Authority Requires Mutual Respect

July 17, 2009
Florida’s State University System has a new Chancellor: FAU President Frank Brogan. The Board of Governors selection, however, suggests the body’s limited regard for the public institutions they oversee. Over the past several months former lieutenant governor Brogan and the FAU Board of Trustees, which consists almost solely of political appointees, have done a great deal to exhibit their sheer contempt for FAU faculty members. After UFF-FAU won a recommendation for a minimum 2.5% salary increase from an objective third party–PERC Special Magistrate Joseph Schneider–Brogan’s BOT told the faculty, “The ruling didn’t go our way so we’re not going to play by the rules. Professors will thus take the 1% salary increase we originally proposed.”  Mind you, the decision the BOT spurned was the result of an impasse process the BOT’ bargaining team sought in the first place, and was forced on faculty just a few months after Boss Brogan gave his personal staff raises of 10-15% each.

If this wasn’t proof enough of Brogan and the BOT’s disregard of faculty, the second shoe to drop involved the termination of tenured faculty in the College of Engineering after a  reorganization process that barely veiled the targeting of Engineering faculty with tenure. This action has served to intimidate all faculty at FAU from taking issue with administrative policies, a common practice of faculty governance that is in the very spirit of university life. After all, a university’s administration is supposed to support the teaching and research mission that faculty carry out. At FAU the reverse is the case: Faculty have been made to feel as if they must walk around on egg shells to keep from raising the ire of certain administrators and risk being targeted for elimination themselves. A similarly reverse dynamic is on display at BOT meetings over the past six years, where BOT members have appeared to vigorously agree with and cater to Brogan’s every whim instead of providing administrative oversight and guidance.

Brogan and the FAU BOT have wielded their power in a reckless manner that would be expected far more so from corporate chieftains than an assembly of professionals entrusted with the oversight of a public institution of higher learning. As Brogan moves on to his post overseeing the SUS, BOT members and administrators would be well served to distinguish between power and authority.  Brogan has brandished his power by commanding administrators to carry out dubious practices, such as bad faith collective bargaining and layoffs of tenured faculty–practices that administrators with some measure of professional integrity would have condemned or refused to partake in.  These actions resulted in administrators and the BOT squandering the limited authority they may have accumulated in the eyes of faculty over the past several years because authority, unlike power, must be earned through mutual respect.

In solidarity,
James Tracy
UFF-FAU President