes man. He will give Obama the advice he needs."

While Nelson was dismissive of Governor Sarah Palin, he was not dismissive of Senator John McCain: "He has borne more and suffered more to bear the burden for the country. But," he continued, turning to practical matters, "this is not the time to fool around."

The practical matter Nelson was concerned about was the role of education in the economy. "Each day, you get out to inspire kids with the knowledge and the skills they need." Turning to the issue of the global market, and challenges like energy, Nelson continued: " be successful, we need engineers, managers, accountants, mechanics, so we must not lose sight of what comes first, and that means education."

"I cannot believe that I see my own state government doing what it is doing to education and health care," Nelson growled, noting that 94 % of educational expenditure comes from state and local government. He enumerated goals for the state and local government that would be elected on Nov. 4: keep class sizes down, close the achievement gap with minority groups, eliminate unfunded mandates, and pay teachers a competitive salary.

One guest speaker gave an example of what Nelson was growling about. Florida Senator Ted Deutch, D-Palm Beach/ Broward, noted that last year he tried to get a bill through the legislature to raise Florida teachers' salaries to the national average; it is a commentary on current teachers' salaries that the bill would have cost about a billion dollars a year. It failed, as did a bill that would have granted corporations tax credits for companies assisting public schools. Deutch claimed that a different legislature next year "would make his job easier."

As the assembly ended, among the last few Points of Privilege just before adjournment, was the following from the floor: "If you don't vote in 2008, then don't whine in 2009."

October 30, 2008


Two important sets of grievances went through a formal hearing process at USF earlier this semester: one has been resolved in the grievant's favor, and the other is being appealed. The first grievance concerned layoffs and the second was about annual leave.

THE FIRST GRIEVANCE ON LAYOFFS. This was one of three formal grievances related to layoffs last summer. The grievant received a layoff notice, but that notice violated the Collective Bargaining Agreement (the contract) because this non-tenured colleague had been at USF for more than five years, while there were other more recently hired non-tenured (and non-tenure-track) employees who had not been laid off. The contract states that tenured faculty are the last in a layoff unit to be let go, and among non-tenured employees, those with more than five years of service shall not be laid off if there are employees with less than five years service remaining. This language has been in UFF collective bargaining agreements since the 1970s, and the administration quickly agreed that the layoff notice should be rescinded.

Then something odd happened: the employee's college never sent the employee anything in writing to acknowledge that USF was rescinding the notice. Instead, the employee was asked to accept a new job offer, with a lower salary and using grant funds that would expire within a few months. UFF filed a grievance on the employee's behalf, claiming that this action constituted a failure to observe the required notice period for non-reappointment – and also constituted retaliation for having filed (and won!) the previous grievance. After a formal hearing, the hearing officer ruled on behalf of the employee, who will be reinstated with the proper pay. The university retains the right to issue a notice of non-reappointment, which in this employee's case requires a full year's notice.

One take-home lesson: Although the USF administration has the right to give non-reappointment notice to any non-tenured employee in the bargaining unit, it must give proper notice:

  • For those hired on soft money, there is no required notice apart from the end of a contract or grant.
  • For non-tenured in-unit faculty and professional employees on hard money with less than two years of service, that notice is one semester (or 19.5 weeks). For non-tenured in-unit faculty and professional employees on hard money with two or more years of service, the required notice is one year. Another take-home lesson: the chapter would not have filed a grievance in the first place if this employee had been given a year's notice of non-reappointment instead of a layoff notice that violated the contract. None of the chapter officers want productive employees to lose their jobs because of economic circumstances, but one year's notice is pretty good in this economy, and it is much, much better than the 45-days' notice of non-reappointment that is now in effect for employees at USF who are not protected by our contract.

    THE SECOND GRIEVANCE ON ANNUAL LEAVE. This case was about the mandatory annual leave being forced on year-round employees this December (this grievance was described in the Sept. 18 Biweekly). Because this new policy was never bargained, and because it conflicts with the UFF's reading of the contract, the UFF filed grievances to defend both individual rights to annual leave and the chapter's right to bargain changes in the terms and conditions of employment. The case was heard locally (in "Step 1" and "Step 2" hearings; see the Oct. 2 Biweekly's article for a description of the procedure effective Nov. 5), in which the hearing officer ruled in favor of the UFF administration. The chapter has filed a notice of intent to take the grievances to arbitration, and the statewide UFF's Contract Enforcement Committee will shortly look at the grievances and decide whether to recommend taking them to arbitration. (Not all unresolved grievances go to arbitration; that is the statewide UFF's decision.)

