How FAU Prioritizes Its Money

UFF-FAU is pleased to present a new study commissioned from the Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy at Florida International University. The report, “How FAU Prioritizes Its Money,” locates disturbing trends in Florida Atlantic University’s personnel and salary-related budgeting priorities. Taken as a whole, these suggest a developing inability for the institution to adequately service the academic needs of its growing student body.

For example, between 2006 and 2012 Florida resident-students choosing to attend FAU are paying more than 60% more in tuition. At the same time the student-to-faculty ratio rose by an astounding 19% while administrative positions grew by 12%. In the same period faculty salaries have also decreased, making it more difficult to attract and retain capable instructional and research staff.

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Post-Protest Wrap Up

May 14, 2012. The faculty protest in late April was a last resort after the non-responsiveness of FAU administrators. What did we achieve?

First of all, I would thank all faculty and staff who participated in the summer teaching protest held on April 18. As you all know, the protest just didn’t concern itself with summer teaching, but more importantly the way in which faculty have been systematically excluded from most decision-making processes recently implemented by the upper administration. Only after the fact is faculty input solicited. We are hoping as a result of such negative publicity that the administration will start implementing policies where faculty have been an integral part from the inception. I will be meeting with the provost later this month to discuss this problem and see how we can move forward regarding this.

The union doesn’t take protesting lightly. We have attempted to use other more formal channels– consultation, meeting with the upper administration through more informal settings, asking questions during faculty assemblies and the senate, but felt that our concerns were not being taken seriously. As a result, we felt that we had no option other than focusing the public eye on the ways in which faculty, students, and staff feel how that the university has been mismanaged.  In this effort we were successful.  In addition to attracting at least seventy faculty, staff and students to our protest rally on the 18th, and helping students publicize their own earlier protest rally, we received good publicity in a variety of media.   See the links to local media in previous posts on the protests here at

The results were  productive:

1)      We finally received a belated memo from the administration on April  10 regarding the rationale for the implementation of summer policy.

2)      Administrators started to reinstitute courses more promptly.

3)      The administration publicly acknowledged that the implementation of the summer policy was misguided.

4)      After repeated calls by the union since Fall 2011 for a Town Hall Budget meeting, the upper administration finally held one. The result  was far from satisfactory. Although we would much rather have had the President and the Provost directly fielding questions, the meeting at  least provided a public forum where faculty could directly address some of their concerns and judge for themselves the adequacy of the responses.

But of course the proof is in the proverbial pudding. We’ll see how future administrative policies are made and implemented and if faculty governance and knowledge is respected. We understand that FAU has been placed in a difficult economic situation because of the hostility by many in the state legislature in regards toward public education.

This damage has been compounded by misguided policies on the local level that seem distinctly out of touch with faculty concerns and expertise and thus destructive of some core goals of the university, its discipline-specific teaching and research programs. But for now we look to the future by attempting to establish a more  functional and balanced relationship with the upper administration. As you know, the union provides a forum for the only independent collective voice of the faculty. But only faculty can make this voice be adequately heard not only by joining the union, but also by becoming more involved in it.

The union repeatedly and rigorously addresses issues that many faculty members articulate to one another but might be uncomfortable pronouncing on their own to the administration.  But the union gives you an independent, collective  voice across department, college and campus boundaries. Your involvement makes us a more effective, democratic, well-informed, and vigorous university. Please download a membership form by clicking here today. Send to Chris Robe’, FAU, CU 215, Boca Raton, FL 33431.

Have a good summer!


FAU Faculty and Students Rally Against Slashed Summer Course Schedule

April 11, 2012. Chorus grows stronger over MJ Saunders’ high-handed style and forced austerity

Responding to deep cuts in the summer course schedule at Florida Atlantic University, faculty and students are planning protests against what they call unfair and arbitrary reductions which will hurt students, faculty, and academic programs.

In response they are planning protest rallies on the west steps of the administration building on the Boca Raton campus.  The first, organized by students, will be held at 2 p.m. on Thursday, April 12.

The second, organized by the UFF-FAU and supported by students, will be held on Wednesday, April 18 at 12 noon.  In addition, everyone is invited to make protest signs in the lobby of the Culture and Society Building at 5 on Monday, April 16.

Administrators have cut almost a thousand courses from 2011, about a third of the total.

