Florida Legislative Session Update (Metrics Made Worse and Attacking Health Care)

Higher Education was at center stage this week in Senate interim committee meetings. The Legislature officially convenes the 2017 Legislative Session on Tuesday, March 7th.

On Monday, February 6, the Senate Education Committee passed SB 374 which has been dubbed the “College Competitiveness Act” by Senate leaders. According to Senate President Joe Negron’s press release, “Senate Bill 374 reinstates a statewide coordinating board for the Florida Community College System, tightens the community college bachelor degree approval process, expands 2+2 college-to-university partnerships, and clarifies responsibilities within Florida’s taxpayer-funded K-20 education system to avoid wasteful duplication of programs offered by state universities, community colleges, and technical centers.”

Clearly, SB 374, deemphasizes four-year programs at current state colleges. The bill would remove state colleges from the oversight of the State Board of Education and put them under a new State Board of Community Colleges. The bill will make 4-year baccalaureate degree programs a “secondary” mission of the colleges. The 254-page bill does not yet have a House companion bill.

Then on Wednesday, February 8, the Senate Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee voted 5-1 to support CS/SB 2 which has been titled the “Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act of 2017.” UFF has serious concerns as did several senators about possible unintended consequences of this legislation. They are as follows:

Metrics dealing with graduation rates will reduce access and not provide the support needed for eventual success.

In 2013, SB 1720 made remediation courses optional at the college level. However, “traditional students who decided not to take developmental or remedial courses, after being advised to do so, were more likely to fail college-level or gateway courses.” Further, “students who start credit-bearing courses without adequate preparation face long odds of graduating” (Inside Higher Ed, 2015). Therefore, the addition of metrics that deal with graduation rates may hinder student access to higher education if colleges have to push through students to meet those metrics.

Continue reading

American Universities Must Take a Stand

From The New York Times

February 8,, 2017

Leo Botstein

Not since the era of witch hunts and “red baiting” has the American university faced so great a threat from government. How is the university to function when a president’s administration blurs the distinction between fact and fiction by asserting the existence of “alternative facts”? How can the university turn a blind eye to what every historian knows to be a key instrument of modern authoritarian regimes: the capacity to dress falsehood up as truth and reject the fruits of reasoned argument, evidence and rigorous verification?

The atmosphere of suspicion and insecurity created by the undermining of truth provides the perfect environment for President Trump’s recent actions on immigration. The American university’s future, indeed its most fundamental reason for being, is imperiled by a government that constructs walls on the Mexican border, restricts Muslim immigrants and denigrates the idea of America as a destination for refugees.

Continue reading

Killing Tenure

from Inside Higher Ed

By Colleen Flaherty

Jan. 13, 2017

Lawmakers in two states this week introduced legislation that would eliminate tenure for public college and university professors. A bill in Missouri would end tenure for all new faculty hires starting in 2018 and require more student access to information about the job market for majors. Legislation in Iowa would end tenure even for those who already have it.

The bills, along with the recent gutting of tenure in Wisconsin and other events, have some worrying about a trend.

“These are serious attempts to undermine universities and the role of universities in society,” said Hans-Joerg Tiede, senior program officer for academic freedom, tenure and shared governance at the American Association of University Professors. “If they’re not directly coordinated, there’s a strong current going through all of them.”

Continue reading

Universities, colleges paint depressing picture of dealing with 10 percent cuts

[Preface: The War on Higher Education ignites the New Year: budget cuts announced in Florida along with pending anti-tenure legislation in the states of Missouri and Iowa. Legislators manufacture crises in higher education that further disenfranchise working-class students of color. Only through your faculty union can your collective voice be effectively asserted at the local, state, and federal levels to defend the right of an affordable and quality higher education for all.]

From Florida Politics

By Scott Powers, 1/26/2017

Asked to prepare for 10 percent budget cuts, Florida’s state university and college leaders pledged to try to avoid affecting students but told the House Subcommittee on Higher Education Appropriations Friday the impacts would still be profound.

“The target reductions are set at 10 percent for each entity,” Subcommittee Chairman Larry Ahern said after spelling out the challenges faced by the larger House Appropriations Committee of possible 10 percent budget cuts this year to deal with a $1.7 billion shortfall.

Continue reading

Nationwide, state budget cuts disproportionately hit low-income, minority college students

from PBS Newshour

BY JON MARCUS, THE HECHINGER REPORT  January 3, 2017 at 1:29 PM EST

States are disproportionately subsidizing schools whose students are wealthier and white, contributing to a widening wealth and educational achievement gap. Photo by Michaela Rehle/Reuters

When a state budget impasse drained money from public universities and colleges in Illinois beginning in 2015, some were forced to lay off hundreds of employees, shorten their semesters, even warn they might shut down. Enrollment plummeted. Credit ratings fell to junk status.