    Until there is an arbitration hearing and decision, you should expect that the university administration will continue to behave as if it did not violate the contract. If you accrue annual leave, you will be told (or already have been told) that USF will automatically deduct three days of leave for the three days that USF is closed. If the arbitration process does not conclude until 2009, you WILL have three days of leave deducted.

    And if UFF wins the arbitration – and the chapter officers are confident that UFF will win the arbitration – the university will be forced to give you back those three days of leave (or days of pay if you are a year-round employee who does not have enough accrued leave). But if you receive those notices from HR or your local office manager, please do not take out your frustrations on the people who did not make this decision, who were not the ones who decided to ignore UFF's warning that this is a contract violation, who are being forced to take the same leave that you are, and who are just passing on what they were told to. If – and when – an arbitrator rules in favor of the UFF, the university will have to make you whole.


    The United Faculty of Florida is but one local of the state teachers' union, the Florida Education Association (FEA), which in turn is the joint state affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA). It's primary policy-making and legislative body is the Delegate Assembly, which met at the Tampa Convention Center over October 16 – 18. 814 delegates and 178 guests attended the meeting, which opened with the pledge of allegiance and the first verse of the Star Spangled Banner (the Colors were presented by the Bloomingdale High School JROTC, and NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen – who clearly has a trained voice – led the singing after telling us, "You will sing along").

    The theme was "Our history calls us to action," for it is the fortieth anniversary of the Florida teachers' walkout, and several speakers said that 2008 is also a year of decision. Most of the discussion was on the election (for an account of that topic, see the articles in the October 21 UFF Biweekly Extra), but November 5 also loomed over the meeting. There was no explicit mention of speculation that the Florida legislature will meet at the end of the year to cut the budget by an additional four to fourteen percent, but there were repeated reminders that we faced a long gauntlet.

    Newly elected AFT President Randi Weingarten delivered her maiden speech to the Assembly, warning delegates that the coming economic downturn would see "an unprecedented assault" on our jobs. "This is an unprecedented economic crisis, and it calls for an unprecedented campaign ...we must fight this disinvestment in our public schools." She proposed that schools be made a more central focus of the community by moving services into the schools, and she said that AFT was involved in several grass-roots reform projects.

    When delegates arrived on Thursday morning, they found copies of Don Cameron's "Educational Conflict in the Sunshine State: The Story of the 1968 Statewide Teacher Walkout in Florida" on their chairs. During the periodic breaks, the huge video screens reminded us that 1968 saw the appearance of the Big Mac, of phoning 9-1-1, of (Marvin Gaye's release of) "Heard it Through the Grape Vine," and of Rosemary's Baby (and a point of comparison: the typical movie ticket in 1968 was $ 1.50). Among the politicians, reporters, and educators honored at the Assembly were several veterans of the 1968 walkout, some of whom could not attend or had passed on.

    The walkout resonates because of its bittersweet legacy. During the 1960s, the NEA was still very wary of union-like activities and the FEA was affiliated only with the NEA. So there was little experience with union strikes. When the FEA organized a rally in August, 1967 to apply pressure on a state government that had essentially abandoned education, over 35,000 came – over half the teachers in the state. Teachers wanted action, and the FEA leadership warily announced a walkout if the government didn't act. Finally, in February 1968, the FEA called for teachers to walk out.

    The media was largely hostile, as was the public and the politicians. The walkout was sufficient to get a funding bill signed, but whether the walkout had been truly necessary has been a point of controversy ever since. Although over half the teachers of Florida walked out, enough teachers, administrators and staff continued to work to keep most schools "open." Once the funding bill was signed in early March, the FEA called off the walkout, but then discovered that it lacked the political leverage to keep teachers and supportive administrators and staff from being disciplined or fired.

    The episode convinced the NEA that it needed a more forceful approach, and that it had to be more practical if it was to accomplish its goals. Still, the FEA fractured into two organizations, one affiliated with the NEA and the other affiliated with the more practical AFT; it would take until the late 1990s to bring the two organizations to merge back into one, the one state organization that represents us today.

    November 13, 2008


    We have received many questions and comments recently, and we invite more as we need to be close to the people we represent. In addition, we are in the same boat. We need a contract, but we will not sell out the long-term interest of USF employees in return for a short term payoff.

    In the past month, the UFF-USF bargaining team has offered six different packages to the Trustees – some with and some without a summer salary cap, some with and some without a compression/ inversion raise pot. Three of the options were Memoranda of Understanding that would enact a raise while bargaining continued. The Trustees have rejected all three Memoranda and have not accepted any of these proposals.

