BOT votes to change faculty rules

LAKELAND — Despite the at-times vehement protests this week from both the USF faculty union and Faculty Senate, the USF Board of Trustees Thursday unanimously passed 16 emergency rules to govern personnel.

And minutes later, BOT chairman Dick Beard gave insight to the board’s feeling on the rules. As he walked past Faculty Senate president Greg Paveza, who has expressed his displeasure toward the rules, he tapped him on the shoulder.

“We did what we had to do,” Beard whispered to Paveza.

The rules, scheduled to take effect Jan. 7 and with a life of 90 days, are, according to the university, meant to allow business to continue as usual after the cutoff date for the faculty’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. The university says it was forced to implement these changes because of uncertainty surrounding Amendment 11, which, after being approved by voters in November, creates the statewide Board of Governors.

Permanent rules will be put into place after decisions are made at the state level as to who is the official faculty employer and with whom that employer can bargain.

Throughout the days leading up to Thursday’s vote, the faculty union and senate have argued against the rules for a few reasons, namely that the faculty was not involved in the drafting process, that new rules are not needed and that their wording restricts faculty rights.

In fact, faculty union president Roy Weatherford has said that the BOT has devious plans in mind and is attempting to greatly reduce faculty rights.

Before the vote, both faculty groups were given a chance to make their respective cases before the board. Paveza was the first to speak. He told the board about a resolution passed by the senate Wednesday requesting a delay in the vote until the faculty was consulted.

“My concern is not around the fact that these rules and rule changes are needed, because they clearly are, but rather because of the lack of faculty involvement,” Paveza said. “Neither the senate nor the senate executive committee were involved in the development of these rules and rule changes. There is little doubt that they directly affect faculty, and the senate and I believe that as the duly elected representatives of the faculty that (the senate) and its leadership should have been consulted.”

Paveza said the board has done many good things for the faculty. He said, however, the board’s action in this case is disheartening.

“It says to the faculty, unfortunately, that when it comes to the critical decisions about this university and its future, the message appears to be there will be no consultation with the faculty,” Paveza said.

Paveza was followed at the podium by faculty union representative Sherman Dorn, who was asked to stand in for Weatherford, who was at a funeral, Dorn said.

Dorn brought with him a sheet of alleged discrepancies between the Collective Bargaining Agreement and proposed new rules. He said he came to convince the board to stop action and recognize the faculty union as the collective bargaining agent.

“(I’m here) to convince you to delay adoption … and thereby to avoid a broad violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement,” Dorn said.

Dorn said there are both violations of substance and procedure in the board’s rules. He said it is a further violation that the rules were made without noticing or consulting the union.

Dorn said board action on the rules would result in grave consequences.

“If these rules are adopted, it will ruin the relationship on campus between the Board of Trustees and the faculty,” Dorn said. “The United Faculty of Florida will have no choice … but to take all reasonable means to stop implementation of these rules.”

Dorn further urged that the BOT recognize the faculty union as the faculty’s bargaining agent. He said if the faculty chose not to recognize the faculty union, there would be further trouble.

“If there (is no recognition), there will probably be an increasingly hostile confrontation,” Dorn said.

USF general counsel R.B. Friedlander was called to the podium as the board prepared to discuss the rules. She told the board that the problem with Dorn’s argument is that the rules cannot violate the Collective Bargaining Agreement for the simple reason that when they are implemented, there will be no Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Friedlander said the university has followed procedural rules properly and that any faculty can participate in discussing permanent rules.

During the discussion period, a few questions were asked about faculty concerns. BOT member John Ramil asked if adopting the rules puts the university at a disadvantage in recruiting. Friedlander said there will be no negative effect.

Board chairman Dick Beard said the rules were being put in place simply so that the university can operate in the absence of a contract.

Board member Margarita Cancio expressed concern in the faculty’s displeasure over the rules. She asked for and received an assurance that the faculty would be an integral part of negotiating the permanent rules.

Following the meeting, Beard, who has been Weatherford’s adversary during the past week, was asked whether he was concerned about the unrest among the faculty.

“No,” Beard said. “We don’t have any choice. We don’t have the ability to negotiate. We don’t have any choice, I mean we’ve got to have rules.”

Weatherford has, during the last few days, left a trail of biting statements for the BOT. Among those were a Tuesday statement that, “The board apparently wants us to be less like Harvard and more like Wal-Mart,” and a Wednesday statement, “They are going to screw us.”

Beard, when asked about Weatherford, simply shook his head.

“That’s Roy’s job,” Beard said.

USF President Judy Genshaft said she believes the faculty misunderstood the legal need for the rules. She said, also, that the rules had to be adopted.

“R.B. Friedlander’s presentation made it very clear that these are rules we must have after Jan. 7,” Genshaft said. “It’s very important that we have substantial faculty input and discussion for the (permanent) personnel rules.”