“FAU can safely cut 220 faculty positions, consultant says”

If you’re an FAU professor you’ll be relieved to know that this is not an actual Palm Beach Post or Sun-Sentinel headline–yet. But an article appearing on September 1 in the Post, “West Palm Beach can safely cut 52 firefighter jobs, consultant says,” explains how this very unfortunate possibility exists for many West Palm firefighters and their families after a consulting firm told city officials they “could fire … about a quarter of the department–without compromising safety.” 

Florida Atlantic University administrators and Board of Trustees members have hired their own consultant and efficiency expert, Susan Clemmons, who has been conducting similar efficiency studies under the title, “Project Vision.” Over the next year they plan to use these findings to reorganize the university and fire tenured and tenure track faculty. Nevermind that under Frank Brogan FAU has grown increasingly top-heavy in administration and bureacracy, with more money in salaries than ever going toward these and similar positions–positions, mind you, that have nothing to do with the teaching, research, and service to the community the faculty regularly perform that makes a university what it is.

It was Clemmons’ work that gave the administration the pretext to terminate five tenured faculty members in the College of Engineering in May, and the ensuing fiasco that has seriously compromised FAU’s national reputation. Yet Clemmons knows nothing about engineering as an academic endeavor or professional practice, any more than she knows about other intellectual specializations–yours included. She is, rather, a former business consultant and presently an assistant professor at FIU.

Clemmons says she likes consulting because, in her own words, she could “visit organizations, see what they were doing, give them insights, help them, and leave.” Indeed, we can see little motivation for Clemmons to stick around and get to know the people she’s just told the boss to fire. This unpleasant business doesn’t bother administrators and BOT members, who are paying Clemmons a substantial sum to produce a quasi-scientific study they can use on colleges across the entire University.

Depending on Clemmons’ “findings,” administrators and the BOT may again try to circumvent the Collective Bargaining Agreement by creating bogus “units” to cordon off professors designated by their deans for elimination–as was done by Dean Karl Stevens in Engineering. As fellow faculty members we encourage you to speak to your colleagues and remain aware of what is going on in your department and college, ask questions  and demand explanations from administrators for any proposed reorganization.

Remember, as independent authorities have confirmed (pdf), the University has adequate monetary reserves and administrators and trustees are intent on reorganizing not to save money but because they desire to. Weakening faculty morale by not bargaining in good faith, depressing faculty salaries, and dragging out grievance procedures with UFF-FAU, as well as bypassing faculty governance, is part of the BOT’s broader plan to reduce workplace rights and make FAU over in the image of a private corporation; a place with an increasingly “flexible” workforce that has no voice, whose constituents can be freely eliminated at management’s discretion, and ultimately where students are more and more severely shortchanged through expanding class sizes taught by a poorly prepared and less experienced instructional staff.

Although the administration and BOT remain silent on its plans, word has it that Clemmons is scheduled to present some of her findings and make further proposals on FAU’s reorganization at the Board of Trustees retreat, scheduled to take place on September 21 and 22 at the Baldwin House.