    The raise situation.

    Q: Why can't we get a raise now?
    A: We can, but it requires that both sides, the UFF and the Board of Trustees, agree to the raise. We could get a 2 % raise if the Board agreed to one of the three Memoranda of Understanding that we presented to them on October 24; unfortunately, the Board's Bargaining Team told us on November 5 that all three were unacceptable, and they have not proposed any Memoranda to effect raises for us. (A Memorandum of Understanding would get a raise out while bargaining continued.)

    Q: Why are all raises supposed to be bargained?
    A: All terms and conditions of employment are subject to collective bargaining. This includes salaries.

    Q: What are the issues the UFF and the Board are in disagreement about?
    A: Several issues. Here are three.

    1. When discretionary raise authority ends. The UFF has repeatedly offered to grant the Trustees authority for discretionary raises as long as there is a reasonable salary package for all in-unit faculty and professional employees and as long as the provisions of both discretionary authority and the general salary package have identical termination dates (and the UFF has mentioned both one- and two-year possibilities). The Trustees want discretionary raise authority to last three years with no guarantee of other salary provisions beyond one year.
    2. Summer salaries. The trustees have requested a summer salary cap at USF without providing information on how much money would be saved, without offering any guarantee that money saved would be used in the bargaining unit, and without offering any other concession. The UFF has offered several packages both with and without a trial summer salary cap, but this needs to be part of a package deal.
    3. Compression/ inversion. The UFF has offered salary packages both with and without small compression/ inversion provisions.

    Q: I hear that the state may make cuts in December. Does the university have the money?
    A: The university has not listed lack of resources as a reason for holding up raises, and with about a quarter of a billion dollars in "unrestricted assets" (according to a report that the university made to the State of Florida), the university seems able to follow UFF/USF Chapter President Sherman Dorn's advice and use at least some of the money as a rainy day fund for raises. A two percent raise, for example, would cost about one percent of the unrestricted assets.

    Q: What happens if you can't come to an agreement?
    A: There is a procedure, called "impasse," which involves a lot of legalities: for details, see
    UFF's page on impasse resolution. Essentially, a third party, a "special master," hears the disagreement and makes a recommendation which hopefully resolves the issue.

    Basic salary Q & A.

    Q: What is this business about "merit" versus "discretionary" raises?
    A: Merit raises are raises assigned as part of the annual evaluation process, based on performance as evaluated at the departmental level. Discretionary raises are raises awarded by the administration using almost whatever criteria (if any) that they feel like using.

    Q: What are compression/ inversion raises?
    A: These are raises for faculty who have been here many decades, whose evaluations over the last few years averages to at least "strong," and yet whose salary is substantially below that of faculty nationwide at their rank in their discipline.

    Q: What kind of raises does the union want?
    A: In bargaining surveys, faculty tell us that they want merit, across-the-board, and compression/ inversion raises, so that's what we push for. Faculty tell us that they do NOT want discretionary raises, and we don't push for those.


    The UFF and the Board of Trustees of USF negotiate a Collective Bargaining Agreement – a contract – every three years. In addition, every year some articles (particularly, salary and benefits) are "reopened" for negotiation. The contract is supposed to be bargained and ratified before the previous contract's ending date, and the annually reopened articles are supposed to be bargained and ratified before the beginning of the next fiscal year.

    Our last contract was the 2004 – 2007 Collective Bargaining Agreement. The 2007 – 2010 "successor" contract should have been bargained and ratified by summer, 2007, and the 2008 reopener should have been bargained and ratified months ago. This does not mean that there is no contract: since there is no other contract, the terms and conditions of the 2004 – 2007 contract , along with those of the 2005 reopener) and the 2006 reopener are still in force, and they will remain in force until a successor contract is ratified.

    Technically, UFF and the Board of Trustees are bargaining both the 2007 – 2010 contract and the 2008 reopener. Bargaining for both started quite late: readers may remember that the 2006 reopener was finally ratified in April, 2007 (see The April 15, 2007 UFF Biweekly article), with movement coming after UFF started publicly poking the Administration. Readers may recall the result: during the 2006 – 2007 academic year, raises came not in the usual single package at the beginning of the year, but in dribbles.