Chicago State University, for instance, which has a student body that is mainly black and Hispanic and drawn from its neighborhood on the city’s South Side, cut 300 workers from its payroll and — its very future in limbo — managed to attract fewer than 100 new freshmen in the fall.

The flagship University of Illinois, far more of whose students are white and wealthier, was not immune from the predicament. But with cash reserves to tap, and an increase in enrollment that brought in more tuition revenue, it has suffered a far less drastic impact from the still-ongoing budget crisis.

Continue reading

Happy Hour

Happy New Year and welcome back to reality – FAU style!

To help you get your mind right for the new semester, UFF-FAU invites to our Happy Hour, Friday Jan 13th at The Irishmen in Boca (1745 NW Boca Raton Blvd). Starts at 4 PM. happy-hour

Come and make new friends or catch up with old ones.

 

Bob Zoeller

UFF-FAU Chapter President

The Unravelling of College Football Starts With All These Empty Stadiums

from Bloomberg News

By  Eben Novy-Williams

Jan. 3, 2017

The business model of college football, long a financial boon to universities, is breaking down. A weeklong look at the pressures of rising costs, falling revenue and what, if anything, universities can do about it. 

On a warm November Saturday in Boca Raton, 5,843 people turned out to see Florida Atlantic University play its final home football game of the year. With 80 percent of the seats empty, it was the Owls’ smallest audience since the team jumped to college football’s top division in 2005.

A week later and a world away, the Florida State Seminoles played their last home game in front of a crowd of more than 78,000. The student section alone had three times as many fans as FAU had in its whole stadium.

With the fanfare building for the College Football Championship on Monday, it’s hard to remember that packed stadiums like Florida State’s are the exception. FAU’s empty stands are the rule, and lackluster ticket sales are starting to take a financial toll on programs across the country.

Continue reading

On Self-Inflicted Wounds: Precarious Faculty and Academic Freedom

From Remaking the University (blog)

By Christopher Newfield and Michael Meranze

Since the election there has been much discussion of higher education’s self-inflicted wounds. Mark Lilla and Nicholas Kristof, have trotted out the usual cherry-picked examples of alleged intolerance on (mostly elite) campuses as signs that universities exist at a distance from the real world.  Both have ignored the realities of life for most students and faculty, a point that shouldn’t surprise us I suppose.  After all they are both locked into the New York media bubble whose gaze seems to extend all the way from Cambridge to Washington D.C.  These screeds would simply be unhelpful and annoying if they didn’t serve to distract attention from more fundamental problems facing higher education today. For it is time for faculty and others committed to the future of universities and colleges to think more clearly about what needs to be changed in our own self-organization as we move forward.

One of the most glaring, if also most often ignored in public debate, is the working conditions of precarious faculty and its relationship to questions of academic freedom.  It is no secret that the large majority of teaching in colleges and universities is done by contingent labor (either graduate students or non-tenure track faculty).  Yet as both Bob Samuels and Lee Kottner have recently pointed out, the particular threats that contingency poses to academic freedom has been largely ignored.  Yet there can be little question that it is contingent faculty, not tenure track, let alone tenured, faculty who face the greatest dangers regarding their freedom to teach and to write.  After all, the very point of hiring contingent faculty is to preclude obligations to ensure them long-term or full-time employment.

Continue reading

Editorial: Keep guns off college campuses

[Preface: UFF President Jennifer Profitt has continuously led the charge against guns on campus and will continue to do so]

from The Gainsville Sun

By Nathan Crabbe

College campuses are no places for guns. State university presidents, faculty members and chiefs of police tend to agree, as do the vast majority of Floridians.

Yet campus-carry proponents are again trying to force the issue, despite such legislation being defeated in the past two sessions. One bill introduced for the upcoming session would allow guns to be openly carried on college and university campuses as well as airport passenger terminals, K-12 schools, legislative meetings and local government meetings.

Advocates for gun rights and gun control should be able to find common ground in agreeing that these measures go too far. After all, nearly three-quarters of Floridians oppose allowing concealed weapons to be carried on college campuses, according to last year’s USF-Nielsen Sunshine State Survey.

Continue reading

Meaningless metrics mask troublesome trends in higher education

from Florida Politics

By Florence Snyder

Florida changes higher education funding formulas nearly as often as Kardashians change clothes. At the Department of Making Things Incomprehensible, Metrics Mavens have their hands full monkeying around with the Ten Metrics that determine which universities get the rich gravy, and which get the thin gruel.

Florida’s Ten Metrics appear to have been written by the folks who write insurance policies, credit card contracts and the scoring system for figure skating. We could get the same results cheaper with an actual tribe of monkeys throwing stuff against the wall.

For university boards of trustees, The Metrics may as well have been brought down from Mount Sinai by Moses himself. They are carved in stone, at least for the current budget cycle.

Continue reading