FAU was hit by the Florida Legislature last month with an unprecedented $30 million in budget cuts for the coming year.  In all, the eleven public universities have lost $730 million in state funding since 2008, and will lose another $300 million this year, half from appropriations and half from their own reserves.

This last legislative move prompted Moody’s Investors Service to take the unusual step of publicly criticizing the Legislature for damaging the universities’ credit.  Meanwhile, the Legislature and Governor gave corporations another $80 million in tax breaks in addition to the billions they’ve received in recent years, while cutting hospitals and nursing homes in addition to universities.  State colleges have endured similar cutbacks.

“It’s bad enough that the Legislature and Governor are undermining our state’s future by slashing higher education.  But the university is compounding the problem by using a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach to summer cuts,” said Chris Robe, president of the faculty union, the United Faculty of Florida – FAU.

Robe points out that cuts have been imposed unilaterally from the provost’s office with virtually no regard for students’ needs or faculty advice in particular programs.  The cuts are also insensitive to the needs of FAU students, many of whom are non-traditional students who have jobs and families, and cannot afford to delay graduation for a semester or a year because a required course is not offered in the summer, and who are thus more likely to drop out.

In her message to students and parents on the front page of FAU’s web site, President Mary Jane Saunders says that “the most important thing you need to know is that nothing has changed for you at FAU.  Students are still our first priority, and we remain committed to helping you progress steadily toward your degree.  As in the past, we will continue to offer all courses needed for graduation.”

However, a March 21 memorandum from Provost Brenda Claiborne instructs deans and chairs to cut all courses from the summer 2012 schedule which during summer 2011 did not enroll at least 24 students in undergraduate courses or 11 students in graduate courses.  While the provost leaves room open for exceptions, some programs have been hurt very badly, others not at all.

According to faculty and students in various departments, this edict ignores the need for small classes in lab and studio courses with prerequisites, many of which have simply been cancelled because they did not enroll 24 students last summer.  While some programs have accreditation requirements which protect their course sequences from arbitrary disruptions, some of these programs were cut anyway, while others were not.

Students in Education, Business, Science, the Visual Arts and elsewhere have had their progress toward graduation interrupted and their lives put on hold.  In other departments, students and faculty have had their class sizes arbitrarily increased, with little regard for academic quality, to accommodate the smaller course offerings, and the problems promise to compound themselves in the fall and spring terms because of delays to student graduation.

In a follow-up memorandum dated April 10, the provost appears finally to begin to listen to faculty and students and add some courses, but much unnecessary damage has already been done.  Many students have already opted to enroll elsewhere this summer, and faculty summer plans have been disrupted.  Faculty and student leaders remain determined to keep the pressure on until their voices are heard.

Monique Paramore, a graduate student in Education who is organizing the protest to be held April 12, also created a petition to FAU administrators at  In addition to attracting over 700 signers so far, the petition contains comments from students in numerous programs describing the negative consequences of cancelled courses.  Ms. Paramore describes her protest in these terms:  “I and several other students are concerned with the university’s decision to cut certain courses necessary to our graduation.  On Tuesday the 27th, I created a petition concerning this matter. I currently have 723 signatures and comments. I/we understand the need for certain cuts but I feel that when this decision was made the university failed to take into consideration the differences among departments, the different class schedules, and the specific needs of each program.

I received my undergraduate degree from FAU and have continued to be a dedicated Owl. I am hurt and upset at the way the university has handled this matter. I created this petition to bring attention and awareness to this situation. Even after the petition gained several hundred signatures, the administration refused to answer our questions, listen to our suggestions or simply apologize. So I decided to continue my protest by leading my fellow students in a rally against the course cuts. All I/we want is the opportunity to get some questions answered and to figure out our options as it pertains to future class offerings and graduation. We simply want the chance to suggest other options and to have our voices as well as those of our department leaders heard!”

MJ Saunders Administration Targets Summer Classes, Faculty Salaries


An unprecedented new plan has been announced in a March 21 memo from the MJ Saunders administration to FAU college deans that will radically scale back summer course offerings. It could also set the stage for the dismantling and elimination of departments and a makeover of entire colleges and the University.

