United Faculty of Florida-Florida Atlantic University Chapter
February 28, 2011. New legislation could eliminate UFF and Collective Bargaining Agreement protections altogether
Professors, librarians, instructors, and all other faculty in the State University and State College Systems are now under attack and facing a crisis of unparalleled proportions. Several pieces of legislation presently being concocted by right wing lawmakers are poised to target the most cherished aspects of faculty life—tenure, due process, academic freedom, fair summer salaries and every other favorable working condition enumerated in UFF collective bargaining agreements (CBAs).
Perhaps the greatest threat to faculty at FAU and elsewhere in the SUS is House Bill 1023. Introduced on February 25, HB 1023 amends Section 447.307 of the Florida Statute. Upon passage, HB1023 will decertify UFF as the bargaining agent for all UFF chapters that have fewer than fifty percent dues-paying members. At FAU many faculty members may understand how important the Contract is, yet only about three out of every ten bargaining unit members are dues-paying members.
One percent of your salary can seem like a large chunk of change, and so some colleagues reason that they can “go it alone,” redirecting that money for the cable bill or a fill-up at the gas station. After all, they figure if they do their work and receive excellent evaluations they should be OK in terms of job security and advancement. In reality, however, we fool ourselves if we think that honest and conscientious performance alone can replace a union contract that carefully delineates the parameters and expectations of workplace performance for both employer and employee. Moreover, in a state like Florida the lack of a Collective Bargaining Agreement puts virtually all the power in the hands of administrators.
Under state law, absent a contract all workers become “at will” employees, meaning that your employment is essentially “at the will of” the employer. There are no protections from arbitrary layoffs in the event that an administrator dislikes you, your teaching or research. A chair or dean merely needs to have a desire of their personal choosing to replace you and—poof!—with a brief two weeks’ notice your life will have changed for good. As the UFF’s successful defense of tenure during the FAU and FSU faculty layoffs in 2008-2009 demonstrated, CBAs are central to the tenure preservation and due process.
It’s true. Without UFF and the CBA tenure will be rendered essentially meaningless because it’s not defined under state law. Our faculty positions, tenured or not, could disappear without any prior notice and FAU administrators will not have to provide a reason for firing us. The many years one has devoted to the institution and the profession will not matter. Think how tremendously attractive this will be to those who are only awaiting the go-ahead to exchange a full professor for three instructors who can generate about four times the number of FTEs.
An overwhelming majority of FAU faculty recognize the importance of having a collective bargaining agreement, since over and over again they have voted to continue to be represented by UFF. Yet the CBA can also quite easily be taken for granted, for a majority chooses not to pay union dues. These colleagues may wish to ask themselves if tenure, due process, and academic freedom mean anything, and what faculty life at FAU would be like without the Contract’s guarantees.
If you’re one of the 250+ UFF members at FAU, please print out at least three membership forms at UFF-FAUMembership_Form_2011-3-241 and bring them to your colleagues, explaining the seriousness of the situation. If you’re not already a member, please print out a form, fill it out, and return it to me at Culture and Society Building, Boca campus, Room 220.
December 6, 2010. The fall semester has been positive for FAU in many ways, but stormy weather lies ahead
This week we conclude a very noteworthy semester that has seen the installation of Florida Atlantic University’s new president, Dr. Mary Jane Saunders, the beginning of a search for a new provost, ratification of the 2009-2012 Collective Bargaining Agreement between the University’ Faculty and Trustees, and the renewal of UFF’s Consultation with the President.
Close to 300 Bargaining Unit members cast ballots for ratification, with 97% voting in favor of the new CBA. The Board of Trustees vote was unanimous. And, in mid-November, President Saunders and Interim Provost Diane Alperin met with UFF representatives to discuss several issues of mutual interest proposed for consideration by UFF’s Executive Committee. Matters that both sides saw eye-to-eye on included having at least one faculty-administrator on the BOT’s Bargaining Team that genuinely understands faculty life, as well as establishing a task force to look at ways in which the status of FAU’s instructors might be addressed.
The Consultation with the President, provided for in Article 2 of the CBA, allows for one visit per semester. However, the practice was stopped abruptly several years ago during Frank Brogan’s administration, and the controversy that ensued during and after Mr. Brogan’s departure made it difficult to renew regular meetings. With this in mind, UFF-FAU sees the November meeting as an important step in renewing and strengthening relations between the University’s Faculty and Administration.
FAU faculty will likely need administrative leadership that recognizes the significance of professional autonomy and academic freedom, particularly over the next few years. Faculty members must also be more engaged than in the past, and their voices must be heard regarding FAU’s imminent plans for reorganization, now well underway. In contrast to our recent past, the administration and Trustees are encouraging active involvement in the process. This degree of involvement has never been more important than now, since the forecast for Florida’s higher education system is hardly as rosy as things have been this fall at FAU.
By a narrow margin Florida voters elected Rick Scott as governor, while strong Republican majorities were returned to the state’s legislative chambers. Many of these new leaders are not the moderate Republicans that recently populated the House and Senate–those who appreciated the arguments made by Florida Education Association, United Faculty of Florida, as well as the Board of Governors, that investing in education was tantamount to investing in Florida’s future economic viability. Rather, these individuals will likely be moving to initiate strict programs of “accountability” and “austerity” (read: undermining state employees’ benefits, job security, and professional autonomy), and there’s little reason to believe that such measures will be restricted to K-12 teachers although, as the passage of Senate Bill 6 last spring suggests, they are especially vulnerable.
The available evidence of the new Republican leadership’s extreme agenda for state employees and Florida’s already beleagured education system is not comforting. As Florida Republican Party Chair and State Senator John Thrasher recently remarked, “There is no way in our state right now that the dadgum unions are going to agree with this kind of stuff. So you either bring them to the table and tell them what you’re going to do, or you run over them.” The Republicans’ plans were also recently on display with governor-elect Scott’s appointment of Michelle Rhee to lead the Education Transition Task Force.
The Trustees of Florida’s colleges and universities will also likely be called on to prove their mettle in the fight to dictate workplace conditions in no uncertain terms or, as Senator Thrasher so eloquently put it, to “run over them.” This is because each Trustee’s individual (re)appointment must be approved by the new Republican governor and senate. Therefore, faculty should be vigilant over the next several months on campus matters, as well as those taking place in seemingly distant Tallahassee. Regular updates from Florida Education Association on how the Republican legislature is proceeding will be made available at this website as quickly as they are received.
