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Who knows what will happen next

Who knows what will happen next

If anything was made clear during Wednesday’s Faculty Senate meeting, it was this: Nothing is clear at all.

Following addresses from USF President Judy Genshaft and faculty union president Roy Weatherford, senators spent a great deal of time discussing the ramifications of a set of new emergency rules that will govern faculty in the 90 days following the expiration of the current bargaining contract on Jan. 7.

While some senators seemed satisfied with the emergency rules — emphasizing that they were, in fact, temporary, and permanent rules would be negotiated at a later date — most faculty expressed an air of distrust toward the Board of Trustees and the administration.

Many senators wondered why the contract that governs faculty now simply could not be lifted word-for-word and passed in the guise of a emergency set of rules.

Many wondered, what the “emergency” was to begin with. After all, it has been known for eight months that when the Florida Board of Education became defunct, the Collective Bargaining Agreement would die along with it.

But for the most part, most faculty members wondered why they weren’t consulted in the decision.

Adviser to the president, Phil Smith, fielded specific questions from the senators about the new rules. He said many faculty members are jumping to conclusions because the new rules are, in fact, being pulled straight from the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

But no sooner did Smith make that assertion than did former Faculty Senate president Nancy Tyson speak out to contest it.

She said the language isn’t the same, and in fact, the meaning of academic freedom under the new proposal is changed.

Specifically, the last sentence of the introduction in the current contract reads as follows: “An employee engaged in such activities shall be free to cultivate a spirit of inquiry and scholarly criticism and to examine ideas in an atmosphere of freedom and confidence.”

The last sentence in the introduction of the proposed emergency rules says of academic freedom: “The University requires Faculty employees to carry out their duties and responsibilities in an academically responsible manner.”

Smith said the discrepancy is minute, and during the rulemaking process, some clauses were “reorganized.” The scope of the clause’s meaning however, remains unchanged, he said.

Perhaps most odd about the meeting was the speech delivered by Genshaft, who appeared markedly uncomfortable and often fumbled for words.

Before she delved into her prepared speech, she briefly addressed Faculty Senate president Greg Paveza, who just minutes before called the proposed emergency rules on academic freedom “among the most conservative I’ve ever seen,” and seconds later told the senate “One has to wonder if it is academic freedom at all.”

Genshaft thanked Paveza for his comments and said his points “would definitely be discussed.”

After that, Genshaft didn’t address the matter. Instead, she used her time to speak about such issues as on-campus construction funds and USF’s pursuit of a $30-million award for research.

Fifteen minutes later, she ended her speech by abruptly repeating that the new rules for academic freedom would only be in effect for three months after Jan. 7.

“These are 90-day rules, and that’s it. 90 days,” she said.

And then she picked up and left.

The BOT should undoubtedly pass the proposal for the new rules today. Both faculty bodies have made clear their positions on the matter. The administration has made clear that it is not trying to deny any faculty member his or her rights.

It is clear the two entities will continue to butt heads when the new rules proposal is passed.

It is not clear what ramifications these new rules could hold.