Bargaining Update – May 24, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

The BOT and UFF teams met on Wednesday, May 19, and the Administration presented its counter-proposals on Article 19 (Conflict of Interest/Outside Activity) and Article 24 (Benefits).

The BOT is proposing several changes to Article 19. A key one is changing the reporting requirement from this: “A faculty member who plans or proposes to engage in any outside activity which the faculty member should reasonably conclude may create a conflict of interest, or in any outside compensated professional activity, shall report to the faculty member’s supervisor, in writing, the details of such proposed activity prior to engaging therein” (emphasis added).

To this: “A faculty member who proposes to engage in any outside activity shall report to the faculty member’s supervisor, in writing, the details of such proposed activity prior to engaging.”

Given that the definition of outside activity includes activities, compensated or uncompensated, that aren’t in the AOR, the plain meaning of the new language is that faculty should report their PTA activities, their dog-walking, and the hours they log at the gym so that the University may grant approval or not. The BOT teams said that was not the intent, and it is possible that the teams can arrive at clearer language about what constitutes a reportable activity. What of the BOT’s removal of the “faculty member’s reasonable conclusion” standard for reporting? The BOT team explained that the problem with relying on a faculty member drawing a reasonable conclusion is that there is a natural tendency to see things in a self-serving way, and so it is better to have a neutral party decide whether or not a conflict is present. We believe that when it comes to uncompensated activities outside the AOR, trusting faculty’s judgment is still a fine method for determination.

The BOT changes to the section on sexual relationships with students center on adding a definition of “romantic relationships” and prohibiting these and sexual relationships with undergraduates anywhere in the University, even when no power relations are present.

The BOT proposed this definition of romantic relationships:

“Romantic relationship” is defined as intimate associations primarily characterized by the expectation of affectional involvement to include an exchange of telephone calls, pictures, letters, greeting cards, or any other form of oral or written communication which expresses feelings or thoughts of affection or the desire to engage in a relationship whether emotional or physical.”

This definition precludes behaviors that constitute normal student-faculty interactions, where affection suffuses much of what we do. Indeed, teaching-award winners are noted for their caring and their ability to make students feel like they matter. Phone calls, pictures, and expressions of affection–far from things to ban–constitute the warmth that helps explain why FSU excels in retaining students. The University Counseling Service encourages us to be allies with LGBTQ students and to create safe spaces, which seems to acknowledge that emotions are part of the picture. Our campus would be an icy place indeed if we were to curtail affectional engagement with students.

We understand the difficulty of trying to define romance; indeed, scholars and poets have been trying to do so for thousands years without agreement. This difficulty is one reason it does not belong in the contract.

New language also proposes prohibiting sexual and romantic relationships between faculty and undergraduate students. We understand the impetus to protect our students from sexual harassment and misconduct, and we strongly support the policies forbidding them, including the stipulation in this article that disallows sexual relationships when a supervisory or evaluative component is present. Hence, predatory relationships are already banned. What is to be gained by banning loving relationships that develop between consenting adults at meetings organized around shared concerns–say, the environment–that have nothing to do with the University?

Regarding our “tapered employment” proposal in the Benefits article, the BOT’s counter provides no improvements to the existing policy that already allows faculty, with approval, to reduce their FTE and retain full health-insurance benefits as long as they don’t go below 75% of their FTE. The BOT is also unwilling to put the Tuition Scholarship for Spouses and Dependents in the CBA, preferring to keep it as a Memorandum of Understanding, partly because a new president will be coming in. To us, the presidential turnover is an argument in favor of solidifying a faculty benefit rather than an argument for delaying.

The next bargaining session is scheduled for Wed., May 26, 2:00-5:00.

Bargaining sessions are open to faculty, and negotiations in the past have benefited from faculty attendance. There is definitely strength in numbers, and we appreciate having you! If you would like to attend, please respond to this message and we will send you the Zoom link.

Regular updates can be found at our webpage: http://uff-fsu.org/

The key to a strong Collective Bargaining Agreement is a strong membership base, so if you are not a member, please join! There has never been a more important time for us to stand together. http://uff-fsu.org/wp/join/

All best,

Irene Padavic and Scott Hannahs, Co-Chief Negotiators, UFF-FSU

Bargaining Update – May 17, 2021

COVID Impact Bargaining Update

Dear Colleagues,

The BOT and UFF have come to agreement on a new Covid-19 Memorandum of Understanding to cover the period ending August 6, 2021.  The particulars are similar to those in the agreement that covered Spring 2021.  Thus, faculty still may request remote assignments, course content and course delivery materials will still be treated like any other faculty-created materials, SPCI will be administered, and the impact of the pandemic on research will be considered in evaluations through 2023.