Faculty members are also encouraged to become more proactive in affairs of faculty governance and observing how the University is managed. Trustees and administrators who see faculty members as detached and uninvolved conclude (perhaps quite rightly) that they care little about their workplace conditions and professional autonomy. At the same time, however, we are also well aware that there are clear limits to what faculty will tolerate, as suggested last spring when the legislature proposed sticking its hands in the FRS cookie jar to balance the budget. There will likely be similar provocations in the coming months, and they will surely come to pass in the 2012 session.
Now more than ever it is time to become involved in the truly independent voice for faculty at FAU and across Florida’s higher education system. It’s time to join UFF and have the piece of mind of standing together as one while we have a profession we are still able to believe in and defend. “We can accomplish together what we cannot accomplish alone.”
September 9, 2010. On overcoming challenges to tenure, truth, and what the profession at FAU is worth.
It is not entirely good form to “toot one’s own horn,” especially when victory or defeat are undecided. Yet if one doesn’t take a bow once the final whistle has sounded those in attendance may not recollect what parties, if any, deserved recognition. This is especially the case for FAU faculty.
To sum things up, it has been we have been through a great deal over the past sixteen months. You will recall that in the spring of 2009 under the tutelage of former Republican Lieutenant Governor and FAU President Frank Brogan, the FAU Board of Trustees spurned a modest salary increase recommended by an impartial arbitrator. “The University can’t afford it,” the already demoralized faculty were told. “After all, times are tough and we all have to pull in our belts.” Also at the time, there seemed to be no prospect of Brogan departing FAU anytime soon. Let’s not kid ourselves. It’s difficult to beat a $340K-per-year gig that comes with free rent.
The following month, as if to add insult to injury, the Brogan administration terminated five tenured faculty members. The firings were justified under a shotgun reorganization of the College of Engineering and Computer Science. In terms of publicity and any semblance of professional decorum, the terminations were a colossal blunder for all involved–including administrators. Less than one week after they occurred, the Faculty Senate held an emergency meeting condemning the actions. A week before they took place, concerned about the administration’s opacity and evasions, I made numerous public records requests to find out more about Engineering’s alleged reorganization and what this meant for faculty in the College and the University as a whole. UFF subsequently filed grievances on behalf of the faculty and chapter, and the entire affair was watched closely by the local press. In two subsequent Trustees’ meetings the Faculty Senate President struck poignant (though arguably too short-lived) stances opposing Engineering’s reorganization.
I also wrote angrily about the salary decision and firings on the “pages” of this blog. Both actions were personal for me as they were for many other faculty members. They were also wrought with professional implications. But to paraphrase a political figure whom I’ve seldom felt much affinity with, Extremism in defense of the profession is no vice. In other words, to accept the severe potential compromises to academic freedom and free association symbolized in these actions would be to turn one’s back on what we as faculty have essentially devoted our professional lives to, regardless of our discipline. And, if the move to render tenure meaningless was not vigorously contested, the damage to the institution would be immense since an FAU faculty position would be perceived as an increasingly empty promise, subject to the unchecked designs of those who are often far-removed from the everyday task of carrying out the University’s instructional and research missions.
Along these lines, another thing that stuck in my craw was the University’s alleged budget crisis–a crisis under which broad reorganization of colleges and departments was proposed (and which may still proceed under somewhat different auspices). There was no question that FAU and other state universities have lost some funding from the state. Yet the University also possesses many millions in reserve assets, stocks, and other securities that could have been utilized to shore up certain shortfalls, particularly as these related to instructional quality, while providing much-needed salary increases for faculty.
My suspicion that something was rotten in the state of Denmark was confirmed in the release of FAU’s 2008-09 Financial Audit, which revealed that when the administration and its attorneys were busy pleading poverty and dismissing tenured professors, FAU’s unrestricted net reserve assets increased by twenty percent. This canard endured through April and May of 2010, when a few professors even proposed forfeiting a portion of their retirement benefits to bolster the University’s coffers. Lo and behold, the following month the sea parted and faculty and staff were informed of potential 3% salary increases.
So, how much has changed since last year? Perhaps a great deal more than we realize (or wish to fully acknowledge in polite company). The five professors who were stripped of their tenure and shown the door have since been given new appointments with their seniority and tenure intact. Because of these actions UFF has chosen not to proceed with filing Unfair Labor Practice charges and a lawsuit to compel arbitration. We may safely conclude that the re-appointment of these professors was done with the prompting of some very “squeaky wheels” from both UFF and a handful of those in faculty governance.
Although painful, the past year’s events also led to a positive outcome in terms of restoring FAU’s leadership and direction; the Board of Trustees embarked on a painstaking process to appoint a new university president. In fact, the Trustees’ lengthy and careful discussion on the final candidates’ merits and drawbacks for FAU should be considered among the University’s finer moments. They acted independently and impartially to conclude the process that at least some of us were skeptical about from the start.
As noted, when the Trustees’ choice took the reins in June there was almost immediate movement on faculty and staff salaries–in other words, an attempt to address what UFF had been pointing to in its newsletter, at the bargaining table, and on this blog for the past three years. We regret that there was not a greater effort to distinguish between the less-well-paid faculty and already highly-compensated administrators. Yet as things proceed further we remain hopeful that this may be a step in the right direction toward not only more equitable corresponding pay scales with our peer institutions, but also renewing and strengthening relations between FAU’s faculty, administrators, and Trustees.
May 1, 2010. Time to hunker down! FAU Administrators appear to be laying groundwork for reorganization and faculty layoffs.
“’Knock-knock-knock!’ Professor Tracy, are you in?” someone calls outside my office door. “Oh, yes,” I reply. “But like most other faculty, I’m hiding underneath my desk, waiting for FAU’s reorganization, where I may or may not find myself booted from the the University plane and careening toward earth with little-if-any parachute.”
