United Faculty of Florida, University of Florida Chapter, stands with other faculty, unions, professional organizations, and the AAUP* in protesting the decision of University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise to rescind the offer of a tenured faculty position to Professor Steven Salaita.
Professor Salaita was offered the position in American Indian Studies in October 2013 following a national search and peer evaluation of his scholarship. The administration’s action to rescind the offer in August 2014, after Prof. Salaita had resigned his tenured position at Virginia Tech, and just days before his classes were set to begin at UIUC, sets a dangerous precedent. This last-minute decision by Chancellor Wise to overturn the judgment of the hiring committee has never been explained. It is at the very least a violation of due process and the principles of shared governance.
The AAUP investigation on the Salaita-UIUC case: http://www.aaup.org/report/UIUC.
Since UFF-UF’s public statement, protests over UIUC’s violations of academic freedom and shared governance have spread: http://coreyrobin.com/2014/08/31/salaita-by-the-numbers-5-cancelled-lectures-3-votes-of-no-confidence-3849-boycotters-and-1-nyt-article/. Could a case such as Salaita’s happen at the University of Florida? More specifically, how does our status as a unionized faculty, protected by a legally-binding collective bargaining agreement, prevent the kinds of actions seen at UIUC? Here are some answers.
At UF, could an administrator unilaterally rescind an accepted job offer? UFF would contend that once a letter of offer is made, the hired person is in the bargaining unit. The processes for disciplining and dismissal, as spelled out in the contract (CBA) would then apply. If these processes were felt to be violated, then the employee could grieve the violation of the contract.
In what way does the UFF-UF CBA protect “academic freedom”? Chancellor Wise said academic freedom was a “bedrock principle” at UIUC. With the CBA, we not only have a statement as to the principles of academic freedom, we have an enforceable agreement. If an employee covered by the CBA feels that their academic freedom has been violated, it is subject to grievance and arbitration by an outside entity. That is, academic freedom is not unilaterally determined at by the administration.
In short: there is power in a CBA and power in our faculty union.
Susan Hegeman, UFF-UF President
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