The bold move constitutes a furtive usurpation of faculty autonomy over curricular issues because it requires that all undergraduate courses offered for Summer 2012 to have a minimum of 24 students enrolled in Summer 2011. (The policy emphasizes 11 students for graduate courses.) Further, a minimum 24 students must enroll for the course in Summer 2012 for the class to carry. Under the policy, even if department chairs increase enrollment to 24 for a course that was offered in 2011 with a class cap of, say 22, the course cannot be offered because it does not fit the administrators’ stringent criteria. Thus many upper division production and performance-oriented classes students need to graduate will be stricken from summer listings.

With this policy FAU administrators and their attorneys are turning a win-win-win into a lose-lose-lose situation for the University, students, and faculty. This is because FAU actually generates revenue by offering summer courses, AND students can progress in a timely fashion toward graduation, AND over half of FAU faculty depend on funds earned from teaching summer classes to augment their already depressed salaries. Thus, through such a policy FAU will be deprived of revenue, students will not be able to take the classes they need to graduate, and many faculty members will experience what is essentially a 12.5% salary reduction.

What’s next? If this policy is any sign of future things to be imposed on faculty and students it means that, at best, faculty will continue to be disempowered while FAU students pay increasingly more for much less. At worst, if this or similar policies are extended to the academic year it could translate to the inevitable cancellation of classes, closure of departments, reorganization of the entire University, and the mass termination of faculty.

James Tracy
UFF-FAU First Vice President

UFF Moves Forward on Instructor Agenda, Calls for Participation

June 21, 2011. FAU depends on instructors who lack job security to teach its undergrads, Almost a third are paid less than $40k annually

Dear colleague,

For the past month, the union and instructors have been meeting with the administration concerning instructors’ working conditions at the university. We raised three primary areas of concern: 1) low salaries, 2) lack of advancement, and 3) lack of stability. Instructors clearly stressed salaries as a main priority. Out of around 170 full-time non-tenure track instructors at FAU, 51 are being paid below $40,000. Some earn as low as $30,600. Such salaries lie far beneath the typically high cost of living in South Florida. The union recommends that all 51 instructors be raised to a minimum of $40,000. Administration, however, suggests that state budget cuts make such appropriations difficult—a familiar refrain for long-term FAU employees.

Overall, UFF-FAU continues to maintain that salaries have remained at best a secondary concern for far too long.  Administration’s first and only suggestion was that the union amends the Collective Bargaining Agreement to reduce summer pay for faculty, which could free up revenue for the equity raises. We reminded the administration that many of us depend upon summer teaching as a primary form of income to supplement our already low salaries. Further, we suggested that administration reduce the salaries of their highest paid employees and any unnecessary or redundant services that exist. Needless to say, our suggestion was not well-taken. We are presently requesting a more detailed, line-item 2011-2012 budget than the administration has currently provided (click for pdf of budget) in order to better assess the ways in which the university might reallocate funds for instructor equity raises. If anyone has any suggestions in how to do so before our next meeting with the administration on August 1, contact us at president(at)

In regards to the later two issues—advancement and stability—the administration seems agreeable to establishing a promotional structure for instructors. We are currently conceptualizing a three-tier structure that provides for longer multi-year contracts with an accompanying raise for each advancement. The union will be meeting later in July concerning this issue. Once we solidify a date, we would like to invite any faculty–especially instructors–to attend this meeting to help define the type of advancement structure they desire, as well as the general criteria for promotion.

We would also like testimonials from instructors regarding their experiences here at FAU. We want to make visible the often underappreciated work of instructors that allows the university to function. We want to learn about the type of quality of life employment at FAU makes possible. You can submit your pieces anonymously.  We will eventually compile these testimonials and distribute them to faculty. You can send your testimonials to: president(at) And remember to follow the union on Twitter at: UFFFAU. It’s where all the cool cats go.

Over and out.

Chris Robe’

Incoming UFF-FAU President

Some Simple Truths About the Florida Retirement System

January 14, 2011. Florida legislators are attacking “among the five most financially sound state pensions in the nation.”

A Message from Florida Education Association

Teachers and education employees earn their modest pensions through years of public service.

* Regardless of what you might hear from politicians in Tallahassee, pensions for teachers and education staff are modest.

* In general, public pensioners receive benefits either on par or below those in the private sector.

