Brogan’s Missive Tells Just One Side of Story

In an August 3 letter to Governor Charlie Crist seeking to dismiss UFF’s concerns with the layoffs of five tenured faculty members in FAU’s College of Engineering, President Frank Brogan appears to have glossed over some very important elements of these terminations, among them the fact that the Collective Bargaining Agreement between UFF-FAU and the FAU Board of Trustees requires one academic year’s notice in such situations.  In his letter to Crist, Brogan notes how at a June (17) Board of Trustees meeting

We struggled to protect the academic core of the institution so that our students and faculty would be least impacted.  Like so many, we had to make tough decisions to balance our budget, trying to impact a limited number of faculty positions.  During that BOT meeting, it was made clear that we were committed to working to find placement for these faculty elsewhere in the University where practicable.

In fact, when Brogan and the FAU Administration issued layoff notices to five College of Engineering faculty members on May 29 it committed an F-Troop style blunder in requiring that the professors vacate their offices by August 8, a move it sought to rescind a few weeks later to which Brogan refers. Further, a “reorganization” of the College of Engineering was conducted by its dean, Karl Stevens, without faculty input in an apparent attempt to bypass legitimate faculty governance procedures and a CBA provision that mandates a seniority process in the event of layoffs. This reorganization, which carefully created “functional units” to cordon off faculty members targeted for layoff, was on the drawing board months in advance. This was not related to budgetary concerns but rather to the administration’s desire to reorganize the university which later donned the title, “Project Vision” (a scheme the administration has of late fallen curiously silent on). Indeed, FAU cannot claim financial urgency as it has significant financial reserves to address budgetary shortfalls which could be easily tapped if the administration and BOT deem it appropriate. Further, the administration has accepted over $12 million in stimulus money into its $542 million budget for 2009-10–federal funds that are expressly intended to prevent layoffs.

What is of additional concern to UFF-FAU is the fact that in his August 3 letter Brogan appears to take credit for resolving the faculty terminations he oversaw by advocating to undertake the process already required in the CBA–a full year’s notice in the event of layoff.

From the outset, University leadership has been in constant dialogue with the affected faculty members in an effort to find resolution. In fact, as soon [as] it became feasible, all five faculty members were offered an extension of their layoff notice period with assignments in other academic units for the entire 2009-10 academic year.  We are now exploring all avenues to determine if these assignments can extend past this academic year.

Yet not only was FAU the sole SUS institution to terminate tenured faculty, these faculty members, all of whom have at least fifteen years of service to the University, were not offered their tenured positions back, but rather positions in other academic departments and colleges in the University where they may not actually be trained or qualified to teach. The professors, who were all put in the “Undergraduate Teaching” functional unit created by Dean Stevens in lieu of a genuine layoff unit, might also be reabsorbed into such an area devoted to undergraduate instruction since numerous Engineering classes slated for the Fall 2009 have no assigned instructors (see below). Although this may not be an immediate concern to Mr. Brogan, it constitutes a profound disservice not only to these wronged faculty who were once promised careers and livelihoods at FAU, but more importantly to the students they might have served and the University’s broader public service mission.

Fall 2009 College of Engineering Undergraduate Classes Lacking Instructors (July 31, 2009)

Mechanical Engineering Dept.

EGN 1002 (two sections) 81 students
EML 3100, 23 students
EML 4534, 29 students

Civil Engineering Dept. :

CGN2327 – 2 sections – 59 students

Computer Science and Engineering Dept.

COP2220 – 4 sections – 90 students
COT3002L – 5 sections – 66 students

Electrical Engineering Dept.

EEL2161 – 36 students
EEL4521L – 7 students
EEL4746L – 13 students

Ocean Engineering Dept.

OCE2001- 2 sections – 122 students