These are, after all, tough times, or so we are told. Faculty and staff must once again pull in their belts, our well-compensated leaders tell us. Pay no attention to that pesky 2009 Financial Audit that shows the University’s $20 million increase in unrestricted net assets as it proceeded to terminate tenured faculty. That’s a tidy sum that would easily allow for a much-needed salary increase for Florida’s most poorly paid professors who reside in the state’s highest cost-of-living region. In fact, the administration is moving in the opposite direction, opening what will likely be a costly medical school and anxiously looking to place a whopping $60 million for a football stadium onto the University’s credit card. This is not to mention that administrator positions have grown far beyond those of instructional faculty since the early 2000s.
Augustine once remarked that hope has two beautiful daughters. One is anger and the other is courage. For most FAU faculty faced with the facts yet also demoralized and dealing with “battered faculty syndrome,” it is understandable to be hope-less. In fact, staying underneath one’s desk in these turbulent times certainly isn’t courageous, but it’s not entirely unwise either. Heck, it’s gettin’ ugly out there.
Consider the pronouncements of Interim President John Pritchett, who at a forum on the budget on April 5 told faculty that “layoffs are still on the table.” Such threats will likely be repeated at the May 3rd forum. Last October, however, Pritchett remarked in the College of Arts and Letters Faculty Assembly that if you “were to read a certain blog” (the one you’re presently reading, by the way) you’d think layoffs were right around the corner. What a bunch of alarmists—those union folk! The Interim President continued to emphasize to those gathered that there would be no layoffs. Instead, administrators simply wanted to reorganize the university with the faculty’s helpful feedback and guidance, “from the ground up,” as they say. This was to be a collective “visioning” process, you will recall, done with the assistance of efficiency expert Susan Clemmons–”a fresh set of eyes.” We are now told by the same individual that layoffs are essentially not a matter of “if,” but “when.”
The threat of a substantial reorganization of the University leading to faculty terminations was again expressed in no uncertain terms by Pritchett at the College of Arts and Letters Faculty Assembly on April 23. At that time the faculty from that venerable FTE-generating dynamo—which, given this status, you may also recall , was to be “defended” from such personnel reductions—were told of forthcoming programs where professors would be offered “retirement incentives.” On a less generous note, the President remarked, it would be a priority to allow terminated faculty “more than 30 days notice” to find another job, short-sale their home, pull their children out of school, load up the car and Tom Joad-it out of South Florida. Yes, the unnerving prospect of being wheeled out to the curb is one of many endearing feature of “belonging” to the “FAU family.”
It is probable that such plans for reorganization and additional layoffs have gone forth in stealth form since mid-2009. You may recall that at that time the administration had to back track and regroup after the seriously botched attempt to layoff faculty in the College of Engineering. Not surprisingly, given the University’s considerable resources, administrators miraculously “found” the money to rehire these colleagues and avoid costly extralegal and legal actions. With Pritchett’s probable reappointment as provost it is almost a certainty that this planned reorganization and set of layoffs will be carried out like clockwork by FAU deans. And such a set of events, my dear colleague, may also tell us a great deal about FAU’s new leadership.
If you are an in-unit faculty or staff member I encourage you to review Article 13 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement: Layoffs. This article is by no means perfect. However, it does require that administrators follow certain procedures if layoffs are to take place, the most important of which is the matter of rank and seniority. When administrators and their highly-paid attorneys laid off faculty in Engineering in 2009 they set up bogus “functional units” to get around this element of the CBA. This was obvious even to the casual observer, and may be attempted again, so for the foreseeable future please be especially attuned to any abrupt changes in the organization of your department, unit, and/or college.
The continued planning of any reorganization resulting in layoffs will likely ensue over the summer and be implemented in fall. I encourage you to become a member of UFF-FAU for assistance in the grievance process should that avenue be necessary to protect your position and contest any wrongful termination. Please remember that you need to be a Union member for at least thirty days prior to any incident. If you choose not to go that route and you have reason to believe you may be targeted by the administration for layoff, it may be appropriate in the near future to consult with an attorney who will be able to act swiftly and vigorously on your behalf should such an unfortunate sequence of events come to pass.
See related posts:
April 10, 2010. UFF can help create a workplace where faculty and staff are treated fairly and with respect, but it is only as strong as the degree of member involvement.
I picked one hell of a year to make my debut as UFF-FAU Chapter President. In the winter of 2008 a colleague who was also involved in UFF telephoned me and said they had been informed that no one from UFF was returning Palm Beach Post reporter Kim Miller’s calls. Miller really wanted to speak to a faculty and union member who would provide some remarks that might contrast with the administration’s press releases and soundbites, and reflect what at least some of the faculty likely have on their minds.
And then this person essentially said, “If you do speak to the press you had better be careful because they’re going to come after you.” I had heard similar remarks previously from others. For example, that Frank Brogan likely has an enemies list and you had better not speak out of turn or you’ll find yourself on it. So, I thought, “Who are we working with? The mob?”
So, I made a decision to speak to reporters as frequently as they wished. I figured that the administration likely has the power to retaliate, and Mr. Brogan may have an enemies list. Yet, as scholars we have an obligation to stand up and speak out against an environment of intimidation, fear and favoritism. Such an environment is totally antithetical to what we do–which is to inquire, to question, to teach, and to do so from certain underlying principles of morality and truth. And sometimes the truth flies in the face of the latest press release.
In addition, we have a union. Some of us even have tenure. And since we have these things we should put them good use; to create a workplace where faculty and staff are treated fairly and with respect.
That being said, this past year has felt more like ten years. The Union may have lost some battles. For example, the Trustees’ decision on the 2.5% salary increase that our bargaining team fought so hard to secure. It was just when I was learning the ropes of being a Chapter officer when I attended the Board of Trustees Personnel Committee Hearing last April, and the decision was made to vote down that very modest salary increase. I can’t convey to you how humiliated the faculty in attendance were made to feel at that venue.
With the layoffs of tenured faculty in the College of Engineering the following month it appeared that the administration had bent the stick too far. This was an overt attack on tenure, the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and the faculty as a whole. As one member of the Faculty Senate remarked on June 5, “If they can do that to them, they can do it to any of us.”
I think it’s safe to say that in the wake of these events the Union and the Faculty Senate fought vigorously to defend tenure and enforce our Contract. The five faculty members who were laid off have since been appointed to positions–not their original positions–but positions with their tenure and seniority intact.
