Alan Gummerson’s Remarks to FIU Board of Trustees, 22 November 2004

Good morning.

The time you have granted me will go quickly, so let me cut to the chase. The faculty are angered and offended by the proposals your bargaining team placed on the table last week. These proposals constitute an extreme and radical attack on the kind of university this faculty has created over the last thirty years. The proposals are an attempt to impose a corporate or even military model of governance on the university, in place of the collegial governance that we have had at FIU, as all universities worthy of the name have, and that has worked very well up until now.

The Provost was quoted in the Sun-Sentinel on Saturday that "The foundation for any modern university -- academic freedom and tenure -- are intact…” in these proposals. The people behind me know better because they have read the administration’s proposals. Let me take academic freedom first.

The administration proposes lofty words about academic freedom—but consigns them to the preamble of the proposed agreement, and then specifically say “This Preamble is a statement of intent and policy and is, therefore, not subject to Article 8 Grievance and Arbitration Procedure.” Fine words without an enforcement procedure are just words. The faculty understand that, and understand the attack on Academic Freedom this proposal represents.

But that’s not all. The administration’s proposal reserves as management rights, “the exclusive right …to determine or change curriculum, programs, and degrees to be offered, as well as the materials, processes, products, …, and methods of instruction…” So the administration reserves the “exclusive” right to determine what we teach, how we teach it, what materials we can use, and the method of instruction as well? Somebody please tell us what’s left of collegial governance and academic freedom.

Tenure? Oh yes, we will still have to go through the rigorous process of earning tenure. But added to the grounds for removal of tenured faculty for “just cause” is “persistently uncollegial behavior”. If a tenured faculty member can be dismissed because administrators consider her uncollegial, then tenure is as empty a concept as their version of academic freedom.

But it is not just the attacks on academic freedom and tenure that have the faculty angry. It is also the intention to take from the bargaining agreement all of the rights and protections we enjoyed during the 27 years that we had a collective bargaining agreement. These rights and protections, if the administration has its way, will be removed from the bargaining agreement and placed only in university policy.

But that means if they are not in the bargaining agreement they cannot be enforced by the grievance and arbitration procedure. So if a supervisor violates those rights or protections, the only recourse a faculty member would have would be to hire an attorney and sue the university.

The list of areas where the faculty’s rights are under attack is a long one: The right to equitable assignments, to a fair evaluation, to leaves, promotion, non-reappointment, disciplinary action, conflict of interest, benefits, intellectual property rights, non-discrimination—in none of these areas would the faculty have protection against arbitrary and inequitable treatment by supervisors.

And they have added a new category: demotion. Quick, name a university other than Bob Jones, Oral Roberts, or the Army War College that has a demotion policy for faculty.

This is a draconian solution in search of a problem. Why is it that both FAU and USF have been able to reach agreements which have left faculty rights and protections intact? What is so bad about how FIU has functioned for the last 30 years that requires an extreme and radical solution like the one your team put on the table?

This university is in crisis. And that crisis stems mostly from management failures. It was the administration which failed to account for the federal grants that the university will have to give back in the millions. It was management that forgot to pay the light bill. But it will be the faculty and students who are forced to adjust to the lack of funds which is the result of these failures.

Given this crisis, this is a particularly inopportune time for the administration to attempt to remove faculty rights and protections from the collective bargaining agreement, to try place them in unenforceable university policy, and then to say “Trust us.”

Your crisis with the faculty is an unnecessary one. Things worked fine under the collective bargaining agreement. What problem are you trying to solve?

You need the faculty to help you solve the other crises. But the effect of these attacks on the faculty is to drive away the best researchers and scholars, to universities which offer collegial governance, real academic freedom rather than lip-service, and the kind of environment where creative activity, the creation of knowledge, and critical thinking are encouraged, not threatened.

Your crisis with the faculty is easily solved. We call on you to do two things:

First, send a competent team to the bargaining table, one competent enough not to renege on agreements it has already made, for example, a team that has some understanding of how a university works, and tell them to negotiate for at least a full day every week so an agreement with the faculty can be arrived at soon.

Second, instruct that team to abandon their draconian, radical approach so incompatible with a real university. Tell them to start with the agreement that worked so well for 27 years, and forget about importing some extreme model that is a solution for a problem that does not exist at Florida International University.

Thank you for your time, and I will be happy to take any questions you might have.

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[last updated: November 29 2004]