MJ Saunders Administration Attempts End-Run Around Collective Bargaining Agreement, Shared Governance

June 11, 2012. Provost Brenda Claiborne announces significant changes to Promotion and Tenure policy without notifying UFF or faculty governance bodies

Dear Colleagues,

It has recently come to the union’s attention that the provost  released a May 31, 2012 memo regarding Promotion and Tenure (P&T). Particular notice should be given to section 9 where the external letters of recommendation have increased from 3 to 5. The union has recently contacted the provost stating that the Collective Bargaining Agreement specifically speaks to procedures that need to be followed in making changes to P&T criteria. Specifically, according to Article 14.2 (b) and Article 15.1 (c)(4) two things must occur first before modifying criteria:

1)  “The Board and the University may modify these criteria after notifying the UFF Chapter of the proposed changes and offering an opportunity to discuss them in consultation with the President or representative.” UFF has not been notified.

2)  “Any proposal to develop or modify promotion criteria shall be available for discussion by members of the affected departments/units  before adoption.” Faculty have not had any option to discuss this either. The union has never been made aware of such changes and needs to discuss them before any type of adoption takes place. Since the number of external letters was increased from two to three just two years ago after undergoing a comprehensive review by the University Committee, we need to understand the reasoning behind the increase of two additional letters in such a short amount of time.

In regards to the second issue review by members of the affected departments most faculty are not under contract right now so they are not obligated nor might not have adequate time to review the proposed changes. Either way, they were not given the opportunity. UFF suggests that administration should at least wait until the beginning of the fall semester to discuss these changes when faculty are under contract and present so they can discuss such issues as a group. Additionally, the administration needs time to allow the University Committee to meet to discuss any such changes.

If the administration fails to comply with the terms and conditions in the CBA, the union will then contact our legal counsel and proceed accordingly.

Furthermore, faculty should be aware that if any changes do take place, according to the CBA, Article 15.1 (4) states that such changes don’t become effective until a year after their adoption. Also, “an employee with at least three (3) years of tenure-earning credit as of the date on which the tenure criteria are adopted shall be evaluated for tenure under the criteria as they existed prior to modification” unless the employee chooses otherwise.

The CBA serves as a foundational document in such matters of P&T. This is yet another way in which the union protects the integrity of such processes. If you haven’t done so, join today. Download a membership form and send it to: Chris Robe’, CU 214, Boca Raton campus.

We are here when you aren’t making sure that protocols are followed. Join and become active in the union today.


UFF-FAU President

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

See related posts:

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

Who’s In Charge Here?

May 16, 2012. University Press publishes revealing exposé on Florida Atlantic University’s Board of Trustees, “[H]alf the board members have bankruptcy filings, foreclosures, or other financial problems in their past.”
(Published May 15, 2012)


FAU Board of Trustees group photoThe Board of Trustees with President Mary Jane Saunders (center). Photo courtesy of FAU Media Relations.

Experience. Leadership. Management. Philanthropy. Awards.

These are the words FAU’s Board of Trustees members used to describe themselves when they applied to join the board.

Bankruptcy filings. Foreclosures. Tax warrants. Court orders to pay debts.

These are the words they neglected to mention.

As FAU’s highest-ranking leaders, the trustees make FAU’s biggest financial and academic decisions. Their actions affect the entire university community — students, faculty, administrators, staff, alumni.

But a University Press investigation also found federal lawsuits, job performance complaints, a federal tax lien, and an eviction order in their past.

Read more at upressonline.com

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 uff-fau.org.

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!


CBS 12: FAU’s new budget reality: Crunch and chop

April 24, 2012. “The president has a house and a car and makes so and so millions of dollars. Where’s her cut?” –FAU student Monique Paramore.

(aired April 23, 2012)

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Budget cuts at Florida Atlantic University. For weeks teachers and faculty have protested after they found out FAU needed to cut $24.7 million. Those cuts will include satellite campuses, and some summer classes. Monday FAU’s Senior VP of Finance laid out what would be chopped.

The forum first kicking off with the Vice President of FAU’s Finance Department Dennis Crudele, revealing the budget numbers.

“We’ve gone from $181 million to $92 million and you can’t take that kind of reduction without having to really look at and assess your core values,” said Crudele.

After that, going over the budget plan that if approved, would eliminate campuses in Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Read more and view video at cbs12.com

Sun-Sentinel: FAU Fort Lauderdale Tower Faces Tough

April 24, 2012. Targeted campuses “are not making any profit,” says FAU Vice President for Finance Dennis Crudele

By Scott Travis

(April 24, 2012)

The faculty at Florida Atlantic University are usually united in opposing most budget cuts — unless it involves closing down small campuses.

A proposal to close the downtown Fort Lauderdale tower and the Treasure Coast campus inPort St. Lucie is alarming to those at the campuses. But many faculty at other campuses see it as a good way to deal with a $10 million budget hole, according to a website FAU created to get ideas on ways to cut the budget. A final decision is expected in June, but most at FAU think the proposals are a done deal.

“We’re a minority and a very small faculty, and we can’t make a lot of noise,” said Stephanie Cunningham, a graphic design professor at the Fort Lauderdale campus. “And we’re in the last week of classes. We don’t really have the time to organize a protest, and in the summer, there will be so few students on campus.”

Read more at sunsentinel.com

FAU Faculty and Students In Large Show of Unity Outside Administrators’ Offices

April 18, 2012. FAU community voices concerns over M J Saunders administration’s arbitrary decisions on summer classes, increased class sizes

UFF-FAU Chapter President Chris Robe begins rally to “Save Summer” Outside Williams Admin Building

Numerous students addressed rally participants on how the summer cuts have affected them

FAU Faculty donned their regalia to express concerns over administrators’ heavy-handed approach to summer

Sun-Sentinel: FAU Students Find Budget Cuts Hit Home

April 13, 2012. Nearly a third of summer session classes have been canceled

(April 12, 2012)

College students in Florida are getting a real-world lesson in economics as the effects of $300 million in budget cuts are starting to hit home.

At Florida Atlantic University, nearly a third of classes in the normally bustling summer session have been canceled, after the school took a nearly $25 million hit. Florida International University is deferring some maintenance projects and delaying hiring while the University of Florida has asked its departments to cut about 5 percent from their budgets.

At the same time, state universities are expected to increase tuition by 15 percent for the fourth year in a row.

“To have 15 percent increases year after year is unfair to students,” said Ayden Maher, president of FAU’s student government.

Read more and watch video report at sun-sentinel.com

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.” http://www.fau.edu/explore/homepage-stories/2012_03budgetcut.php.

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 http://www.signon.org/sign/students-in-opposition/.  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