We also learned a few days ago that the administration is moving to do away with the College of Engineering’s “functional units,” which were used to cordon off faculty in that College for layoffs. I’m not holding my breath for administrators to issue a statement that these actions were in response to the steadfastness of UFF, the Faculty Senate, and the Faculty Assembly in Engineering. But I would like to think that these bodies may have had some modest influences on these decisions. We should especially thank Faculty Senate President Tim Lenz for his leadership over the past year, UFF Grievance Chair Doug Broadfield, and UFF Service Unit Coordinator Bruce Nissen.
FAU also has a new university president who’s been appointed and we would like to think that perhaps we’re turning a corner.
Another exciting thing the Chapter is undertaking is a campaign to build our membership. As some of you know, this involves one-on-one contact with colleagues asking that they pay their dues, thereby becoming full-fledged UFF members. We have to remember that Florida is a right to work state, and as public employees we do not have the right not to work.
In 2003 an overwhelming majority of FAU faculty members voted to recertify United Faculty of Florida as their bargaining representative. But, in a right to work state the same faculty can opt out of paying their dues. That’s why, aside from bargaining and contract enforcement, we have to constantly build our membership. We do that by asking colleagues to become dues-paying members. We also have to make sure that all of our resources go toward building membership. That’s what makes the chapter, the statewide UFF and FEA, and our national affiliates, NEA and AFT, strong advocates for higher education in the state and federal legislative levels and capable of rendering aid locally when we need it.
Why is this important? Well, take for example what Republican legislators in Tallahassee are presently trying to do to the Florida Retirement System. Or what they’re trying to do to Florida’s school teachers. FEA lobbyists are in the halls of the capitol defending FRS, and prompting us to telephone and email our legislators to preserve the retirement system and teacher tenure.
Our website has averaged close to 1,000 hits daily over the past three-to-four weeks. We could not keep you updated on this unless our state affiliate had the resources to put people on the ground to report back to us and coordinate collective action. The same can be said for providing our chapter with legal assistance when that has become necessary.
So, our dues-paying membership is growing. We have about 42 new members sign up since September. Please thank Rob McCarthy, Mike Budd, and Dave Lee for all of their hard work on membership.
On that note, I don’t see our Chapter moving forward in the medium and long term without us building a strong sense of community and purpose. What does that entail? It entails becoming involved, even if that involvement is one or two hours per month. We can’t have a union just by people paying their dues in case something goes wrong. The union is not merely a service plan. It consists of the collective activity of its members.
We are fortunate enough to have jobs that allow us an incredible degree of professional autonomy and freedom. This makes it that much easier to say, “Well, let them do it. I’ve got my own projects and deadlines, so let the ‘union people’ do it.”
With that attitude we’ll never develop. We are the union. When we begin thinking and acting more so along those lines–each of us making a modest commitment toward building the union–we’ll be on our way. Then there will be nothing that can stop us.
February 17, 2010. “Educational reform” measures put forth by Florida’s Council of 100 business leaders and endorsed by GOP power broker Jeb Bush require scrutiny in historical context.
When considering the recent proposals comprising “Closing the Talent Gap,” put forth this month by Florida’s Council of 100, it is important to keep in mind the dramatic political and structural changes to Florida’s State University System that have occurred over the past ten years. An oft-overlooked or forgotten chapter of Florida higher education’s recent past should be kept at the forefront of our thinking so that we may place the United Faculty of Florida and SUS’s plight in proper perspective. Central to this is the quasi-privitization of the state’s public universities, termed “devolution,” that took place under Jeb Bush’s governorship and the successful move to destroy the statewide collective bargaining framework existing between the United Faculty of Florida and Florida’s Board of Regents.
Florida is part of the “Old South,” and one of the South’s legacies is a hostility toward independent worker organization that can be traced, without too much imagination, to the antebellum era. In the face of broad unionization throughout the US northeastern, mid-west, and western states during the 1940s and 1950s, American corporations sought to relocate to areas where there was less unionization and the deck was stacked against organizing through anti-labor laws. Like many of their counterparts in the Old Confederacy after passage of the anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act, Florida legislators moved to make it more difficult for workers to form unions through implementation of “right to work,” or “open shop” laws. At institutions where a majority of workers managed to vote union representation into existence, such laws allowed employees to opt out of paying dues even though they were members of the bargaining unit and received the protections and benefits of representation. UFF’s present organizing efforts are rooted in attempts to work within the framework of these very laws designed to undermine worker power and solidarity that a strong union can provide. Our organizing efforts are never-ending.
The UFF membership’s resolve to maintain its capacity as a statewide faculty union was dealt a heavy blow in the early 2000s. The Board of Regents that oversaw the SUS resisted a handful of powerful legislators’ attempts to build law schools at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and Florida International University, and a medical school at Florida State University. Infuriated at the BOR’s recalcitrance, Governor Bush and an unusual coalition of Republican and Democratic state legislators moved to abolish the BOR and decentralize the SUS. The result was that each institution was placed under the direct oversight of a separate Board of Trustees.
This decentralization of power to BOTs was in close accord with the national Republican Party’s mission to privatize public institutions and run government “like a business.” The move was also an obvious attempt to weaken Florida’s teacher and faculty unions, which have been strong supporters of the Democratic Party. Bush made sure the eleven new BOTs were loaded with pro-business Republican donors, a practice reconfirmed in BOG Chancellor and Bush associate Frank Brogan’s October 2009 BOT (re)appointments. These trustees, many of whom do not possess a full understanding of public higher education and would just as soon farm out university instruction to unqualified “private contractors” (adjuncts), are indifferent if not hostile toward public employees’ unions and collective bargaining.
The governance changes were used by the new BOTs as a basis to end bargaining that, since the UFF’s establishment in the mid-1970s, took place between UFF and the BOR. The BOTs argued unanimously that they were no longer bound by the statewide agreements. In response, with the aid of our parent organization, the American Federation of Teachers, UFF mobilized and collected thousands of authorization cards from large majorities of faculty to recertify each UFF chapter as a bargaining agent with their respective BOTs. At eight universities faculty support for recertification of UFF was 65% or more and the BOTs at these institutions voluntarily recognized UFF. At FAU 70% of faculty members who were approached signed cards for recertification. University of West Florida and Florida State University held out for elections where UFF went on to win 90% or more of the ballots at each institution. The University of Florida’s BOT refused to recognize UFF until 2005, when an appellate court decided in the Union’s favor (Fiorito and Gallagher, 2006).