* Teacher pensions average about $325 per week. This has to cover rent or mortgage, utilities, transportation expenses, groceries, medicine, healthcare costs and other day-to-day expenses.

* Pensions for other school employees are much lower – about $195 per week on average.

Florida’s pension plan is in sound financial condition.

* The Florida Retirement System (FRS) is fully funded and able to meet its obligations.

* FRS is NOT one of these struggling pension systems you hear about. There are some pensions out there, private and public, that are struggling in the current economic downturn. In some cases these pensions don’t have the funds to pay their retirees the pensions that were promised.

* FRS is among the five most financially sound state pensions in the nation, according to the Pew Center on the States.

Some politicians in Tallahassee want to make radical, risky changes to FRS.

* If experience in other states is a guide, the changes being considered (like individual 401(k) accounts) may cost taxpayers more than the current system.

* These accounts funnel public dollars through the accounts of retirees and directly in to the coffers of Wall Street firms (in the form of fees and other charges).

* FRS is working. This is no time for risky experiments with our retirement security.

Small tax dollar contributions in public pensions bring big benefits to the local community.

* In Florida, tax dollar contributions for local and state public pensions are very low and in general represent a small fraction of operating budgets.

* Pensions dollars are investments in communities and actually strengthen local economies by providing retirees with stable income and increased purchasing power.

Attacks on pensions hurt our schools.

* Mandating employee contributions to FRS from teachers and education staff amounts to a pay-cut for these employees.

* Attacking their pensions hurts our schools – being able to offer a decent pension to employees (who otherwise receive below average compensation) helps our schools retain experienced and talented teachers and staff.

Florida Senate Ready to End Free Retirement for Teachers and State Workers

January 13, 2011. “Core part” of changes to involve employee contributions

From St. Pete Times  blog “The Buzz”

(JANUARY 12, 2011)

Sen. Jeremy Ring, the Margate Democrat who heads the Senate Governmental Operations Committee, said Senate leadership is ready to end the free retirement now enjoyed by teachers, firefighters, legislators and all other state and local employees in the  Florida Retirement System.

“We’re one of the last states in the country that doesn’t have a contribution and while I think everything’s on the table and I don’t have a number I feel pretty certain that a core part of this discussion is employee contributions,” Ring said after a hearing on pension reform.

Ring said it will be another three weeks before he releases a proposed committee bill as he waits for the actuarial report he has ordered his committee staff to compile. Based on those numbers, Ring said he will decide how much to set the contribution rate for employees.

“I want to be sensitive to a lot of things,” he said.  “If you have a number of 6 percent, which I’m not saying is the number, it’s very different from the $100,000 DMS worker than it is for the $20,000 school bus driver.”

FAU Chief Financial Officer Dismissive of Call for Accountability

December 26, 2010. Says Payroll “not required” to promptly address mistakes made in faculty salaries

RE: Letter attached
Thursday, December 23, 2010 2:56 PM
From: “Dennis Crudele”
To: “James Tracy”
Cc: “Diane Alperin”

Mr. Tracy,

Thank you very much for the concerns your expressed regarding the payroll calculation error for retroactive pay increases for some faculty. It was extremely important to promptly address this error and to notify those affected employees of the problem and corrective actions being taken before paychecks were received. While not required to do so, the Payroll Office took extraordinary steps to correct the situation that occurred within one payroll period, keeping us within this tax year. [Our emphasis.]

I agree that communication is a key element in the success of any organization. The University did in fact take quick action to correct this payroll error and did notify those affected employees. I appreciate your request that more detail be provided to faculty if similar situations arise in the future.

Dennis Crudele

Dennis Crudele
Sr. Vice President for Financial Affairs
Florida Atlantic University
777 Glades Road
ADM 345 Boca Raton, FL 33431
561.297.2772 (FAX)

From: James Tracy
Sent: Wednesday, December 22, 2010 10:25 AM
To: Dennis Crudele
Cc: Diane Alperin
Subject: Letter attached

Dear Mr. Crudele,

I am also sending the attached via US post. However, I wanted to make sure that this reaches you before the week-long holiday break.


James Tracy
President, United Faculty of Florida, Florida Atlantic University
PO Box 812211
Boca Raton, FL 33481

See related post:

Hey dude, where’s my retroactive raise money?

