BARGAINING UPDATE – MARCH 18, 2022

Dear Colleagues,  

Bargaining season is upon us, and the BOT and UFF teams met on Wednesday to begin exchanging proposals. The teams presented two articles each. 

The first one on the table was UFF-FSU’s expansion of language in Article 5 (Academic Freedom), where we tightened up language that clarifies that academic freedom principles apply to faculty in matters inside their area of scholarly expertise, not just outside it.   

The BOT team proposed changes to Article 8 (Appointments), in particular, reducing the 4-year contracts for Specialized Faculty in the top rank to 3 years and providing for annual contract renewal. We note that this group—faculty in the top SF rank—typically have been at FSU for at least 10 years and have been promoted twice.  Perhaps this record of solid performance for many years deserves the courtesy of 4-year contracts and a 2-year renewal period!  It has worked well for many years. The BOT also proposed some other small changes to this article. 

The UFF team was up next and presented a proposal on Article 18 (Inventions and Works).  Most of our changes seem non-controversial, in that they simply improve the article’s organizational structure (for example, by putting the definition of “University Support” at the beginning rather than embedded in a subsection).  A substantive change involves removing the distinction between the treatment of “works” and “inventions” owned by the University.  Thus, whereas in the current contract a faculty member who creates a work receives 50% of the royalties and a faculty member who creates an invention receives 40% (after the first $10,000), under this proposal both would receive 60%. We pointed out that the current distribution system leaves many faculty feeling disincentivized.  

The final article was the BOT’s proposal for Article 19 (Conflict of Interest), which covers two substantive areas.  The first is reporting outside activities and the meaning of “conflict of interest.” It may be a bit early to report on their proposal, as the words they proposed turned out to not be what they meant.  For example, when we balked at the requirement for faculty to reveal their “financial interests,” which “includes anything of value other than that provided directly by the University,” saying that our retirement-account dividends weren’t the University’s business, it turns out that they didn’t mean that at all. Nor does the requirement to report “a description of the item of value and the name of the entity or the individual providing the item of value” really mean that a faculty member who also acts as a counselor must reveal the names of clients. More to come once we gain clarity.  

More worrisome at this point is their proposed language defining conflict of interest:  “any situation in which regard for a private interest of the faculty member tends to lead to disregard of a public duty or the public interests of the University.”  To the BOT’s credit, they removed current language that includes “the State of Florida” in that list, but we are troubled by the blurriness of “tends to,” which seems to bear no relation to any actual action a faculty member engages in.  

The second substantive area of the Conflict of Interest article involves consensual sexual relationships with students.  The BOT proposes striking most of the language governing these relationships (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 blanket prohibition against “sexual or romantic advances” and “sexual or romantic relationships.”  

What is the definition of a romantic relationship?  The BOT proposes this: “Intimate associations primarily characterized by the expectation of affectional involvement and/or demonstrates the desire to engage in sexualized relations whether emotional or physical.” Even if you force the sentence to parse by changing “demonstrates” to “the demonstration of,” the problems with the sentence loom large.  Most disturbing is the fact that a relationship is made up of two people, but this language is about a relationship, not a person.  What if one party (say a student) believes the other is engaged in “affectional involvement” but the other party (say a faculty member) feels nothing of the sort and is not even aware that a possible emotional engagement in the air?  Presumably the party who is not exquisitely attuned to the other party’s fantasy life will be disciplined, up to and including termination.  

We explained that we are not minimizing the damage caused by sexual harassment; indeed, we find the practice abhorrent and strongly support the provisions in Article 6 (nondiscrimination) that prohibit it and sanction faculty who engage in it.  But the relationships described in Article 19 are consensual and could be between people in different departments who have no supervisory or evaluative relationship within FSU.   

Despite disagreements, the meeting was cordial.  Indeed, an impartial observer might even characterize it as having elements of affectional involvement.  

The next bargaining session is scheduled for Wed., March 30, 2:00-5:00.  

Bargaining sessions are open to faculty, and we appreciate having you!  Meetings are face-to-face at the FSU Training Center (493 Stadium Drive), and we were pleased that faculty showed up at the session. About a dozen faculty attended via Zoom instead and said it worked well.  If you would like to attend remotely please respond to this message and we’ll 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 

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