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OPINION: UFF-UNF fights the good fight. Good professors should keep their jobs.

This article expresses the views of its author(s), separate from those of this publication. Readers are encouraged to comment or submit a Letter to the Editor to share their opinions. To submit a Letter to the Editor, follow the instructions here

2023 has proven to be the year of the worker. Even with union memberships at historic lows in virtually every industry, there have still been over 250 work stoppages this year. From actors to auto workers, laborers nationwide have again taken up the struggle against corporate tyranny. This age-old fight has now reached our humble university.

On Wednesday, after months of negotiations between UNF’s Board of Trustees (BOT) and the United Faculty of Florida’s UNF chapter (UFF-UNF), the union representing the university’s faculty, the university declared an impasse. This coming Monday morning, they will vote on post-tenure review policies, with or without union approval.

So, what went wrong? Neither party could agree on including a policy allowing the university to rate professors as “not meet[ing] expectations,” even if they’ve consistently been meeting or exceeding those “expectations” in their annual reviews. Long story short, the BOT wanted to keep the language in the proposal, while UFF-UNF wanted it removed.

I had to reread the language several times to ensure I understood it correctly. 

You’re telling me that even if our university’s professors are doing a fantastic job, UNF can still say they’re not meeting expectations? On what planet does that make any sense? Why have any review at all if the university can veto it at any moment?

Imagine if all your boss told you was how impressive your performance was. Then, at the end of the year, you get fired due to poor performance, which was just made known to you now. The future could look a lot like that for our school’s faculty.

Post-tenure review relies on consistent standards for professors and faculty to be judged by. If the university has its way, these criteria will be useless; keeping tenure status will be as much of a crapshoot as admission to UF (go ‘Noles).

We’re already seeing the effects of similar policies across the state. In a UFF survey of 642 faculty in Florida, 36% of respondents reported they don’t have long-term plans to stay in academia “because of changes to tenure, contracts and academic freedom,” and 46% said they have plans of continuing their careers in another state “within the next year.” 

Despite the impasse, I remain hopeful. The negotiations since June have demonstrated that union culture is still alive and well in Florida. 

The union forced the university to come to the table and bargain with the faculty. The union saw something in the policy they disagreed with and fought for its removal. The union has been able to amass nearly 1,500 (and counting) signatures on their petition.

As long as our university’s union continues to be a (necessary) thorn in the side of the BOT, they will continue to address the needs of our faculty. 

A strong union serves to benefit the entire university. Fight on, UFF-UNF. 

___

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About the Contributor
Ethan Leckie
Ethan Leckie, Enterprise Editor
A Pad Thai enthusiast, NASCAR follower, and Jon Bois fanboy, Ethan Leckie is a third-year journalism major at the University of North Florida, minoring in international studies. He first began his involvement with Spinnaker as a volunteer reporter in the fall of 2021 and currently holds the position of Enterprise Editor. Ethan has always had a passion for writing and hopes to work for a newspaper one day. He enjoys watching YouTube, cooking, and visiting restaurants in his free time. If you see him on campus, ask him about his pieces - he loves to talk about them!

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