UFF-FAU Bargaining Update

August 2, 2010. Bargaining Team appreciative of 2010-11 three percent salary increase offer, Asks for modest 2009-10 half-percent increase to achieve greater parity with salary growth of administrators and other out-of-unit employees.

After the announcement of raises for out-of-unit employees by the administration, I know that many of you have been anxiously awaiting resolution of the bargaining contract for unionized employees.  I would like to share with you where we are in the process.

We have reached agreement on most of the articles in the contract.  The two contentious issues that remain are Salaries and Reserved Management Rights.  You can read the proposed Article 4 here. We are concerned that a significant expansion of management rights has been proposed and we strongly object to the insertion of their interpretation of case law into the agreement.

On salaries, the latest administration proposal for in-unit employees includes a 3% increase in base salaries.  The proposed increases would be effective at the start of the 2010-2011 academic year.  The increase would be distributed as follows: a 1% retention increase for all faculty with satisfactory evaluations, a 1% increase for meritorious performance, and a 1% increase for performance based market equity.  These are the three categories that we have traditionally tried to secure increases in.  We are satisfied with these increases for 2010-2011, but we remain concerned with how to adequately compensate faculty for 2009-10. The administration has proposed no increases for 2009-10.

The popular perception is that the University was dealing with a dire budget situation in 2009-10 which prompted tenured faculty layoffs without adequate notice and numerous special meetings to discuss the budget.  We have just learned, however, that during the same period, many administrators and other out of unit employees received special pay increases whose total exceeded $500,000.   These special raises were in addition to pay increases for promotions and job reassignments.  We believe that in-unit employees deserve similar compensation and have offered to settle for an additional 0.5% increase, for a total increase of 3.5%.

In the next couple of weeks we hope to share the data on pay raises in 2009-10 for out-of-unit and in-unit employees with the faculty community and solicit your input on salaries through an online survey.  Based on those findings, we hope to conclude negotiations soon after the start of the Fall semester.

In Solidarity,

Sharmila Vishwasrao


Some Worthwhile Questions Concerning the FAU Budget

May 3, 2010. FAU administrators’ concerns over the budget contradicted by recent extravagances, Raises for designated few while tuition increases and faculty salaries reach new lows.

On rather short notice (April 30), the FAU administration has called for convening another forum on the university’s budget to take place on the afternoon of May 3. The following questions were received by UFF-FAU from faculty members who feared submitting them directly to the FAU administration.

1)  FAU faculty salaries are the lowest in the state of Florida among doctoral-granting institutions. They have sunk to levels that are now below FIU and FIT over the past ten years. Why is it that area community colleges (now state colleges) have been able to manage their budgets with soaring enrollments and award faculty pay raises?  It seems troubling that these community colleges have more increases in enrollments than FAU, but are managing their funds in ways that value their faculty much more than FAU.

2)  Why is it that FAU administrators decided to expend funds on a medical school during these bleak financial times, at the clear expense of zero growth in faculty compensation and increased tuition for students?

3)  What is the FAU administration going to do about the condition that faculty at many levels within FAU are compensated at much lower levels than newer faculty being hired at FAU?  Is this a message to FAU’s more senior faculty that administrators and Trustees prefer we leave and work elsewhere? What does this suggest about how administrators value an experienced and seasoned faculty body?

4)  How does FAU justify the fact that some faculty and administrators received “salary adjustments” over the last few years (net effect of raises) and others did not?  This seems clearly to be a patronage form of governing the university. Does the administration support or condone what is essentially a system of favoritism?

5) Why is FAU continuing to add administrators and staff, but cut faculty (see the decreasing percentages of faculty at FAU at Why are administrators not being let go? What exactly is it that administrators do that contributes to the University’s “excellence”?

6) Is the FAU administration willing to host or be involved in a budget forum where students, students’ parents, community members, media, and non-university administration affiliated budget analysts are invited to participate?

7) FAU’s 2009 Financial Audit indicates that the University’s net unrestricted assets increased by $20 million to around $92 million, and its overall assets are now estimated to be almost $1 billion. The FAU Research Corporation and Harbor Branch Institute Research Corporation have about $175 million in national and international stocks and securities, estimated at fair market value as of June 2009, shortly after equity markets had lifted from their nadir. Given these reserves how can the university administration continue to plead poverty?