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UFF elections won’t affect Al-Arian case

USF’s faculty union could see a change in its leadership as its annual elections begin Friday.

There is no set date for the elections because it will be conducted through the mail. Once nominations for its elected positions are processed, ballots will be sent to all the union’s members.

Greg McColm, a union senator and publication manager, said the elections won’t impact the union’s January decision to support controversial professor Sami Al-Arian, should he decide to file a grievance against the university. McColm said once a vote is taken, its result stands, even if an administration is transitioning.

The union is a chapter of the statewide United Faculty of Florida, which represents all the state universities and some community colleges. UFF voted to give Al-Arian statewide support shortly after the USF chapter expressed its support.

Al-Arian was sent a letter of intent to terminate Dec. 19 after the Board of Trustees recommended to USF President Judy Genshaft that she fire him.

McColm said the decision to support Al-Arian was not political but contractual.

“The union’s primary purpose is to bargain a contract and ensure it is not violated,” McColm said.

That contract, a collective bargaining agreement negotiated by the UFF and the now-defunct Board of Regents, has been broken in Al-Arian’s case, McColm said, because the union contends that his academic freedom was violated when Genshaft decided to pursue his termination.

But Genshaft said in an interview last week that the reason for her decision is purely contractual, as well. She said Al-Arian violated the part of the collective bargaining agreement which states that faculty members must disassociate themselves from the university when they speak publicly.

The collective bargaining agreement is usually negotiated every three years, but each year, McColm said, “mini negotiations” are conducted so specific facets of the agreement can be altered. The current agreement is valid through 2003.

The positions up for election are president, vice president, secretary, treasurer and seven senator spots.

Of the seven senators elected, the top three vote-getters will be sent to an annual meeting held by the Florida Education Association, of which UFF is an affiliate.

Historically, McColm said, some of the offices go uncontested, in which case the current holder of the position remains until the next election.

McColm said he wasn’t aware of anyone contesting Roy Weatherford’s spot as president, but he said with nominations due Friday, it wouldn’t be too late for someone to announce that they’re running.

Weatherford could not be reached for comment.

Two other positions will be appointed: grievance chairman, held by Mark Klisch, and bargaining chairman, held by Robert Welker.

  • Contact Ryan Meehan at