On This Day in FAU History

May 29, 2012. After a hasty reorganization of the College of Engineering three years ago FAU administrators summarily fired five tenured faculty members

UFF Will Fight Layoffs of Tenured Professors

June 3, 2009. It is not the easiest thing to introduce oneself in the midst of a crisis, so I will hold off on such formalities for now. On Friday, May 29 three Associate Professors and two Full Professors in the College of Engineering received layoff notices effective August 8th. All five faculty members were tenured. This action by the FAU Administration is a violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which stipulates a seniority process in the event of layoffs and requires that tenured and tenure-track faculty be given one year notification prior to termination. Moreover, with plenty of funds in reserve FAU administrators cannot claim financial urgency, which would in fact be a precondition of such drastic action.

UFF-FAU intends to fight for these faculty members through the grievance process assured under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Without the CBA there would be little recourse for faculty aside from costly legal battles, and virtually nothing would stand in the way of the administration terminating even wider swaths of faculty.

The would be necessity of FAU’s “reorganization” and resultant layoffs of faculty and staff rests on administrators’ argument that the institution is suffering from a shortage of recurring state funds. Shortly after postponing a 10% salary increase of his own after faculty criticism, President Frank Brogan seldom missed an opportunity to make proclamations of future job losses and overall financial austerity. Yet here’s the rub: FAU is sitting on over $70 million in reserves–enough for independent authorities and a Special Magistrate to conclude in March that the university was capable of a minimum salary increase for all faculty of 150% more than it grudgingly granted in April (1%). Further, UFF-FAU’s study, How is the Money Spent? FAU Expenditures on Faculty and Higher Level Administration in the Period from 2001-02 to 2008-09, provides solid evidence of the growth of administrative positions and salaries versus those who actually see the inside of a classroom.

To be sure, the Florida legislature has cut its support to state universities, but there are no cutbacks in the 2009-10 budget, and past shortfalls will to a significant degree be made up for in tuition increases and federal stimulus money–the latter of which is specifically intended to prevent layoffs.

When a family loses a small portion of its income it must turn to some of its reserves in order to sustain its normal functioning. No self-respecting family would think of putting its children up for adoption or placing them on the auction block as a result of such circumstances, particularly if it’s sitting on millions of dollars. In a similar vein, when a university invites a scholar to fill a tenure-track post and grants her tenure it makes that individual part of its family–bestowing the assurance of some job security as a reward for dedication and hard work. This is what five of our fellow faculty members believed before May 29. By terminating tenured faculty the FAU administration has sown the seeds of distrust and fear among those who carry on the institution’s most important work–teaching, research, and service. Unfortunately, under the present administration this is only a small foretaste of what is likely in store. If you are not already a member I encourage you to consider joining UFF-FAU today.

In solidarity,

James Tracy
UFF-FAU President

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No Comment: 2009

CHE News Blog: Union Protests Layoff of Five Tenured Professors as Florida Atlantic U. Slashes Its Budget

Shake Hands with the Devil

Engineering Faculty Vents Frustration

UFF-FAU President Tracy Asks FAU Administration to Address Engineering Faculty Discontent, Reorganization

“The Classroom is Not a Marketplace”: Rebuking Rick Perry’s Prescription for Higher Ed

October 8, 2011.  July report by U of Texas faculty levels stern critique of Governor’s attempted higher ed “reforms”

Many UFF-FAU members are aware that Florida governor Rick Scott is proffering a plan modeled on one proposed by Texas governor Rick Perry to “reform” higher education statewide . A detailed report, Maintaining Excellence-and-Efficiency at The University of Texas at Austim, published in July by UT faculty critically assesses and condemns Perry’s varied and ill-informed “one size fits all” approaches.

Chronicle: Florida May be Next Battleground Over Faculty Productivity

September 14, 2011. United Faculty of Florida readies “to fight the changes in how [professors and higher ed professionals will be] expected to do their jobs,” Frank Brogan continues to trumpet his support for plan

Source: Chronicle of Higher Ed (09/13/11)

By Audrey Williams June

In Florida, college professors, presidents and lawmakers are preparing for a vigorous debate about faculty performance, pay, and productivity.

