United Faculty of Florida-Florida Atlantic University Chapter
May 14, 2012. The faculty protest in late April was a last resort after the non-responsiveness of FAU administrators. What did we achieve?
First of all, I would thank all faculty and staff who participated in the summer teaching protest held on April 18. As you all know, the protest just didn’t concern itself with summer teaching, but more importantly the way in which faculty have been systematically excluded from most decision-making processes recently implemented by the upper administration. Only after the fact is faculty input solicited. We are hoping as a result of such negative publicity that the administration will start implementing policies where faculty have been an integral part from the inception. I will be meeting with the provost later this month to discuss this problem and see how we can move forward regarding this.
The union doesn’t take protesting lightly. We have attempted to use other more formal channels– consultation, meeting with the upper administration through more informal settings, asking questions during faculty assemblies and the senate, but felt that our concerns were not being taken seriously. As a result, we felt that we had no option other than focusing the public eye on the ways in which faculty, students, and staff feel how that the university has been mismanaged. In this effort we were successful. In addition to attracting at least seventy faculty, staff and students to our protest rally on the 18th, and helping students publicize their own earlier protest rally, we received good publicity in a variety of media. See the links to local media in previous posts on the protests here at uff-fau.org.
The results were productive:
1) We finally received a belated memo from the administration on April 10 regarding the rationale for the implementation of summer policy.
2) Administrators started to reinstitute courses more promptly.
3) The administration publicly acknowledged that the implementation of the summer policy was misguided.
4) After repeated calls by the union since Fall 2011 for a Town Hall Budget meeting, the upper administration finally held one. The result was far from satisfactory. Although we would much rather have had the President and the Provost directly fielding questions, the meeting at least provided a public forum where faculty could directly address some of their concerns and judge for themselves the adequacy of the responses.
But of course the proof is in the proverbial pudding. We’ll see how future administrative policies are made and implemented and if faculty governance and knowledge is respected. We understand that FAU has been placed in a difficult economic situation because of the hostility by many in the state legislature in regards toward public education.
This damage has been compounded by misguided policies on the local level that seem distinctly out of touch with faculty concerns and expertise and thus destructive of some core goals of the university, its discipline-specific teaching and research programs. But for now we look to the future by attempting to establish a more functional and balanced relationship with the upper administration. As you know, the union provides a forum for the only independent collective voice of the faculty. But only faculty can make this voice be adequately heard not only by joining the union, but also by becoming more involved in it.
The union repeatedly and rigorously addresses issues that many faculty members articulate to one another but might be uncomfortable pronouncing on their own to the administration. But the union gives you an independent, collective voice across department, college and campus boundaries. Your involvement makes us a more effective, democratic, well-informed, and vigorous university. Please download a membership form by clicking here today. Send to Chris Robe’, FAU, CU 215, Boca Raton, FL 33431.
Have a good summer!
April 18, 2012. FAU community voices concerns over M J Saunders administration’s arbitrary decisions on summer classes, increased class sizes
UFF-FAU Chapter President Chris Robe begins rally to “Save Summer” Outside Williams Admin Building
Numerous students addressed rally participants on how the summer cuts have affected them
FAU Faculty donned their regalia to express concerns over administrators’ heavy-handed approach to summer
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March 22, 2012. RADICAL NEW POLICY SLASHES SUMMER COURSE OFFERINGS
An unprecedented new plan has been announced in a March 21 memo from the MJ Saunders administration to FAU college deans that will radically scale back summer course offerings. It could also set the stage for the dismantling and elimination of departments and a makeover of entire colleges and the University.
The bold move constitutes a furtive usurpation of faculty autonomy over curricular issues because it requires that all undergraduate courses offered for Summer 2012 to have a minimum of 24 students enrolled in Summer 2011. (The policy emphasizes 11 students for graduate courses.) Further, a minimum 24 students must enroll for the course in Summer 2012 for the class to carry. Under the policy, even if department chairs increase enrollment to 24 for a course that was offered in 2011 with a class cap of, say 22, the course cannot be offered because it does not fit the administrators’ stringent criteria. Thus many upper division production and performance-oriented classes students need to graduate will be stricken from summer listings.
With this policy FAU administrators and their attorneys are turning a win-win-win into a lose-lose-lose situation for the University, students, and faculty. This is because FAU actually generates revenue by offering summer courses, AND students can progress in a timely fashion toward graduation, AND over half of FAU faculty depend on funds earned from teaching summer classes to augment their already depressed salaries. Thus, through such a policy FAU will be deprived of revenue, students will not be able to take the classes they need to graduate, and many faculty members will experience what is essentially a 12.5% salary reduction.
What’s next? If this policy is any sign of future things to be imposed on faculty and students it means that, at best, faculty will continue to be disempowered while FAU students pay increasingly more for much less. At worst, if this or similar policies are extended to the academic year it could translate to the inevitable cancellation of classes, closure of departments, reorganization of the entire University, and the mass termination of faculty.