Some differences also appear. While the default for service assignments is still that they may be conducted remotely, the Dean can specify they be conducted in person.  And while Assistant Professors employed in Spring 2020 are automatically granted a tenure-clock extension, those hired later must request an extension. In those cases, the MOU specifies that the pandemic constitutes a “personal qualifying circumstance” that applies to the provision in 15.2(f)4: “Extension of Tenure-Earning Period for Personal Circumstances.  . . . A faculty member may request an extension of one year from the chair with the approval of the president and dean or representative due to qualifying personal circumstances, before being considered for tenure.”

We are engaging in regular bargaining Wednesday this week from 2:00 to 5:00, and we would be pleased to have you join us.  Just respond to this note and we’ll send you the Zoom link.

As always, our strength in bargaining depends on our numbers.  If you are a member, thank you; it you are not, please join!  You can find the form here.

All best,
Irene Padavic and Scott Hannahs
Co-Chief Negotiators, UFF-FSU

Statement by UFF/FSU and GAU-FSU on the Presidential Search

The United Faculty of Florida has not endorsed any candidate for President of FSU.   However, we know that the person chosen will be the public face of the University.   He or she will establish the tone and content of discourse on our campus.  We need a President with a demonstrated commitment to public education.   We need a President who can work with us and who supports public employees’ efforts to organize and advocate.   We need a President who understands academia and will commit to providing a safe, supportive, and open environment for faculty and graduate assistants as we serve our students.  And, yes, our new President must be able to raise funds and work with the Legislature and the business community to move our University forward.

Most of the nine final candidates for this position meet these criteria.  We are concerned, though, that one of the applicants, our current State Commissioner of Education, is being promoted for the wrong reasons.   These appear to be political and not because he has any history of supporting public education, experience with higher education, or any connection to Florida State.  Further, the Commissioner’s seat on the Board of Governors, which oversees the entire process, implies a conflict of interest.  All of this gives cause for great concern both as regards this process and FSU’s national reputation.   Finally, we repudiate quotes used to support his candidacy attributed to a former Florida Education Association officer.

The process has been flawed from the beginning.   First, the Florida Legislature attempted to pass a bill (SB220) exempting most of the search process from public scrutiny as required by the Sunshine Laws.   UFF and our allies fought throughout the Legislative Session to stop this bill and did in fact succeed in keeping the search process open.  The Search Committee then waited to release applicant information until less than a day before selecting finalists to be interviewed.  Stakeholders had no time to evaluate the candidates and provide informed comment.   Unfortunately, the University has announced that Search Committee meetings with the finalists will not be live-streamed and that in-person attendance will be strictly limited.   Once again, this limits stakeholders’ ability to provide input and violates the spirit of the Sunshine Laws.   And the Southern Association of Colleges, our accrediting body, has sent our Board of Governors a letter warning about the Commissioner’s conflicts of interest and the politicization of the search process.   This poses an enormous risk to the University.  

Again, no one at UFF has endorsed the Commissioner.   Given the strength of the candidate pool, handing the job to a political appointee with no experience in university administration and a history of hostility to public education risks doing a tremendous disservice to the entire FSU community.  We call upon the Search Committee and the Board of Trustees to make a reasoned and informed decision based on the candidates’ histories, experience, and public statements.   Our University has made great progress over the last decade.   Please keep us on this path to success.

In solidarity,

Matthew Lata, President, UFF/FSU Chapter

Ben Serber, President, FSU-GAU

Bargaining Update – April 29, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

The BOT and UFF teams met on Wednesday to exchange counter-proposals.  

The UFF opened the session by presenting a counter-proposal on Article 8 (Appointment)While we are unwilling to reduce the 4-year contracts for Specialized Faculty in the top rank or make it easier to curtail their employment, we made a counter-proposal on limiting the summer-teaching compensation for highly-paid faculty.  In our counter, if a College imposes a cap, it must apply to all departments in the College and would not be below 125% of the average compensation rate for all faculty members with teaching responsibilities in each department.  This language is an improvement on the BOT’s original proposal by setting the cap at 125% rather than 100% and by not allowing deans to cherry-pick which departments must implement caps and which will be spared.  The vast majority of faculty would see no diminution in their summer pay.

