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

UFF-FSU and FSU/GAU statement on the ICE ruling pertaining to International Students

Last Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued new federal guidelines barring international students from staying in the United States if they attend online-only courses this fall. The guidelines mandate that any international students who are enrolled in online-only courses either transfer to in-person courses or risk “immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.”

This policy is not motivated by concern for our students, but rather by political considerations. It is reckless, guileless, and careless. It will endanger the physical safety and well-being of not only our international students but also our domestic students if classes are required to be in-person this fall. 

Florida State University has demonstrated throughout this crisis that they are leaders in preserving student, faculty, and staff safety. If this policy is left unchallenged, many of our international students will be forced to discontinue their education at FSU. International students who teach classes, run labs, grade papers, and collaborate with faculty on important research would be eliminated. With the fall schedule already in place, the loss of these students would be an administrative nightmare. 

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UFF-FSU’s statement on health care for transgender individuals

We would like to state our support for FSU’s transgender employees in their pursuit of healthcare coverage as it pertains to their medical needs. “Transgender” includes people who are transsex and/or gender nonbinary. Currently, health insurance offered to employees, as regulated by the Florida Department of Management Services, discriminates against transgender personnel. The Supreme Court’s recent ruling confirms that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects gay, lesbian, and transgender employees from discrimination based on sex. The ruling makes it clear that FSU is responsible for mitigating any discrimination against its employees. We urge FSU’s administration to remedy this issue as expediently as possible by providing non-discriminatory health insurance coverage for transgender employees.  

UFF Statement on the death of George Floyd

George Floyd.  Ahmaud Aubery.  Breonna Taylor.   One more family devastated.  One more child without a parent.   The list goes on and on, with incidents almost too frequent to be reported.   Their crime was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time… and to be Black.  The United Faculty of Florida strongly condemns not only the brutal murder of George Floyd, but the systemic racism that tries to excuse this and countless other acts of violence by law enforcement against Black Americans.    

In a nation that boasts of guaranteeing its citizens life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, Black Americans are too often denied basic human rights that many of us take for granted.   They can’t jog without worrying about being shot.   They can’t sleep without worrying about being killed.  They can’t even go bird watching in a public park without being threatened.

No one should be afraid to live their lives as they choose or to seek help from police because of their skin color.  A mother shouldn’t be worried about her teenager because he wants to spend time in public with his friends.  Fathers should not have to see murders on live TV, and project that nightmare onto their own children.  Families should not have to bury their loved ones before they have graduated from high school or known the joy of holding a grandchild.

At UFF, we are committed to representing a diverse membership.  We cherish that diversity.  We only hope that we can understand the pain, anger and the outrage that these continued atrocities have produced.   We stand with the thousands who have vocally and peacefully taken to the streets of our country.   We stand with those who are the victims of this violence.  We stand with those who are no longer requesting, but demanding, meaningful change.

The rage coursing through the streets of Minneapolis and other cities is born from hundreds of years of prejudice played out as personal discrimination or legal bias.  We oppose any form of violence, but cannot delude ourselves into believing that the responsibility lies only with others.  It also lies within ourselves.  Not one of us should feel that we are untouched by the effects of the pernicious disease of racism.  Recent events only underscore this fact.  The disproportionate mortality rate of the COVID virus on communities of color is only one more indication of its tragic and enduring legacy.  We call upon our members, families, colleges, and communities to stand with us against racism in all its forms.

We also call upon Law Enforcement, and, particularly, our union sisters and brothers in Law Enforcement, to examine their contracts and policies to ensure that they are written in ways that hold those charged with keeping the peace accountable for their actions.   We cannot claim to be a state which prizes equality so long as we have a criminal justice system that disproportionately impacts marginalized communities.   

Those endangered by racism are our members and colleagues, families and friends, students and former students.   It is critical at this time that we not only speak out, but live out the values that we claim to cherish.  Demands for respect, civility, diversity, equality, and inclusion cannot just be empty words shouted in the heat of the moment. We must speak up and speak out whenever we witness hatred, racism or injustice, however small or subtle it might be.  This must be a part of what we do every minute of the day in both our personal and professional lives.  

In our role as educators, researchers, and mentors, we must prepare those we teach to commit to vigorous and wholehearted participation in our democracy.  An honest civic discourse cannot and may not obscure the truth.  This cannot be “normal”.  The killings must stop.  The system must change.  We all must work together to build a just society, where life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are guaranteed for each and every one us,wherever we were born, whomever we love, and whatever the color of our skin.

In solidarity,

Matthew Lata, President, UFF/FSU Chapter,

Approved by the UFF Steering Committee

February 2018 Consultation Minutes

The final draft of minutes from our February consultation can be found through the link below.

We do four of these a year with upper level Administration.  Two of them include President Thrasher.

They are intended to provide a relaxed forum to discuss issues of interest to faculty.   All are encouraged

to contact UFF if you have something you feel needs to be discussed.

2.21.18 Consultation Minutes