UFF-FAU First Vice President
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October 8, 2011. July report by U of Texas faculty levels stern critique of Governor’s attempted higher ed “reforms”
Many UFF-FAU members are aware that Florida governor Rick Scott is proffering a plan modeled on one proposed by Texas governor Rick Perry to “reform” higher education statewide . A detailed report, Maintaining Excellence-and-Efficiency at The University of Texas at Austim, published in July by UT faculty critically assesses and condemns Perry’s varied and ill-informed “one size fits all” approaches.
Sep14September 14, 2011. United Faculty of Florida readies “to fight the changes in how [professors and higher ed professionals will be] expected to do their jobs,” Frank Brogan continues to trumpet his support for plan
Source: Chronicle of Higher Ed (09/13/11)
By Audrey Williams June
In Florida, college professors, presidents and lawmakers are preparing for a vigorous debate about faculty performance, pay, and productivity.
That’s because Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, has made it clear that he’s looking toward Texas for ideas on how to revamp higher education in his state. In Texas, a controversial plan—backed by Gov. Rick Perry, another Republican, and his allies—proposes to do more to measure faculty productivity, emphasizes teaching over research, and advocates paying faculty members based on their effectiveness.
Governor Scott, who has spoken publicly in recent weeks about his interest in the Texas proposal, hasn’t yet talked specifics about which pieces of that plan he would push lawmakers to adopt. But he’s actively soliciting feedback on Texas’s “Seven Breakthrough Solutions,” which was written by the Austin-based Texas Public Policy Foundation, a research institute. Just a few of the solutions have been adopted, most of them at Texas A&M University.
Governor Scott has shared the plan with enough people, including the chancellor of the state university system, the appointees he has made to college governing boards, and the presidents of Florida’s 11 public colleges, to jump-start what is sure to be a lengthy conversation about what kinds of changes should be made.
The governor’s spokesman, Lane Wright, said that there is no plan in place to make changes in higher education in Florida and that Governor Scott has simply been “talking about his ideas” as a way to generate discussion on the matter. The governor has had no formal talks at this point with legislators about ways to overhaul the system, Mr. Wright said.
It isn’t yet clear how much traction the governor’s higher-education ideas will get in Florida, but people are taking the push to revamp higher education in the state seriously. The union that represents about 20,000 public university professors and professionals in Florida is gearing up to fight the changes in how they’re expected to do their jobs, which, they say, would ultimately drive talented faculty away from Florida colleges. The Texas-style higher-education proposals are also expected to be discussed during the next legislative session, which begins in January.
In a move to counter what he saw as major shortcomings of the Texas solutions, a Florida university president has created a detailed alternative, which he calls “Florida Can Do Better Than Texas.”
Eric J. Barron, president of Florida State University, said he came up with the alternative plan after reading a copy of the Texas plan sent to him by Governor Scott. “My immediate thought was that we can do better,” Mr. Barron said. “I took each of the proposed Texas solutions and did an analysis and then I thought about how they could be stronger.”
The governor has asked for a copy of the plan, said Mr. Barron, who shared his ideas with his trustees last week.
Mr. Barron said his plan (which offers eight solutions, instead of seven) ensures that colleges are held responsible for their students’ success, while allowing colleges in the state to “still be on the cutting edge.”
For instance, the Texas solutions focus on measuring the productivity and effectiveness of faculty by how many students they teach, how highly they are rated on student evaluations, and how many A’s and B’s they award to students. Critics say the Texas model wants colleges to operate like businesses that offer degrees as their main product. But such metrics, Mr. Barron said, could have unintended consequences, among them larger classes that could limit learning and faculty’s pandering to students to positively influence student evaluations.
A better way to measure efficiency, according to Mr. Barron’s plan, is to look at freshman retention and graduation rates, survey students about their university experience after graduation, test them for how much they know about a subject before and after a course, and calculate cost per student per credit hour. Among other elements of Mr. Barron’s plan are an emphasis on performance-based pay and less weight on student evaluations as a litmus test for awarding tenure.
Mr. Barron, who is scheduled to discuss his plan at the Faculty Senate meeting this month at Florida State, said he hopes his ideas “start a discussion about what we could do differently in Florida.”
“My belief is that this plan will get improved as it goes along,” he said, “and hopefully what will emerge is an even stronger document that we can talk about.”
No Room for Debate?
But some professors are concerned that the window to discuss the pros and cons of the Texas plan is a narrow one, if it exists at all. The governor’s consistent promotion of the Texas ideas as a possible template doesn’t bode well, they said.