That’s because Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, has made it clear that he’s looking toward Texas for ideas on how to revamp higher education in his state. In Texas, a controversial plan—backed by Gov. Rick Perry, another Republican, and his allies—proposes to do more to measure faculty productivity, emphasizes teaching over research, and advocates paying faculty members based on their effectiveness.

Governor Scott, who has spoken publicly in recent weeks about his interest in the Texas proposal, hasn’t yet talked specifics about which pieces of that plan he would push lawmakers to adopt. But he’s actively soliciting feedback on Texas’s “Seven Breakthrough Solutions,” which was written by the Austin-based Texas Public Policy Foundation, a research institute. Just a few of the solutions have been adopted, most of them at Texas A&M University.

Governor Scott has shared the plan with enough people, including the chancellor of the state university system, the appointees he has made to college governing boards, and the presidents of Florida’s 11 public colleges, to jump-start what is sure to be a lengthy conversation about what kinds of changes should be made.

The governor’s spokesman, Lane Wright, said that there is no plan in place to make changes in higher education in Florida and that Governor Scott has simply been “talking about his ideas” as a way to generate discussion on the matter. The governor has had no formal talks at this point with legislators about ways to overhaul the system, Mr. Wright said.

It isn’t yet clear how much traction the governor’s higher-education ideas will get in Florida, but people are taking the push to revamp higher education in the state seriously. The union that represents about 20,000 public university professors and professionals in Florida is gearing up to fight the changes in how they’re expected to do their jobs, which, they say, would ultimately drive talented faculty away from Florida colleges. The Texas-style higher-education proposals are also expected to be discussed during the next legislative session, which begins in January.

A Counterproposal
In a move to counter what he saw as major shortcomings of the Texas solutions, a Florida university president has created a detailed alternative, which he calls “Florida Can Do Better Than Texas.”

Eric J. Barron, president of Florida State University, said he came up with the alternative plan after reading a copy of the Texas plan sent to him by Governor Scott. “My immediate thought was that we can do better,” Mr. Barron said. “I took each of the proposed Texas solutions and did an analysis and then I thought about how they could be stronger.”

The governor has asked for a copy of the plan, said Mr. Barron, who shared his ideas with his trustees last week.

Mr. Barron said his plan (which offers eight solutions, instead of seven) ensures that colleges are held responsible for their students’ success, while allowing colleges in the state to “still be on the cutting edge.”

For instance, the Texas solutions focus on measuring the productivity and effectiveness of faculty by how many students they teach, how highly they are rated on student evaluations, and how many A’s and B’s they award to students. Critics say the Texas model wants colleges to operate like businesses that offer degrees as their main product. But such metrics, Mr. Barron said, could have unintended consequences, among them larger classes that could limit learning and faculty’s pandering to students to positively influence student evaluations.

A better way to measure efficiency, according to Mr. Barron’s plan, is to look at freshman retention and graduation rates, survey students about their university experience after graduation, test them for how much they know about a subject before and after a course, and calculate cost per student per credit hour. Among other elements of Mr. Barron’s plan are an emphasis on performance-based pay and less weight on student evaluations as a litmus test for awarding tenure.

Mr. Barron, who is scheduled to discuss his plan at the Faculty Senate meeting this month at Florida State, said he hopes his ideas “start a discussion about what we could do differently in Florida.”

“My belief is that this plan will get improved as it goes along,” he said, “and hopefully what will emerge is an even stronger document that we can talk about.”

No Room for Debate?
But some professors are concerned that the window to discuss the pros and cons of the Texas plan is a narrow one, if it exists at all. The governor’s consistent promotion of the Texas ideas as a possible template doesn’t bode well, they said.