The UFF then presented a counter-proposal on Article 19 (Conflict of Interest).  Whereas the BOT proposal prohibits all sexual or “romantic” relationships between faculty and students anywhere in the University, we proposed restricting sexual relationships when both parties are in the same department, even if the faculty member has no supervisory or evaluative role.  The logic is that the respect and trust accorded faculty members by students, as well as the power exercised by the faculty members in their department role, render consent suspect. Existing provisions restricting cross-department relationships in cases where a faculty member has supervisory or evaluative authority over a student would remain in place. We also said that we cannot agree to prohibiting romantic relationships in the absence of a definition, and we looked forward to hearing about examples from case precedent of such language, which the BOT team had said they would bring to this meeting.

For their part, the BOT had no such language to present, nor did they have responses to our proposals seeking better paid parental leave, a new paid family leave, and the instantiation of the Spousal and Dependent Scholarship Program into the contract.  Ditto on a counter-proposal on our “tapered employment” proposal.

The BOT team had, however, created a chart depicting their estimate of the cost of implementing the UFF’s proposed tapered employment program. The UFF questioned the assumptions underlying the chart and created an alternative one that depicted a far lower cost. We also presented data from UWF, where the University is picking up the health care costs of faculty who moved into phased retirement. The BOT team said they would duly consider the alternative chart and noted that, as of yet, the UWF program has gotten few takers.

The session concluded with the UFF team stating that the counter-proposals we offered are contingent on seeing some corresponding positive movement on the proposals we put forward.

The next bargaining session is scheduled for Wed., May 19, 2:00-5:00.

For as long as faculty have bargaining rights, we will continue to press for faculty interests.

Bargaining sessions are open to faculty, and negotiations in the past have benefited from faculty attendance. There is definitely strength in numbers, and we appreciate having you! If you would like to attend, please respond to this message and we will send you the Zoom link.

Regular updates can be found at our webpage:  http://uff-fsu.org/

The key to a strong Collective Bargaining Agreement is a strong membership base, so if you are not a member, please join! There has never been a more important time for us to stand together.  http://uff-fsu.org/wp/join/

All best,

Irene Padavic and Scott Hannahs, Co-Chief Negotiators, UFF-FSU

Bargaining Update – April 16, 2021

Dear Colleagues,  

The BOT and UFF teams met on Wednesday to exchange proposals. The UFF team began with a preamble about how our proposals offer the Administration the chance to live up to its designation as an Age-Friendly University, and we proceeded to offer details. 

The first example is in Article 17 (Leaves), where we propose a new category—paid family leave—offering six months of paid leave to care for a sick family member. This addition would acknowledge the need that manyfaculty face to provide care throughout the life course rather than just at its beginning. We also proposed improvements to the existing paid parental leave program:  The first allows two faculty parents to take six months paid leave for the same birth or adoption event, and the second allows a 6-month paid parental leave to be broken into two segments, creating the possibility of coverage for two children over the course of employment.  

The UFF also pursued its age-friendly agenda in Article 24 (Benefits). We present the option of “tapered employment,” whereby faculty age 60 and above can move into part-time status while retaining health benefits.  We also proposed permanently including the Tuition Scholarship for Spouses and Dependents in the Contract rather than maintaining it as an annual Memorandum of Understanding.   

The BOT also presented proposals. In Article 8 (Appointments) the BOT proposed three changes. The first would allow a dean to limit pay for summer teaching to no more than the average compensation rate for all faculty members with teaching responsibilities in a department.  The next would reduce the 4-year contracts for Specialized Faculty in the top rank to 3 years, and a third would change the conditions for the curtailment of employment for Specialized Faculty.  

In Article 19 (Conflict of Interest), the BOT proposed striking most of the language governing sexual relationships with students (e.g., the requirement to end any situation involving supervision/evaluation and the requirement to disclose the relationship to a supervisor) and replacing it with a statement saying that “there shall be no sexual or romantic relationships between faculty members and students.”  We asked how they would define a romantic relationship, and what would happen in cases where the parties disagreed, and they said would bring clarifying language to our next meeting. The proposal includes a provision for pre-existing romantic or sexual relationships.  

The next bargaining session is scheduled for Wed., April 28, 2:00-5:00.  

For as long as faculty have bargaining rights, we will continue to press for faculty interests. 

Bargaining sessions are open to faculty, and negotiations in the past have benefited from faculty attendance. There is definitely strength in numbers, and we appreciate having you! If you would like to attend, please respond to this message and we will send you the Zoom link. 

Regular updates can be found at our webpage:  http://uff-fsu.org/ 

The key to a strong Collective Bargaining Agreement is a strong membership base, so if you are not a member, please join! There has never been a more important time for us to stand together.  http://uff-fsu.org/wp/join/ 

All best, 

Irene Padavic and Scott Hannahs, Co-Chief Negotiators, UFF-FSU