“He’s already finished the conversation all by himself,” said Tom Auxter, president of the United Faculty of Florida and a professor of philosophy at the University of Florida. Mr. Auxter wrote a letter to union members last week that outlined several challenges the union expects to face when the legislative session begins anew, including the likely reintroduction of bills that would make it harder for public employees to keep their union going. Yet, Mr. Auxter wrote: “The most ominous threat to higher education comes from the governor.”
“Faculty are talking about this across the state,” Mr. Auxter said in an interview of the governor’s push to consider the Texas ideas in Florida. They’re not against a plan that tries to increase efficiency since it’s clear that “we don’t have enough money to go around,” he said. But at the root of critics’ worry, just as in Texas, is how that efficiency will be achieved.
“The ideas are often general ideas that people may or may not agree with,” Mr. Auxter said of the Texas plan. “But when you look at the implementation, all the duplicity is in the details.”
Mr. Auxter and others say that a key component of the Texas solution, its merit-pay plan, would push professors away from Florida colleges. Under the Texas plan, faculty who are top-notch teachers would be given a bonus, but that amount, Mr. Auxter says, would not be added to the base pay that professors get. So the salaries of high-performing faculty wouldn’t increase over the long run.
Faculty will say, “‘I’m going to have this salary for the rest of my life,'” Mr. Auxter said. “You need people who are on the cutting edge in their research and can teach well. They’re saying you don’t have to invest in talent.”
Mr. Auxter added that “I think we’re going to have to fight this all year long.”
Frank T. Brogan, chancellor of the State University System of Florida, has met with Governor Scott to discuss the changes the governor has in mind for higher education. Mr. Brogan was not available for comment, according to his spokeswoman. However, he told the News Service of Florida last month that he supports “accountability-based funding,” and thinks that scrutinizing the quality of programs is key. He also acknowledged how fast-moving—and divisive—discussions about overhauling higher education were in Texas and he hopes talks about the issue will take a different tone in Florida, the news service reported.
The Board of Governors, which oversees public colleges in the state, meets Thursday, and Mr. Brogan is on the agenda. Kelly Layman, a spokeswoman, said Mr. Brogan will give a report, during which he will weigh in on the talk surrounding potential changes in Florida’s higher education system, and will also lead a discussion on national trends in higher education.
“The Florida Board of Governors is excited that this dialogue is occurring in the context of work it has dedicated itself to the past 18 months on updating our strategic plan through 2025,” Ms. Layman said in an e-mail. “We will build whatever additional performance metrics to our existing annual report the board feels are necessary.”
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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.
January 4, 2011. Labor leaders say it’s Republican payback for unions’ support of Democratic political candidates
By Steven Greenhouse
Faced with growing budget deficits and restive taxpayers, elected officials from Maine to Alabama, Ohio to Arizona, are pushing new legislation to limit the power of labor unions, particularly those representing government workers, in collective bargaining and politics.
State officials from both parties are wrestling with ways to curb the salaries and pensions of government employees, which typically make up a significant percentage of state budgets. On Wednesday, for example, New York’s new Democratic governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, is expected to call for a one-year salary freeze for state workers, a move that would save $200 million to $400 million and challenge labor’s traditional clout in Albany.
But in some cases — mostly in states with Republican governors and Republican statehouse majorities — officials are seeking more far-reaching, structural changes that would weaken the bargaining power and political influence of unions, including private sector ones.
For example, Republican lawmakers in Indiana, Maine, Missouri and seven other states plan to introduce legislation that would bar private sector unions from forcing workers they represent to pay dues or fees, reducing the flow of funds into union treasuries. In Ohio, the new Republican governor, following the precedent of many other states, wants to ban strikes by public school teachers.
Some new governors, most notably Scott Walker of Wisconsin, are even threatening to take away government workers’ right to form unions and bargain contracts.
Read more at nytimes.com
October 4, 2010. New leadership opens possibilities for strengthening ties between FAU faculty and administration.
The Florida Atlantic University Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida is happy to welcome Mary Jane Saunders as our new University President. Since assuming office on June 7, President Saunders is off to a good start. In July she raised by 3% the salaries of all university employees not represented in collective bargaining, and in bargaining with UFF, negotiators for the Board of Trustees quickly changed their salary increase offer from 0 to 3%. The Palm Beach Post, quoting a faculty member at Cleveland State University, where Saunders has been provost since 2007, praised her “openness and engaging personality,” and she has similarly impressed many faculty who have met her. As we would expect from a leader with a solid research background and many years of administrative experience, she has begun to redefine and clarify the university’s mission and goals. And in her first State of the University address on September 1, she began by calling for “collaborative leadership,” and said that she wants to “hear all voices,” and “welcomes our ideas.”
This is an auspicious moment for FAU. Despite hard economic times and mediocre state economic and political leadership, in spite of a Board of Trustees chosen more for their political connections than for any expertise in higher education, it would seem that FAU now has a leader who understands the core mission of this university, its distinctive character, and is capable of analyzing its strengths and weaknesses. Above all, she seems to be secure enough to invite “collaborative leadership,” to engage in a constructive dialogue with faculty and others regarding our divergent perspectives on this rapidly changing institution.