    That summer, the state budget started becoming visibly unglued, so when UFF presented a salary proposal on June 14, 2007, the Administration did not want to discuss salary. So during the 2007 – 2008 academic year, the bargaining teams for UFF and the Board of Trustees negotiated other issues. For us, it was virtually a dry year: we received bonuses from the legislature, and the administration handed out nearly $ 120,000 in discretionary "retention" raises (averaging to about a 0.1 % raise for the entire bargaining unit), but that was it.

    Finally, this July 11, one year after the deadline for ratifying the 2007 – 2010 successor contract, the Board's team started talking about salaries. There was a flurry of bargaining from July to September, but the Board wanted major concessions on several salary and other issues (for some without making comparable concessions of their own). But the flurry was over by mid-September.

    Since then, the major developments have been:

    • After a month of nothing, the UFF decided that perhaps we could get some raise money out while these issues were being bargained, so on October 24, the UFF bargaining team presented a choice of three draft Memoranda of Understanding; if the Board had agreed to one of these, we could have gotten raises now while the rest of the contract and the reopener was being bargained. But on November 5, the Board's Team rejected all three Memoranda and presented no alternative Memoranda of their own. As for regular bargaining, on November 5, as part of the effort to keep contract negotiations moving along, the UFF bargaining team also presented a choice of two possible drafts of the Salary article (the three Memoranda and two Salary article proposals are posted on-line). The Board's team also presented a proposal, again stuck on the three main issues. The UFF Chief Negotiator verbally responded to their proposal by proposing a 2-year contract with 2.3 % raises each November 5. As of now, the Board has our proposals for the salary article before them, while UFF, having had our proposal to get raises out NOW shot down, is exploring options for getting the process moving forward.
    • Meanwhile, on October 6, Provost Ralph Wilcox broadcast an announcement to the faculty saying, among other things, that, "...faculty retention remains my top priority. While I am disappointed that collective bargaining efforts have not yet settled on a contractual agreement for our faculty, I am hopeful we will not have to wait too long to reward our deserving colleagues." To reward the truly deserving colleagues, "...the Board of Trustees has authorized the immediate distribution of base salary awards to in-unit faculty within its discretionary authority granted in the status quo collective bargaining agreement." Notice the use of the word "discretionary": as faculty were suffering because of the administration's dilatory tactics, the administration would alleviate the suffering among those it found worthy, to the tune of an average 0.4 % raise for the entire unit.
    There is a serious problem: historically, raises were bargained annually, and each raise for each year must be bargained. But during the last two years, the administration has distributed two unbargained discretionary raises. The Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC) recently ruled that under certain circumstances, university boards may do this, but UFF disagrees and is appealing PERC's decision. But anyway, as these two raises go only to some faculty (if you didn't receive EITHER of these raises, that tells you something about the administration's view of your work), and as these two discretionary raises average out to less than 0.3 % per year, it seems unlikely that these raises had the advertised effect of resolving the university's retention problem.

    All of us need a break, and we are still hopeful that the Board will recognize their obligation to the university community and agree to some reasonable relief.

    Questions & Answers

    November 18, 2008

    Q: Has the state budget crisis reduced USF's unrestricted net assets?
    A: Not yet – the unrestricted net assets reported to the Board of Trustees' Finance and Audit Workgroup last week remained virtually unchanged, $240 million as of June 30, 2008, only a few hundred thousand dollars less than a year before. Interest and investment growth has balanced drawdowns.

    Q: Where does the University keep its unrestricted net assets, and is that affected by stock market volatility?
    A: Most of the university's liquid and semi-liquid assets are kept in a large state pool called the Special Purpose Investment Fund, and that is not affected directly by the stock market. A complete description of the fund's management strategy is available online (at

    Q: Has the University invested in Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) in the past few years, or has it become involved in credit default swaps as some K-12 school districts have?
    A: No. At the last Board of Trustees meeting, the Trustees were told that the University has avoided the REIT trap. Furthermore, a chapter officer examined the agreements in question, which were ordinary interest-rate swaps on bonds for student housing, research facilities, and USF Health facilities. The USF General Counsel's office confirmed this fact.

    December 11, 2008


    The Society of St. Vincent de Paul in St. Petersburg usually serves about 350 Thanksgiving dinners. This year, they served 624. "For many caught up in the economic maelstrom of lost incomes, evictions, foreclosures and other dire-need situations, it was the first time they found themselves in a 'soup kitchen'..." wrote the Society's Executive Director to the St. Petersburg Times. "Our heartfelt thanks to each and every person whose contribution made this holiday a special one..."

    Meanwhile, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported that one in ten American household mortgages is overdue on payments or in foreclosure, the highest rate since they started keeping tabs four decades ago. Taking a closer look, payments on about six percent of prime loans and a third of subprime loans were past due or worse.