The radical move to decentralize was tempered in 2002 when Florida Governor Bob Graham’s voter amendment mandated a Board of Governors to administer SUS affairs. In contrast to the BOR, however, power exercised by the BOG takes a backseat to the BOTs. (The BOG Chancellorship being occupied by Bush’s former Lieutenant Governor is a curious new development that deserves close scrutiny.) In light of the above, the aforementioned package of “educational reform” proposals put forward by Florida’s Council of 100 and vigorously endorsed by Bush must also be looked at with major reservations, particularly by public educators. For example, the moves to strip K-12 teachers of tenure–or to otherwise make tenure meaningless–is a policy already being tested in the SUS. Further, the document’s buzzwords, such as “accountability” and “efficiency,” often translate to jeopardized academic freedom and an increasingly deteriorating educational experience for students.
This history is willfully forgotten by administrators and trustees at FAU and other state universities, many of whom calculated that UFF would be incapable of reviving itself after the SUS’s decentralization. The sentiment is reflected in remarks such as, “UFF ‘represents some faculty at [ABC] University.’” Keeping in mind this recent history, such an assertion should be recognized for what it is: an attempt to mislead those of us who’ve forgotten or are unaware of our institutional and historical positions in the struggle to preserve the profession’s autonomy. Without question faculty at FAU and throughout the SUS desire independent representation before their administrations and Boards of Trustees, even though the legacy of Old Dixie allows them the opportunity not to pay for such representation.
January 15, 2010. The FAU Board of Trustees and Administration are attempting to make their corporate-style downsizing plan more palatable by cloaking it in the themes of “social justice,” “change,” and the imagery of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Slowly emerging from behind closed doors, one of the initial “Visioning Cafés”–focus groups conceived by efficiency expert Susan Clemmons and originally planned to take place on the heels of the College of Engineering’s layoff of five tenured faculty members last spring–is awkwardly scheduled as a central feature of Social Justice in Action: A Working Tribute to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., sponsored by the FAU Office of Multicultural Affairs over the MLK holiday weekend.
As many readers of UFF-FAU’s blog are aware, the “Visioning” exercises that began in the College of Engineering in January 2009 culminated in the creation of bogus “functional units” (or “pools”) in April and the termination of five tenured faculty members exactly one month later. The university-wide “Visioning” program is intended to prepare FAU faculty and staff for probable layoffs following the restructuring of colleges and departments. Should layoffs commence and faculty put in too much of a kick, such events and polling can be carted out as evidence that the administration made sincere efforts to actively involve faculty in restructuring plans before they were carried out. Reviewing communications between FAU administrators and Clemmons from last spring, there is an unmistakable emphasis in the consultant’s technique of manipulating employees into believing they have an active role in plans that are more or less on the drawing board and well underway. However, using the memory of Dr. King and the civil rights movement as a Trojan Horse for such a scheme marks a substantial new low.
As scholars such as Michael Erik Dyson have observed, in the last few years of his life King’s increasing intellectual development brought him to the realization that the plight of African Americans for social justice did not just involve confronting America’s enduring legacy of white supremacy; it was (and remains) intertwined with the maldistribution of the country’s resources, particularly away from educational and economic opportunities and toward the oppression of the world’s underclasses, palpable from the streets of America to the jungles of Southeast Asia. Indeed, King’s growing class consciousness was evident in his final days as he traveled to Memphis in support of a municipal workers’ strike.
Since Dr. King is not here to speak for himself, it might be worthwhile to consider whether he would look favorably on a public institution’s administrator types invoking his image and spirit to stage-manage and downsize their workforce. Given that FAU possesses one of the most racially diverse student bodies in the United States, it is doubtful that MLK would side with President Frank Brogan and the school’s Board of Trustees in their efforts to make faculty salaries the second-lowest in the state among public institutions, and among the lowest in the nation. Nor would he condone the termination of tenured faculty without cause, which would, among other things, damage the institution’s national reputation and thereby the worth of credentials earned there. If King were afforded the opportunity, would he shy away from reminding us of Florida’s 2000 presidential election, where thousands of African Americans were deprived of the sacred right he so courageously fought to secure?
Finally, it is doubtful that this King, the one who actually lived and breathed and routinely challenged the status quo, would be at ease in a surreptitious focus group conducted in his name, under the guise of “social justice,” whose aim from the available evidence seems all too clear. This King, the one who cannot be confined to a postage stamp or other voiceless homage, advocated for a genuine social justice that runs counter to the increasing disenfranchisement of FAU’s faculty body in the name of accountability and efficiency.
November 23, 2009. What should the expectations about a faculty union be among the faculty at FAU? A common remark among FAU faculty members is, “The union doesn’t really do anything for me, so why should I join?” This reflects an aloofness from university affairs and faculty governance issues that is all too common in our profession. Yet it is exactly because we perceive ourselves as independent professionals rather than what we in fact are–salaried workers–that we are able to justify our remove from such concerns and dismiss what many of us haven’t taken the time to understand, much less take an active part in.
One who has some knowledge of US labor history understands that unions have often been collective endeavors borne of grim necessity. Yet UFF is often regarded by faculty along the lines of a plumber or electrician; there is little need to call on its expertise until a pipe bursts or a circuit fails. Then the “repairman” is blamed for having allowed the breach in service, instead of the home owner, who through apathy and disengagement has allowed their pipes or wires to decay. In this way, the assertion, “The union doesn’t do anything…” amounts to a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because UFF-FAU is the exclusive bargaining entity for faculty, we are behooved to take some interest in what the union does and what is at stake in grievance procedures and the collective bargaining process.
Our disengagement is reinforced by our professional credentials and status. Again, these obscure the fact that we have bosses and work for a living, much as we would like to think of ourselves along the lines of physicians or attorneys–again, as independent professionals. Wage dependence is especially acute for those of us in the arts, humanities and social sciences, because frequently we lack sufficient avenues to secure grants that would fortify our increasingly depressed salaries. Community college faculty, in contrast, are much less mystified by their credentials and more inclined to recognize their status as workers. Thus they are more involved with their unions and on average secure stronger bargaining agreements and better salaries–indeed often stronger and better than many of us with advanced degrees from highly-regarded institutions.
