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: https://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. https://uff-fsu.org/wp/join/

All best,

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

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