January 6, 2015
Dear President Fuchs,
On behalf of the UF Chapter of United Faculty of Florida, I congratulate you on your appointment and warmly welcome you to the faculty and the University of Florida.
UFF is the designated collective bargaining representative of approximately 1600 faculty employees of the University of Florida. Our union was founded in the era of the civil rights movement, when faculty banded together to protect academic freedom for all members of our campus community regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. Since winning our first collective bargaining agreement in 1976, we have represented the needs, interests, and rights of UF faculty on campus and in the state legislature. As faculty and as union members, we share your desire to enhance the University of Florida’s reputation as a global leader in teaching and research. Moreover, we know you understand that academic freedom, shared governance, and a superior working climate are bedrock conditions for achieving this. Therefore, we look forward to meaningful cooperation and collaboration with you in the coming years.
As you have accurately noted, this university is poised at a moment of extraordinary opportunity, represented by our status as a preeminent university in the state. But we face a significant challenge: developing and retaining the very faculty who brought us to that status, as well as those recently hired in the preeminence hiring initiative. Over the last few years, many faculty members have become demoralized, and they are concerned about a number of important issues. These include a neglect of core teaching and research areas, a breakdown of shared governance, and a lack of administrative accountability. We know about these concerns–and others–because for the last two years UFF-UF has conducted climate surveys of the faculty. I encourage you to read the results of these, which you can find at: https://uff-uf.org/2014-faculty-climate-survey-completed/.
At our Fall 2014 membership meeting, UFF members discussed the various issues facing faculty and the university. As expected, much of our talk echoed the findings of the climate surveys. But other issues came to light as well, which we urge you to consider as you learn more about UF. First, we believe that in recent years the liberal arts curriculum and many of its core departments and programs have been seriously depleted and deemphasized, to the detriment of the entire university. Second, we are concerned about the extraordinary growth of administrative positions and the power vested in them. Specifically, we are alarmed to see administrators making unilateral decisions about hiring, evaluating, and promoting faculty, as well as shaping research agendas. These are areas that faculty should control, for self-evident reasons of expertise, quality, and academic freedom. Third, we must improve the climate on campus for minority and international students. And finally, we urge you to work with our counterparts in the graduate teaching and research assistants’ union (Graduate Assistants United) to make UF more like its peer institutions by eliminating fees for all graduate employees.
The faculty members of UFF are engaged with and deeply committed to this university, its mission, and its students. I would be delighted to speak with you in person about UFF, our concerns, and our plans. Additionally, UFF stands ready to arrange an event at which you could address our membership and others in our collective bargaining unit.
Professor Susan Hegeman
President, UF Chapter of United Faculty of Florida