[UFF Preface: The American Association of University Professors allies with your union and our national affiliates, NEA and AFT, on virtually all issues. The whole country is watching as the Florida Legislature attempts to undermine academic freedom. As the article indicates, UFF strongly opposes House Bill 839, and the union has collected petition signatures at universities and colleges all over Florida. Our UFF-FAU chapter collected signatures on this and other issues on “Red for Ed” Wednesday, April 17. You can still write your state Representative on this and other issues before the legislative session closes.]
from Academe Blog HANK REICHMAN
Last year the AAUP’s Committee on Government Relations released a report, “Campus Free-Speech Legislation: History, Progress, and Problems,” which concluded that campus free-speech laws and academic freedom are “false friends.” Nevertheless, such legislation continues to advance in several states. Especially troubling is a proposal that has moved out of committee in the Florida House of Representatives that would require the state’s universities, and if an amendment passes its community colleges, to conduct annual “viewpoint diversity” surveys. Specifically, House Bill 839 states: “Each institution shall conduct an annual survey of students, faculty, and administrators that assesses the extent to which competing ideas, perspectives, and claims of truth are presented and members of the university community feel safe and supported in exploring and articulating their beliefs and viewpoints on campus and in the classroom.”
The proposal poses a direct and serious threat to academic freedom in the state. The senate of the United Faculty of Florida, the union representing faculty in the state’s universities, voted unanimously in February to oppose the survey.
“I shouldn’t be forced to tell the state of Florida how I feel about certain political matters,” said Florida State University professor and UFF member Matthew Lata. He raised concerns about whether survey results would prompt the firing of liberals or conservatives in an attempt to have balanced viewpoints on campus. “Let’s say in political science you have 20 people and the survey determines 15 are liberal and five are conservative. Are you going to fire the liberals and hire more conservatives? What would happen?” Lata asked.
[An insightful article, but UFF-FAU holds some reservations towards online degree programs and courses that at times overlook the disparities between student success given their socio-economic backgrounds and the ways such programs have the potential to undercut faculty solidarity by fragmenting the workforce among other concerns.]
Kevin Carey, April 1, 2019
The price of college is breaking America. At a moment when Hollywood celebrities and private equity titans have allegedly been spending hundreds of thousands in bribes to get their children into elite schools, it seems quaint to recall that higher learning is supposed to be an engine of social mobility. Today, the country’s best colleges are an overpriced gated community whose benefits accrue mostly to the wealthy. At 38 colleges, including Yale, Princeton, Brown and Penn, there are more students from the top 1 percent than the bottom 60 percent.
Tuition prices aren’t the only reason for this, but they’re a major one. Public university tuition has doubled in the last two decades, tripled in the last three. Prestige-hungry universities admit large numbers of students who can pay ever-increasing fees and only a relative handful of low-income students. The U.S. now has more student loan debt than credit card debt—upward of $1.5 trillion. Nearly 40 percent of borrowers who entered college in the 2003 academic year could default on their loans by 2023, the Brookings Institution predicts.
The colleges would have you believe that none of this is their fault. They would point out that public schools took a huge financial hit during the recession when states slashed their education budgets. This is true, but that hardly explains the size and pace of the price hikes or the fact that tuition at private schools has exploded, too. 
The adjunct faculty at Miami Dade College have officially won the right to form a union.
The part-time professors, who make up a majority of MDC’s total faculty, won a narrow 14-vote victory on Wednesday to form a union with the Florida arm of the Service Employees International Union to lobby for increased wages, health benefits, added transparency in course assignment and — most importantly — negotiating power.
About 42 percent of the 2,790 eligible voters cast ballots in the month-long election, and the votes were tallied Wednesday in Tallahassee by Public Employees Relations Commission election agents. The state office conducts all union elections in Florida.
Proposed legislation in Florida would require public universities to survey students’ and faculty members’ political beliefs annually.