Your UFF chapter has the greatest potential for ensuring quality working conditions and better compensation, yet it cannot be effective without your involvement and support. Less like faculty governance bodies, which should be commended for the time and effort they devote to providing a forum for faculty concerns and furthering university curricula and scholarship, UFF is more impervious to the influence of university administrators. In this way, the Union is the only genuinely independent collective voice for faculty. This is exactly why the FAU administration regularly calls on one of the best labor attorneys in the state to beat back UFF demands for improved working conditions, benefits and salaries.
Yet through increased membership and involvement comes recognition. At Florida International University, for example, this same attorney takes an entirely different tack at the bargaining table because the FIU faculty union has over twice as many dues-paying members as FAU’s, and far more faculty involved in union activities. This is a major reason why FIU’s collective bargaining agreement is stronger, and why faculty there are paid on average 10% more than at FAU. It is also why FIU faculty received one-time bonuses and salary raises totaling 3.5% in their last bargaining session despite trying economic times. At almost the same time FIU faculty were winning at the bargaining table, FAU faculty were cowering at Frank Brogan’s layoff threats–threats that were eventually made good on.
Our expectations for satisfactory working conditions and salaries commensurate to our effort and achievements won’t be realized through an aversion to our status as workers who have specific rights expressly defined through the collective bargaining process. With this in mind, it is time to ask not what your union can do for you, but what we can do together to make our collective wishes and expectations a reality.
(Original publication date October 14, 2009)
Changes in the academic workplace come about as a consequence of clearly understood and clearly intended managerial, corporate, and political initiatives with the explicit intention of inducing the faculty to relinquish certain values and practices. Individually and collectively, faculty members make choices when they adopt new organizational cultures. -Marc Bosquet, How the University Works (10).
At a conference I attended this past spring I was chatting with a young Canadian sociologist whose scholarship focuses on labor organization in North America and Europe’s technology industries. The conversation turned to our own academic workplaces, and I described to him the situation at FAU–how top university administrators have hired an outside consultant with expertise in “enterprise resource planning.” He looked at me with moderate alarm. “So, you’re going to be re-engineered?” “It certainly looks like that’s where we’re headed,” I replied.
No information I’ve encountered since then has convinced me otherwise, and the evidence available is worthy of our consideration. Susan Clemmons’ credentials suggest how she has spent most of her professional life advising companies such as Burger King on how they can do more with less, while squeezing existing workers to produce more without putting in too much of a kick. Granted, conducting research in the lab or crafting an article or lecture isn’t quite like serving up a burger and fries, but this has not prevented FAU administrators and trustees from being swept away with Clemmons’ promises of “visioning” and “change.”
Clemmons’ dissertation, The Impact of Information Technology on Organizations: A Study of Enterprise Resource Planning System Influences on Job Design and Organizational Culture, suggests her expertise in the relationship between employee sentiment, “re-engineering,” and “Enterprise Resource Planning”–or ERP. Reengineering and ERP are the information age successors to the time and motion studies termed “scientific management” that Frederick Taylor imposed on factory workers a century ago. “Engineering” here refers not to the creation or manipulation of mechanical or electronic elements but rather of work processes and organizational structures. This orientation toward the workplace has since become ingrained in management thinking and practice. Indeed, Taylor’s notion of managerial surveillance and control toward increased worker productivity at the expense of worker skill and autonomy endures in ERP. Such practices have grave implications for academicians, who, like their artisan forebears, have become accustomed to a significant degree of autonomy over their work and work practices.
The deployment of ERP across service industries in the late 1980s and early 1990s resulted in waves of layoffs, yet its promise of increasing productivity remained unfulfilled. Further, as workers were shed management typically enlarged its ranks and power. As Century Foundation fellow and Financial Times correspondent Simon Head argues in his 2003 book, The New Ruthless Economy: Work and Power in the Digital Age, technology itself is a way of life–or, more specifically, a way of work spanning from the “Fordist” (mass production) era to the present information age.
For the tens of millions of Americans who work in offices and factories, this is the definition of technology that counts. From the early 1990s onward, the twin phenomena of “reengineering” and “enterprise resource planning” have been prime examples of workplace practices built around new information technologies. Relying on computers and their attendant software, reengineering and ERP automate, simplify, join together, and speed up business processes. Reengineering and ERP do this by imposing upon those processes the standardization, measurement, and control of the old industrial assembly line. (4-5)
ERP has since become commonplace in most service industries. Since the early 1990s
reengineers have steadily widened the scope and ambition of their activities to include sales, marketing, customer relations, accounting, personnel management, and even medicine — “managed care” being essentially the reengineering of health care. For the 80 percent of Americans now employed in these service occupations, reengineering in its various forms has become a dominant force in their working lives. (5)
The sociologist Stanley Aronowitz remarked several years ago that a faculty position was “the last good job in America,” and reflecting on the surface value of that observation this perhaps all seems rather far-fetched. But the historical record is rife with examples of craft guilds and entire occupations overcome by industrialization and automation, and as the ranks of administrators grow while faculty decline those of us in higher education would be remiss to consider ourselves wholly immune from such practices, as the five colleagues laid off from FAU’s College of Engineering will attest.
Administrators have repeatedly proclaimed how with the help of Susan Clemmons, “change” will be ushered in, and soon Florida Atlantic will look like a vastly different institution. “Your current situation has presented an opportunity to use a systemic approach to change,” Clemmons gushed to FAU Provost John Pritchett and Vice President for Finance Ken Jessell via email in early March as her lucrative consulting deal was coming to fruition. “I applaud your insight in recognizing the daunting task of successful and sustainable change.”
The operative word here, “change,” is the preferred term used by ERP consultants in lieu of “restructuring,” or “downsizing,” which rightly sets off alarm bells among the rank and file, thereby greatly hampering such efforts. Similarly, the “vision” buzzword suggests a degree of shared governance and worker empowerment, but in management’s view these are acceptable only if such energy is properly channeled into a plan with largely predetermined ends.