    While some people respond to economic adversity by finding something constructive to do, others thrash out in desperation or frustration. One of the most wretched effects of this downturn has been the surge in women seeking refuge from abuse. The number of refugees arriving at the Spring in Hillsborough County has doubled. "One would assume that one thing driving this is increased stress over the economy," said the Spring's president. "...when you're standing on a shrinking iceberg of what you can control, some people tend to lash out" at whatever, or whomever, is left to control.

    Among the politicians and pundits who like to imagine themselves in control, there are already debates over what really went wrong, and some of them sound suspiciously like attempts to apportion blame. Was it Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac buying up all the mortgages they could? Was it Wall Street selling paper that simultaneously backed paper and was backed by paper? Was it the sclerosis of the manufacturing sector? Or was it the confluence of many things happening at once, any one of which we could have ridden out, but were collectively overwhelming?

    There has been little if any suggestion that this is merely a downturn in a business "cycle." Indeed, if there is any appealing allegory about all this, it is Ben Lewis's recent suggestion that the still stratospheric art market resembles the Tulipomania of 1637 and John Law's South Sea Bubble of 1720. The curmudgeonly view, advanced in cult classics like Charles MacKay's "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds" and Charles Kindleberger's "Manias, Panics, and Crashes" is that masses of highly educated people occasionally have seizures of greed and hysteria, with disastrous results. In his 1932 forward to MacKay's book, financier and statesman Bernard Baruch wrote, "I have always thought that if...even in the very presence of dizzily spiraling prices, we had all continuously repeated, 'two and two still make four,' much of the evil might have been prevented." Lewis predicts an imminent crash in art prices.

    What to do about the economy? Some historians have noted that the first treatment was the same as Herbert Hoover's: rescue the banks. Perhaps this was wise: the depressions of 1836 and 1873 don't appear to have had that first aid, with dire results. But Hoover's rescue had not been enough, and the Big Three auto makers have a new proposal: hand out cash (as gifts or loans) to additional distressed companies.

    A number of economists and businesspeople believe that rather than bailing out too-big-to-fail companies and hoping that the money trickles down and gets the economy moving again, the government should get money to the public at large and hope for the money to rise up. Historian Bruce Bartlett, who served in the treasury under President Reagan and the senior President Bush, recently asked in Forbes, "What Would Keynes Do?"

    John Maynard Keynes proposed that when the economy stalls so severely that the usual tools of monetary policy are ineffective to get money flowing (a situation Keynes called "the liquidity trap"), the government should intervene and get money moving with public projects that widely distribute cash via paychecks. The idea is that the crisis isn't a lack of money; it is that money isn't moving. Money stashed away is not being used to buy anything, money is not being paid as wages, and the economy stalls like an airplane that loses wind velocity over its wings. By spending large sums on public works, the government can get money moving again.

    Paul Krugman recently wrote that "we are in a liquidity trap right now: Fed policy has lost most of its traction." President-elect Obama has announced plans for an economic stimulus that includes America's infrastructure as well as many areas in health and technology. "...we're not just looking at make-work jobs," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Chief of Staff. "It will entail getting the economy in shape for the 21st century."

    There is no reason why this should be a purely federal effort, and indeed, perhaps this is Florida's moment. The local business community has been saying for years that Florida is the gateway to Latin America, that the I-4 Corridor has the potential to be the next great technology center, and that Floridians are tired of being a nearly third world economy relying on mining, agriculture, and tourists. In addition, there are great needs: Florida, like many other states, faces serious longstanding Medicaid, education and childcare, and environmental problems. There's nothing like a crisis to concentrate attention on how Florida envisions itself heading five years from now. In addition, the stimulus package President-Elect Obama has announced would only cover capital projects, not the social-service spending that can still help individuals and the state economy.

    Of course, that means spending money, and that money must come from somewhere. One source would be the federal stimulus package, which would be to help maintain state and local spending that otherwise decline, dragging down the economy with them. Beyond this package, since Florida must (theoretically) balance its budget, we are talking about taxes. We now see the true cost of the Budget and Tax Reform Commission's failure to address Florida's muddled and rather regressive tax structure: we head into a deep recession wearing a straitjacket. There are some options, for example, the Florida Education Association's proposal for a 1 % sales tax for education, sunsetting in three years (by which time many economists believe the downturn will be ending).

    With a New Year coming up, perhaps this is a good time to stop and think about what we are doing, and what we could be doing better.


  • spacer