Spring 2013 Consultation Report

May 7, 2013. UFF-FAU Chapter reps sit down with President Saunders, Provost Claiborne, and FAU Attorney Lawrence “Larry” Glick to discuss academic freedom, e-learning, summer teaching policy

UFF met with President Saunders, Provost Claiborne, and Sr. Associate General Counsel Larry Glick on April 24, 2013 for Consultation.

We started our conversation over academic freedom. We related to the administration that we would like to see them more vigorously and publicly defend academic freedom, recant their unilateral assertion (via Charles Brown http://www.fau.edu/explore/homepage-stories/message-from-dr-charles-brown.php) that the questioned instructional exercise will not be repeated again, and assert for the record that Dr. Deandre Poole’s job will not be in jeopardy in regards to the incident. They replied that Faculty Senate has a committee on Academic Freedom and Due Process, which had been defunct for years prior to this incident and only became active after a request from the faculty union to bring this case before it, that is looking into the incident. As a result, they will not comment on the issue.

We also raised concerns about Governor Rick Scott’s intervention and some of the Board of Trustees’ reactionary nature towards academic freedom and tenure exhibited during the BoT meeting on April 16, 2013. The administration has given us Rick Scott’s letter to investigate the incident, which was directed to Chancellor Frank Brogan, and their recent response to the letter (both attached above). They suggested that Rick Scott will not intervene into the affairs of the university. In regards to the Board of Trustees, President Saunders stated that it is “a work in progress between the local board, the Board of Governors, and ourselves.” She continued, “We need to make sure that the Board understands the bylaws” and the mission of the university.

We next addressed some key issues regarding e-learning. We suggested that the trainings could be made more efficient by administering a pre-survey for faculty regarding their experience and interests with e-learning. Training courses could then be arranged more effectively around select groups of faculty. The administration agreed. We also suggested that more faculty participation with e-learning might be encouraged if the course was not an overload but instead incorporated into the regular assignment. Furthermore, we suggested many faculty members have not participated in e-learning due to fear of losing intellectual property of course material. Provost Claiborne verified this last concern. The General Counsel noted that if this is an issue for a vast majority of faculty, then perhaps intellectual property issues need to be revisited. Finally, we also suggested that various student abilities on-line need to be better addressed. It shouldn’t be the job of the instructor to train the students, but instead we need to have resources available to assist them. The administration agreed.

We next addressed questions regarding the provost’s summer policy. When asked about why colleges cannot spend more than 105% of their funds, the Provost said that the percentage was determined between herself and other university financial officers. It is still not clear why different colleges don’t have different percentages since they generate revenue differently depending upon the number of F.T.E.s produced and their faculty salaries. Our essential concern was that summer was still not being driven through curricular needs but instead monetarily. The Provost agreed, but she further stressed that the 25% of gains returned to the Provost’s office would then be redistributed back into summer teaching to cover low-enrollment courses and the like.

FAUS related that they would like to communicate better with the university about what they do and to better utilize their lab component. The President agreed that FAUS needs more publicity since it is an “A” rated school and generally considered one of the best lab schools in Florida.

Finally, we addressed concerns with focusing on undergraduate research. We first addressed that although we consider undergraduate research a generally good idea, we are concerned it is only going to address a small minority of our student body. Instead, we have students who are struggling with basic skills that strike one as a more prevalent concern. Also, we suggested that we don’t want to see grants and stipends for graduate students being reduced while resources are being funneled into undergraduate research since the graduate programs are the engine of the university. The President asserted that graduate student funding has not decreased. But the union has evidence that some Colleges, instead of the University, have now been made responsible for covering the costs of graduate student stipends for graduate students who are not teaching. Such funding has sometimes come out of faculty research grants, which negatively impacts faculty research.

As always, we plan on holding another Consultation in the fall, so please feel free to contact us regarding issues that you would like to see addressed. We generally bring different faculty to our consultations depending upon the topics addressed and faculty expertise. Consultation allows us to become more aware of your concerns and, more importantly, effectively organize around them.  To learn more about UFF-FAU, visit our webpage <uff-fau.org>, follow us on Twitter <UFFFAU>, and/or just contact us: president@uff-fau.org. If you haven’t joined the UFF, what are you waiting for? Download a membership form and send to Chris Robé, CU 214.

In Solidarity,
Chris Robé
President UFF-FAU