Please take a look at this important letter sent by UFF-UF President Meera Sitharam. The original letter was sent to all UF faculty in the bargaining unit via email on October 11th.
Please spare a few moments of your busy mid-semester day to read this detailed update about…
- The status of post-tenure review (PTR) for the bargaining unit
- A looming October 20th FINAL deadline for all members to switch to eDues, after which you will be dropped from our membership rolls
- Our Five to Survive new member recruitment campaign
- Our Spooky Social at First Magnitude on Friday, October 13, starting at 4pm.
Stay Up-to-date on Post-Tenure Review
This year, the Florida state legislature passed Senate Bill SB266. This piece of legislation contains at least four interleaved provisions that threaten to severely damage public higher education in Florida:1. Removal of neutral arbitration for personnel matters such as faculty evaluation, tenure, promotion, disciplinary action, and termination. Prior to the passage of SB266, faculty grievances could be heard by an independent arbitrator. Under SB266, all appeals will end with the university president. This change vastly increases the danger of PTR’s consequences (see Item 2 below) and altogether drastically changes how UFF-UF can enforce the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Legal challenges to the constitutionality and other aspects of this provision are underway.
2. Mandate to the Board of Governors (BoG) that oversees the state university system (SUS) to formulate a PTR regulation. According to SB266, this regulation must “require each tenured SUS faculty member to undergo a comprehensive PTR every 5 years” and “must address: accomplishments and productivity; assigned duties in research, teaching, and service; performance metrics, evaluations, and ratings; and recognition and compensation considerations, as well as improvement plans and consequences for underperformance.”
This provision of SB266 is mostly consistent with the 7-year Sustained Performance Evaluation process detailed in Article 18.8 of your CBA – save, of course, for its 5-year cycle. Unfortunately, the BoG went well beyond what SB266 mandated and drew up a significantly more draconian regulation that directly dictates the terms and conditions of our employment. In doing so, the BoG disregarded over 1,500 negative public comments – more than any BoG draft regulation has ever received, according to a trusted source.
3. State restriction of academically honest viewpoints in curriculum. SB266 also contains provisions that restrict instruction on certain topics and further seek to curtail faculty members’ academic freedom rights. This restriction has not been implemented so far, presumably because it runs afoul of the preliminary injunction (Pernell vs. BoG) on the so-called Stop Woke Act (HB7) of 2022. In the meantime, however, the state has channeled large sums toward promoting favored viewpoints.
4. Prohibition of state or federal funding for most DEI related programs. This provision of SB266 has, to the best of our knowledge, also not been implemented so far at UF. If anyone knows otherwise, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
In the months since the passage of SB266, the UF Board of Trustees (BoT) has applied, in part, the most draconian interpretation of the BoG’s PTR regulation in drafting the BoT PTR policy. Stating the need for strict compliance with the BoG regulation to ensure BoG approval and blessing of the policy, BoT has invited UFF-UF to bargain only the impacts of its policy upon terms and conditions of employemnt, under threat of unilateral imposition.
Your union has approached the BoT’s invitation with measured caution. While we are generally obliged to adhere to state law, constitutional provisions bar newly-enacted laws or regulations from immediately impairing existing contracts unless these laws or regulations pass stringent legal tests. Given that SB266 is currently facing challenges in the courts, and your current CBA remains in force until at least July 1, 2024, we have asserted our rights and grieved the BoT’s threat of unilateral imposition, but have not waived the right to bargain not only impact, but also the substance and evaluatory processes in the BoT’s proposed PTR policy, as they are integral to terms and conditions of employment and a mandatory subject of bargaining. In the meantime, your Bargaining Team and Article 6 Consultation Team are in the process of obtaining answers to myriad questions surrounding BoT’s proposed PTR policy.
The struggle around PTR is important in its own right. Tenure is, after all, our profession’s strongest academic freedom protection. But this fight is also about broader efforts to politicize higher education. At the heart of SB266 – and many other recent pieces of legislation – is the questionable claim that the ballot-box grants the governor, the legislature, and their appointees in the BoG and BoT top-down control of viewpoint in curriculum, and faculty actions on and off campus.
In fact, the people of Florida soundly rejected this ballot-box claim in 2002 when they approved Amendment 11 of the Florida Constitution. This amendment grants state universities institutional autonomy by creating the BoT’s and recognizes that freedom from political interference is crucial to excellence in higher education.
Your union is the only statewide entity in recent years that has consistently resisted top-down control of the SUS, upholding not only academic freedom, but also the principle that faculty expertise is crucial for making meaningful decisions about viewpoints in curriculum and about faculty competence.
For these reasons, the state legislature enacted SB256 in Spring 2023. This union-busting law aims to neutralize our union’s resistance to the state’s authoritarian meddling by making dues-collection immeasurably more difficult and requiring an arbitrary 60% membership threshold to preserve our CBA and bargaining rights. This law is being challenged in court as well.
Switch to eDues Before Urgent October 20th Deadline
While we await court decisions on the legal challenges to SB256 and SB266, the union has no choice except to drop from our membership rolls those who have not switched to eDues by October 20.
If you are a member who in the past paid your union dues via payroll deduction but you have not yet enrolled in eDues, the Membership Team can help you enroll or discuss other options for dues payment. Please contact them at email@example.com.
If you are not yet a member, you can join here.
Sign up for your union’s “Five to Survive” Campaign
You are the most effective advocate of union membership among your department colleagues. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to take on the challenge of recruiting 5 new members among your colleagues. By taking on this challenge, you will help us reach 60% membership in the 5 months remaining between now and potential decertification in early 2024 .
Enjoy our Community
Bring your questions, your ideas, as well as your friends and family to our Spooky Social at First Magnitude on Friday, October 13 starting at 4pm. Your first drink is on the union if you arrive before 7pm, but you can expect company until much later.
UF Works Because You Do,
Meera Sitharam, Chapter President