“He’s already finished the conversation all by himself,” said Tom Auxter, president of the United Faculty of Florida and a professor of philosophy at the University of Florida. Mr. Auxter wrote a letter to union members last week that outlined several challenges the union expects to face when the legislative session begins anew, including the likely reintroduction of bills that would make it harder for public employees to keep their union going. Yet, Mr. Auxter wrote: “The most ominous threat to higher education comes from the governor.”

“Faculty are talking about this across the state,” Mr. Auxter said in an interview of the governor’s push to consider the Texas ideas in Florida. They’re not against a plan that tries to increase efficiency since it’s clear that “we don’t have enough money to go around,” he said. But at the root of critics’ worry, just as in Texas, is how that efficiency will be achieved.

“The ideas are often general ideas that people may or may not agree with,” Mr. Auxter said of the Texas plan. “But when you look at the implementation, all the duplicity is in the details.”

Mr. Auxter and others say that a key component of the Texas solution, its merit-pay plan, would push professors away from Florida colleges. Under the Texas plan, faculty who are top-notch teachers would be given a bonus, but that amount, Mr. Auxter says, would not be added to the base pay that professors get. So the salaries of high-performing faculty wouldn’t increase over the long run.

Faculty will say, “‘I’m going to have this salary for the rest of my life,'” Mr. Auxter said. “You need people who are on the cutting edge in their research and can teach well. They’re saying you don’t have to invest in talent.”

Mr. Auxter added that “I think we’re going to have to fight this all year long.”

Frank T. Brogan, chancellor of the State University System of Florida, has met with Governor Scott to discuss the changes the governor has in mind for higher education. Mr. Brogan was not available for comment, according to his spokeswoman. However, he told the News Service of Florida last month that he supports “accountability-based funding,” and thinks that scrutinizing the quality of programs is key. He also acknowledged how fast-moving—and divisive—discussions about overhauling higher education were in Texas and he hopes talks about the issue will take a different tone in Florida, the news service reported.

The Board of Governors, which oversees public colleges in the state, meets Thursday, and Mr. Brogan is on the agenda. Kelly Layman, a spokeswoman, said Mr. Brogan will give a report, during which he will weigh in on the talk surrounding potential changes in Florida’s higher education system, and will also lead a discussion on national trends in higher education.

“The Florida Board of Governors is excited that this dialogue is occurring in the context of work it has dedicated itself to the past 18 months on updating our strategic plan through 2025,” Ms. Layman said in an e-mail. “We will build whatever additional performance metrics to our existing annual report the board feels are necessary.”


Support Emerges For Higher Education Overhaul

August 26, 2011. Frank Brogan embraces Bush/Scott reform agenda



THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, August 25, 2011…….Gov. Rick Scott may have one crucial ally in his nascent effort to overhaul higher education in Florida: State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan.

Brogan met with Scott earlier this year to discuss the controversial changes to higher education, which were first championed by Texas Governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry. The idea is to treat universities and colleges more like private businesses, with more scrutiny over professor and university performance.

“We had a great conversation,” Brogan said in an interview with the News Service of Florida. “He’d be the first to tell you he’s not wed to the Texas plan. What he is wed to is the notion that we need to look at those and other possibilities that might create a better system of higher education in the state of Florida.”

The Texas proposal supports the concept of tying state funding to performance, financially rewarding professors based on effectiveness, and using higher education tuition vouchers that can be used toward private schools. It takes many of the concepts being used in K-12 education policy, such as merit pay, and applies them to universities.

Increasingly, some Republican lawmakers and governors are seeing higher education as a system in need of reform, with escalating tuition and costs, much like health care. In Ohio, the Republican governor also pushed for tying state funding to degree production and the number of classes professors teach.

Brogan said he supports “accountability-based funding” for Florida’s state universities. “A greater emphasis on outcomes and incentives to those outcomes is important,” he said. “We should be looking at quality of programs.”