The bill, HB 839, passed a House panel last week, amid opposition from Democrats who expressed concern about how the survey data would be used. A similar bill has been proposed in the Florida Senate. Both chambers are controlled by Republicans, and Governor Ron DeSantis is a Republican.
The survey language, which is part of a broader set of proposed performance metrics, is short on details. There is no assurance of data anonymity or clarity on who will use the data, for what purpose.
The bill says only that the state university system’s Board of Governors will require public institutions to conduct an assessment of intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity on campus. Results would be published annually, starting next year.
[UFF Preface: As a new survey indicates, most Americans think that state funding for higher education has increased or stayed the same in recent years. Actually, it has decreased significantly.
In Florida, per-student state funding for higher education, adjusted for inflation, dropped by 19.1% or $1820 between 2008 and 2017. As a result, during the same period, average tuition at public four-year colleges and universities in Florida increased by 62.2% or $2436.
Between 1988 and 2016, students’ share of their own education costs went from less than 25% to almost 50%. That’s why paying for college has become so difficult for many low-income FAU and other students and their families.
And most Americans have no idea this is going on.]
by Jon Marcus (The Hechinger Report), February 25, 2019
At a time when so many employers are struggling to find workers who have university degrees, Tyler Duffield thinks supporting higher education is as obvious an obligation of state government as it is essential.
“It’s kind of unthinkable that the government would scale back that kind of thing,” said Duffield, 20, a North Carolina community college student majoring in environmental engineering. “Any country that chooses not to prioritize higher education makes itself less competitive in the world.”
[Preface: UFF and its affiliates, the Florida Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, have consistently opposed efforts to bring more guns on the campuses of universities, colleges and public schools. The president of UFF has testified at Florida legislative hearings to oppose guns on campus and in classrooms]
Terry Spencer, AP, February 11, 2019
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The nation’s two largest education unions reiterated their opposition to arming teachers as a response to school shootings Monday, saying more guns on campuses will make them less safe.
The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association joined with Everytown for Gun Safety to oppose proposals in Florida and elsewhere to arm teachers and staff members in response to the Marjory Stoneman High School massacre, which left 17 dead. The anniversary of the mass shooting is Thursday.
The Florida Legislature is considering a recommendation by the state commission that investigated the shooting to allow school districts to arm volunteer teachers who undergo background checks and training. The commission concluded that relying solely on law enforcement is insufficient because mass shootings are usually over in one to three minutes and police officers likely won’t arrive in time.
But the unions and Everytown say they oppose such measures for several reasons, including the possibility of students stealing teachers’ guns and responding officers confusing an armed teacher for the shooter. They said a study of New York City police officers showed they hit their target about one time in five shots during firefights, and teachers would be even worse. Those errant bullets would further endanger students.
[Preface: UFF believes student learning conditions are faculty working conditions. As a result, we believe the welfare of students are of the utmost importance for any faculty union struggle.]
Haunted by costly degrees and insurmountable student debt, American college students now spend more time working paid jobs than in lectures, the library or studying at home.
The vast majority of current students-85 percent-work while enrolled, according to an HSBC survey published Thursday. Students spend an average of 4.2 hours a day working paid jobs, which is more than double the time they spend in the library, nearly two hours more than they spend in class and 1.4 hours more time than they spend studying at home.
“The economics of the debt crisis have become a major distraction to students’ education,” said John Hupalo, founder and chief executive officer of Invite Education, an education financial planner. “Students’ first priority should be to get value out of their education, not squeezing out hours at a job in order to make money to sustain that education.”
Brian Philip is passionate about gun rights — so much so, he started the UCF Gun Club in 2015.
He said he believes there shouldn’t be laws that restrict gun rights. He argues that fully automatic firearms are no more dangerous than those that are semi automatic and modifications to guns should be legal.
However, when Philip, 25, heard about the 19-year-old UCF student who was arrested Tuesday and accused of having an illegally modified, fully automatic AR-15 in his car on campus, he said his first reaction was, “Wow, this guy’s kinda stupid.”