Particularly appealing for Frank Brogan and his successor is how ERP provides upper-level administration (presidents, vice presidents, provosts) with an increasingly powerful top-down hierarchical form of surveillance, measurement, and control of middle management and workers, in this case administrators further down the totem pole (deans, assistant deans, department heads), and their subordinate faculty and staff. ERP’s privileging of efficiency and productivity over all else (e.g. producing credit hours, pulling in grant money) also provides a basis and rationale for the severances which those lesser university administrators will eventually be called on to carry out. Project Vision’s intent and design should also be of enduring interest to faculty throughout Florida since one of its early proponents is now overseeing Florida’s entire State University System.
The FAU administration is well aware that it cannot simply terminate tenured faculty because the Collective Bargaining Agreement, however flawed, stands in the way. It must therefore reorganize the Colleges and Departments in some fashion whereby the targeted faculty members–perhaps those who may be deemed “too strident” or are otherwise simply superfluous under reorganization–are sequestered for intimidation and possible elimination. (Assistant professors and instructors have another disciplinary cudgel hanging over their heads, termed “non-reappointment.”)
There have at times been instances of a renewed sense of empowerment and a broad revulsion among faculty against the administration’s actions–such as what took place in the College of Engineering’s Faculty Meeting on October 2 and the Faculty Senate on June 5–but faculty governance at FAU (or any other university, for that matter) will work to uphold the interests of faculty members only to the extent we are actively involved, and the presence and influence of administrators often makes forthright democratic exchange difficult.
UFF is the only body capable of organizing and exercising a genuinely independent voice for faculty rights at the workplace in this and many other situations, which is exactly why on many occasions the administration dispatches its bevy of attorneys to deal with us. Yet it is a voluntary organization that cannot act successfully on your behalf without your support, and as FAU administrators moves forward with their plans that will likely alter the very nature of our working conditions and livelihoods, that support is needed now more so than ever. Please consider joining and becoming involved in your UFF-FAU chapter today.
The title of a lesser-known collection of essays by social historian David Noble, Progress without People, lays out the author’s familiar critique of the modern development and use of technology that, within certain economic coordinates, has transformed entire modes of production and ways of life. “Progress without Faculty,” may prove an apt description for the present and future state of Florida Atlantic University. While it is true that the FAU Board of Trustees’ “Strategic Plan” pays modest lip service to a concern for faculty quality, what is unmistakably clear by now is that “progress” is largely equated with the construction of new buildings, with little regard for the nature or quality of the faculty who will occupy those buildings and conduct the teaching and research that together distinguish a sub-mediocre university from one that is truly above average, if not exceptional. In fact, Goal 3, Objective 5 of the BOT’s Strategic Plan reads:
Provide competitive faculty salaries that will assure recruitment and retention of a diverse and highly productive faculty who will contribute to building superior academic programs and research capacity.
Yet the recently updated “Report Card” shows that faculty salaries at FAU have now fallen about 15% below salaries at SUS peers FIU, UCF, and USF.
This is because Brogan and the BOT have stubbornly taken FAU in the opposite direction from greater parity with the University’s state peers. After denying modest faculty raises and undermining tenure at FAU with layoffs the administration and BOT have refused to rescind, the outgoing president is left to emphasize new building construction, in addition to the features of “traditional” university life, such as athletics, fraternities, and similar “recreational opportunities”—what Indiana University Professor Murray Sperber terms “Beer and Circus.” Sperber’s analogy to Rome is apt; at “Big Time U” the spectatorship of athletics and excessive partying gives shortchanged students the option of filling the void that often comes from feeling like another number on a Scantron and body in an overcrowded lecture hall. The undue emphases and support of buildings and recreational activities in lieu of solid investments in and maintenance of FAU’s human capital denotes what serious educational reformers just a few generations ago would have vigorously condemned.
“The object of the educational system, taken as a whole,” University of Chicago President Robert Hutchins argued in the early 1950s, “is not to produce hands for industry or to teach the young how to make a living. It is to produce responsible citizens.” Hutchins’ belief in the significance of higher education for the health of the body politic likewise made him an early proponent of tenure and equitable pay for faculty while also he also defended his faculty against the anti-intellectualism of the time, then disguised as “anti-communism.”
I am now convinced that the greatest danger to education in America is the attempt, under the guise of patriotism, to suppress freedom of teaching, inquiry, and discussion. Consequently, I am now in favor of permanent tenure, with all its drawbacks, as by far the lesser of the two evils. We cannot expect to get good teachers without decent salaries and security.
While at Chicago Hutchins also opted to take the university out of what was then informally known as the Big Ten conference. In fact, he abolished the football program and fraternities, and pursued a different path toward academic excellence—one that privileged the educational relationship between faculty and students and remains confirmed in Chicago’s venerable reputation.
FAU’s administrators and trustees would likely have very little regard for Hutchins’ belief in tenure and the relationship between free scholarly inquiry, adequate compensation, and superior education to build a strong citizenry. We instead find fundamental confusion in the very recognition of higher education’s moral compass and a similar lack of the qualitative criteria that would discern and positively acknowledge education’s non-quantifiable dimensions. In their places is a bizarre notion that erecting new buildings and creating a more “traditional,” good time university environment will somehow translate to academic excellence.
This is not to suggest that modern buildings are unimportant, that there is no place for a variety of athletics and other extracurricular activities at university. And Hutchins himself may have been somewhat overzealous in doing away with Chicago football. But such things have up until the past thirty or so years been understood as at best complementary to academics, and it is to exercise questionable judgment if these together are to be thought of as direct drivers of academic success. In the case of FAU there is serious cause for concern for all of its stakeholders because such activities are being foregrounded in terms of rhetoric and resources precisely at a time when in reality FAU is academically deteriorating, has the second lowest faculty salaries in Florida, as a result of the ongoing scandal of “tenuregate” will likely find it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain quality professors, and whose trustees and administrators make no secret of their contempt for the faculty union and faculty governance.