Read more at palmbeachpost.com

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FAU Faculty Salaries Reached New Lows Under Brogan, Pritchett

May 3, 2010. In 1999-2000 FAU paid its faculty more than FIU and FIT, FAU faculty salaries are now the lowest in the state, Objective 5 of BOT Strategic Plan remains glaringly unfulfilled.

Salaries for FAU faculty fell far behind FIU over the past ten years, mainly under the leadership of former Republican Lieutenant Governor Frank Brogan and FAU’s Board of Trustees. For example, according to recently-released AAUP salary data in 1999-2000 faculty salaries at FAU were actually higher than FIU’s, but over the past ten years FIU salaries eventually surpassed those of FAU. In 2000 Full Professors at FIU earned an average of $68,200, versus $72,700 at FAU, while FIU Associate Professors made $53,000 versus $55,800 at FAU, and Assistant Professors took home $44,600 at FIU as FAU Assistant Professors made $45,400.

The figures show how FAU has clearly failed in fulfilling Objective 5 of the BOT’s Strategic Plan, “Provide competitive faculty salaries that will assure recruitment and retention of a diverse and highly productive faculty who will contribute to building superior academic programs and research capacity.”  Instead of fulfilling Objective 5, FAU has gone in the exact opposite direction. Moreover, the failure of FAU administrators and trustees to address faculty pay disparities has taken place alongside substantial pay increases for administrators and an overall increase in administrative positions.

See related post:

FAU Faculty Salaries Lowest in Florida

Will Florida Atlantic University Incoming President Saunders Address LGBT Issues?

April 19, 2010. Florida judge and Palm Beach County Human Rights Council President Rand Hoch calls on FAU’s new leader to adopt anti-discrimination policy, extend domestic partner benefits to FAU employees.

(Boca Raton, Florida) In the “Price of Silence” lecture at Florida Atlantic University Wednesday evening, April 14th, gay activist Rand Hoch, called on incoming FAU president Mary Jane Saunders to address gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues when she assumes her responsibilities at the state university this summer.

Hoch, who served as Florida’s first openly gay judge, is president of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council. Since 1988, the Council has persuaded public employers in Florida to enact more than sixty laws and policies benefiting Florida’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents.

The Council began working on gay issues with Florida Atlantic University in 2005. Individual faculty members and the FAU chapter of the United Faculty of Florida have been working on these issues behind the scenes for well over a decade.

Addressing FAU faculty and students in Barry Kaye Hall, Hoch called for an end to the “culture of silence” regarding gay issues at the university.

“For years, those on the FAU faculty and staff who have raised gay issues have felt marginalized or ignored. Some have even been subjected to ridicule for publicly addressing gay concerns,” said Hoch. “After a while some of these gay and gay-supportive individuals became silent. Some have told me it wasn’t just the marginalization they feared, they feared reprisal.”

“Eight of the eleven state universities have clearly written policies which specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation,” said Hoch. “But not FAU.”

The University of Florida, the University of North Florida, the University of Central Florida, the University of South Florida, the University of West Florida, Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida International University and New College of Florida all have nondiscrimination policies which specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“With Dr. Saunders’s leadership, progress could be made,” said Hoch. “Send an e-mail to President Sauders welcoming her to Florida Atlantic University. Ask her to set up a task force to specifically address the concerns of your university’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.”

“During his tenure as FAU President, Frank Brogan steadfastly refused to include the words ‘sexual orientation’ in the nondiscrimination policies and he ignored all requests regarding domestic partner benefits,” said Hoch.

Brogan stepped down as the university’s president last year to become chancellor for the State University System of Florida.

In 2003, after the FAU Faculty Senate overwhelmingly passed a motion supporting domestic partner benefits, then-Provost Ken Jessell put together a committee to study domestic partner benefits. In its report, the committee strongly recommended that FAU offer domestic partner benefits.

“That was six and one-half years ago,”said Hoch. “FAU still does not offer domestic partner benefits.”