We take the President at her word, and accept her invitation to “hear all voices.” We don’t expect that the sometimes contentious relationship between faculty union and academic managers will disappear. Faculty often have different interests and viewpoints than Trustees or career administrators; that’s why large majorities of faculty have repeatedly chosen to be represented by the United Faculty of Florida, at FAU and throughout the state. But we hope that another relationship might develop to complement the conflictual one, a relationship based on a mutual desire to address the university’s problems and to acknowledge that someone else, whose interests aren’t identical to one’s own, might have some productive solutions.
Thus we propose to renew and improve a neglected aspect of the relationship between UFF and academic administrators at FAU: Consultations every semester between President Saunders and her advisors, on the one hand, and UFF-FAU leaders on the other. Since UFF began representing the FAU faculty in the seventies these Consultations, provided for in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, have served as a forum for the discussion of key issues, outside of the formal bargaining process, where the union and the administration can work together – or agree to disagree. In these regular meetings differences have been clarified and problems solved before they become grievances, and issues addressed which have subsequently been formalized in the Agreement. In addition, subcommittees and task forces have addressed particular problems through the Consultation process as well as in Bargaining itself. In recent years Consultations, and communication between the union and the administration, have been in decline; we hope that a revival of these regular meetings will help to keep the lines of communication open.
We further propose to open our Consultation this fall with a large and many-faceted issue which President Saunders has emphasized in her public statements: Access. In her State of the University Address, she praised the state of Florida for its history of keeping higher education accessible, and prioritized “student success” and “putting a degree in the reach of every student.” This emphasis on retention as well as access is in line with recent national trends among university administrators, and FAU’s low tuition, reputation as a place for students, especially minorities, who are the first in their family to graduate from college, and struggles with retention, especially from the first to the second year, make these significant issues which impact the working lives of FAU faculty every day. We teach students who are not always prepared for university work, and under conditions which are often far from ideal. For most faculty, the questions of democratic access to higher education, and retaining students to graduation who are not always well prepared, must be balanced over against questions of academic quality. Faculty hear administrators talk a lot about access and retention, but little beyond platitudes about academic quality. We often feel that we are the only ones in the university who are struggling to maintain and improve the quality of the education we are providing our students, and the quality of the new knowledge (and experiences) we are producing through our research and creative activities.
We look forward to exploring these issues with administrators, in the Faculty Senate and other fora as well as Consultations.
May 3, 2010. FAU administrators’ concerns over the budget contradicted by recent extravagances, Raises for designated few while tuition increases and faculty salaries reach new lows.
On rather short notice (April 30), the FAU administration has called for convening another forum on the university’s budget to take place on the afternoon of May 3. The following questions were received by UFF-FAU from faculty members who feared submitting them directly to the FAU administration.
1) FAU faculty salaries are the lowest in the state of Florida among doctoral-granting institutions. They have sunk to levels that are now below FIU and FIT over the past ten years. Why is it that area community colleges (now state colleges) have been able to manage their budgets with soaring enrollments and award faculty pay raises? It seems troubling that these community colleges have more increases in enrollments than FAU, but are managing their funds in ways that value their faculty much more than FAU.
2) Why is it that FAU administrators decided to expend funds on a medical school during these bleak financial times, at the clear expense of zero growth in faculty compensation and increased tuition for students?
3) What is the FAU administration going to do about the condition that faculty at many levels within FAU are compensated at much lower levels than newer faculty being hired at FAU? Is this a message to FAU’s more senior faculty that administrators and Trustees prefer we leave and work elsewhere? What does this suggest about how administrators value an experienced and seasoned faculty body?
4) How does FAU justify the fact that some faculty and administrators received “salary adjustments” over the last few years (net effect of raises) and others did not? This seems clearly to be a patronage form of governing the university. Does the administration support or condone what is essentially a system of favoritism?
5) Why is FAU continuing to add administrators and staff, but cut faculty (see the decreasing percentages of faculty at FAU at uff-fau.org)? Why are administrators not being let go? What exactly is it that administrators do that contributes to the University’s “excellence”?
6) Is the FAU administration willing to host or be involved in a budget forum where students, students’ parents, community members, media, and non-university administration affiliated budget analysts are invited to participate?
7) FAU’s 2009 Financial Audit indicates that the University’s net unrestricted assets increased by $20 million to around $92 million, and its overall assets are now estimated to be almost $1 billion. The FAU Research Corporation and Harbor Branch Institute Research Corporation have about $175 million in national and international stocks and securities, estimated at fair market value as of June 2009, shortly after equity markets had lifted from their nadir. Given these reserves how can the university administration continue to plead poverty?