The passage below of President Brogan’s lengthy remarks to the Board of Trustees, prefacing General Counsel David Kian’s proposal for the private funding of FAU’s football stadium, is illustrative of exactly this tendency—a fondness for many, many more grandiose buildings and the accompanying promise of “traditional” university life, but nary a mention of FAU faculty members and how they figure into this “master plan.” The remarks suggest that in the BOT’s “Vision,” faculty take what will be at best a backseat to the window dressing that is substituted for genuine education at our aspiring “Big Time U”: new buildings–sky boxes, retail spaces, cushy dorms–keg parties, and road trips to away games. FAU students and faculty deserve much more.
FAU Board of Trustees Meeting, July 22, 2009
Call to Order and Roll Call
President Frank Brogan: As you all know, we have at Florida Atlantic University over the past six years developed quite a comprehensive Strategic Plan, and a very important component of that Strategic Plan not only includes the continued access opportunities that a distributed campus model can provide–and have for many years, and will for years to come, reaching students who may otherwise be shut out of a higher education degree at a university with multiple campuses and programming scattered over a hundred forty miles of southeast Florida coastline. But at the same time, we made a very important decision as a university through our Strategic Plan, with the leadership of the Board to, considerably increase the traditional side of Florida Atlantic University at the same time, and that’s not in lieu of, that those two things would work in harmony with the future, to see this university continue to provide such broad access, but also at the same time grow its traditional foundation. We recognized that that was not only going to draw a new generation of students to Florida Atlantic University, but also would provide, through the research that we’ve looked at, opportunity to see our retention rate increase, our graduation rate increase, the opportunity to provide through housing, living and learning communities. The opportunity to create, uh, true benchmarks and guideposts for the university as rally points for students—both traditional and non-traditional, such as increase—increased athletic programs, greater opportunities to participate in organizations such as Greek life. Groups, clubs, and opportunities; truly develop a traditional look for the university. This, of course, is nothing new. All you need do is look around the state of Florida to find some of the universities that are a bit older than are we to see this same blueprint having been exercised. Most notably, if you go just to the north to Orlando and look at the University of Central Florida. They were very much like we were not too many years ago. They had multiple campuses. They had a huge population of community college transfer students as we still do today and hopefully will have forever. But at the same time they made an important decision to grow the traditional side of their university. Now you go back to the campus in Orlando and you see all of the extensive housing opportunities not only for undergraduate students, but graduate students, research students. You see the increase in their athletic facilities, not only those for their N-C double A teams but also for intramurals and recreation. You see fitness centers and, and opportunities that didn’t exist just a decade ago that are not only prevalent; they have assisted and supported the growth of the University of Central Florida. And if you look at the metrics of Central Florida you will also notice the rise in their academic success during that same period of time. You’ll see the increase in G-P-A, S-A-T, A-C-T of their entry level students. You will see the number and quality of students entering, some of their wonderful academic programs increasing. All of those things that are at the end of the day most important, and that is graduation rates and others, increasing exponentially with the rise of the traditional side of their university. And again, not to diminish the non-traditional, because those who still commute to UCF, and that’s the majority of their students, just as the majority of FAU students will always be commuter students. But they have access to the same new wonderful opportunities. And so this university not only made that commitment in its strategic plan, we have been working very hard for the past six years to make sure that we set that in stone. We had this meeting scheduled in this particular facility for the obvious reason. We wanted to be near the area that is the epicenter of Innovation Village. We decided that at Florida Atlantic University as we increase the academic facilities of our university, that at the same time we-we would increase the amenities of the university, so important to university, and especially student life. And so we decided what better place to have this particular meeting today than in our alumni center, which is not new for the university; it’s the first time we’ve had an alumni center at Florida Atlantic University. It’s not only, as you’ve heard me say, a facility that’ll be here for years to come that’ll serve our alumni base, but it also makes a statement. It makes the statement that we’re becoming an intergenerational university, as we see sons and daughters of our graduates graduating, and even grandsons and daughters of our graduates graduating at Florida Atlantic University. We are growing by age, we’re growing by volume, we’re growing by quality, and we’re certainly growing by reputation. And, of course, just across the plaza from this beautiful facility lies the new fitness center, phase one, and as you probably saw, many of you driving in here today phase two well under construction and should be completed sometime midyear. This is providing, not only again, for traditional students but nontraditional students, an important place not only to recreate, but to gather. And that is a big part of university life. Of course, just down the street on the corner, is going up our brand new Engineering building [sic], and as you know will be a platinum certified Leeds facility, uh, only one of two in the southeastern United States, but it will also be the home of what is becoming a premier engineering school at a great university that will give rise I think even greater reputation and opportunity for the future of Florida Atlantic University [sic]. If you, then, turn your attention north across this plaza you can start to envision what we have scheduled to take place on that ground. That being, of course, a significant new cluster of student housing, and of course, ultimately, a football stadium. All of that will be embraced by parking opportunities and new retail opportunities for the northern side of the campus that can be shared by faculty, students, staff from all over Florida Atlantic University. And so Innovation Village, which was grounded in this building and the building just across the plaza, is getting ready to give way soon to some additional incredible opportunities. Now, as we are fond of saying at FAU, we break a great deal of ground and we cut a great many ribbons on some marvelous facilities, but it’s what happens in those facilities that is of most import. And in this particular case if you stop and consider what this injection into this university will do as it joins great facilities all over the FAU family, from new facilities in Davie that are just going up as we sit here today, to what’s going on in downtown Fort Lauderdale, to what’s taking place on our Jupiter campus as we get ready to break ground for the Max Planck facility there which will have ten-thousand square feet dedicated to FAU. Obviously all the new construction at Harbor Branch and our new facility at Port St. Lucie campus. All of these are marvelous, world class facilities that make statements about the future of FAU and our commitment to our students. But also each of them well, and thoughtfully placed in our master plan to serve an important and distinct purpose, and when put together provide an amazing tapestry of opportunities for the future of this university. And so, we have worked very hard over recent years, not waiting until all of these facilities were completed, but using those that we had and those that we’ve added, as we’ve placed living-learning communities into our existing housing facilities so that students could not only live together, but study together, recreate together, and be able to continue to see our retention rates creep upward over the last several years. We’ve used this opportunity to see new marketing abilities to send a message to students all over our service district, the state of Florida, and for that matter the country and the world that Florida Atlantic University is not only a great place to come and receive a world class educational experience, but a place to come and be a part of something special. A family dedicated to securing for you as a student the entire university experience that you can take away and be satisfied with for the rest of your life.