More than a dozen of Florida’s public universities and colleges now offer domestic partner benefits to their employees. The schools include the University of Florida, the University of South Florida and Florida International University as well as at Brevard Community College, Broward College, Central Florida Community College, Florida Keys Community College, Hillsborough Community College, Lake-Sumter Community College, Manatee Community College, Miami-Dade College, Okaloosa-Walton College, Palm Beach State College, Pasco-Hernando Community College, Santa Fe Community College and Seminole Community College.

“Based on what other state institutions of higher learning are paying to implement domestic partner benefits in their workplaces, the cost of offering domestic partner benefits at FAU would probably be around $35,000 – basically the cost that any two of FAU’s 22,000 students pay to attend the school for one year,” Hoch predicted.

Cleveland State University, where Dr. Saunders served as provost, maintains a Safe Space Program whose goal is to create visible peer support and awareness of, for, and among gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning students.

“The CSU Safe Space Program recognizes that while other minority students can easily identify role models and mentors, the invisibility of sexual orientation makes it very difficult for gay students to ascertain where they can safely turn for support and information,” said Hoch “The Safe Space program provides these students with access to and recognition of individuals of all sexual orientations and gender identities who are available to aid LGBT students in making connections with the resources available to them.”

Hoch asked the assembled faculty and students to call on President Saunders to establish a Safe Space Program at FAU.

The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council is dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

The Council promotes equality through education, advocacy, direct action, impact litigation and community outreach.

Palm  Beach County Human Rights Council

Post Office Box 267

West Palm Beach, Florida 33402

(561) 586-0203

UFF to File Lawsuit Against FAU BOT, Administration

February 24, 2010. FAU admin & trustees’ refusal to arbitrate to be challenged through Motion to Compel Arbitration in circuit court.

Imagine that you are walking to your car after work. It’s late at night and your ride is the last one in a poorly-lit parking garage. Suddenly, a knife-wielding figure jumps out of the darkness, knocks you down and violently stabs you in the abdomen. The person then dashes off into the night. You’re thoroughly traumatized, even though you’d received threats and were already on guard. From your hospital bed you find that your assailant has been apprehended by the police. Although he acknowledges the attack, he maintains that he should not appear before a judge because, after all, he was nice enough to pull the knife out of your person before absconding and plans to pick up your hospital bill and send you some flowers as you recover.

The analogy is not perfect. To be so it would have to provide for how your attacker was also your employer, and thus had control over where you park your car and what time you leave work. Yet this is essentially what took place on May 29, 2009 when the Frank Brogan and John Pritchett-led administration assailed the faculty body and the institution of tenure at FAU. The administration has since asserted that even though a bludgeoning of the faculty body may have taken place, all is now better and there is really no need for a silly arbitration.

It is true that the administration has partially withdrawn the knife from the faculty body (two of the five layoffs have now been officially rescinded and all faculty members have been provided with alternative positions), yet the body is still wounded while the culprit stubbornly refuses to abide by the arbitration process provided for in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Further, the assurance and peace of mind the faculty body once may have had for its safety is now gone, probably for good. This is not merely a refusal to arbitrate. More importantly, it is a refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of the faculty’s legal representative–United Faculty of Florida.

This is the essence of the argument presented in UFF-FAU’s Unfair Labor Practice charge filed with PERC earlier this month concerning the union’s Chapter Grievance: the entire faculty body is harmed when the administration/BOT is allowed to violate the CBA–in this instance by setting up “functional units” to bypass the CBA and target tenured faculty. FEA attorneys now intend to file a Motion to Compel Arbitration in circuit court on the grounds that the FAU administration and trustees are in no position to unilaterally determine whether a grievance is arbitrable. Only a trained arbitrator has the capacity to do this.

ULPs and lawsuits both take time to receive hearings. UFF-FAU will keep you apprised of further developments as we become aware of them. This time around, FAU trustees and administrators may have to learn the hard way that they cannot arrogantly claim, “I am the state!” as they did in dismissing the PERC Special Magistrate’s ruling on faculty salaries in April 2009. This is an especially good thing given their particularly one-sided sense of justice.