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With new board come old problems

TALLAHASSEE — It came before the meeting even started, silently sneaking into the room.

When the members of the Florida Board of Governors sat down for their inaugural session, it was already there waiting for them.

The controversy surrounding Tuesday’s expiration of the faculty’s collective bargaining agreement made an appearance in the state’s capital as the faculty union took its case directly to the board.

Prior to the meeting, a notepad and a copy of the agenda was laid out for each board member. Minutes later, as the room began to fill with people, Tom Auxter, state president for the United Faculty of Florida, placed a letter from his union on top of each agenda.

The letter cordially requested that the board maintain the terms of the collective bargaining agreement until decisions are made as to a successor agreement. The letter said simply, that it was in the best interest of everyone if the board were to act in that manner.

“It will certainly be better for all concerned if this can be done in a reasoned and cooperative manner,” the letter said.

The drafting of the letter is yet another interesting move in the chess match that has developed between the union and administrators. By delivering it to the governors, the union has gone over the heads of the individual boards of trustees, which have chosen to allow the contract to expire.

The letter, which was never discussed by the board, highlights an underlying issue in the only true discussion of a short first meeting.

Some board members had questions surrounding a resolution that adopted rules previously held under the now-defunct Board of Regents and Board of Education, and a resolution giving power to individual boards of trustees.

Some of the governors questioned whether, once adopted, the rules could be changed later. Tom Petway, who was elected chairman of the board during the meeting, said the rules could be devolved later after further study.

When talk began about the boards of trustees’ amendments, Governor Richard Briggs made his voice heard. Briggs, a professor at the University of Florida, is the current chair of the Advisory Council of Faculty Senates, a position that brings with it a seat on the board.

Briggs represents a minority voice as one of the few board members with an academic background. Also a former Faculty Senate member, many of Briggs’ comments reflected faculty concerns.

Briggs said the governors should consider the current trend of BOTs raising presidential salaries without addressing faculty salaries. Such a situation has been the topic of debate at USF following president Judy Genshaft’s nearly $100,000 raise.

Briggs classified state BOTs behavior as, “a bit puzzling.”

Briggs also discussed briefly the collective bargaining agreement, encouraging the board to keep the current terms. Furthermore, Briggs told the board it needs to carefully consider these matters before delegating responsibility to the BOTs.

“I think those are things we need to be concerned about if we’re purely wanting to govern the universities,” Briggs said.

But Briggs’ comments were not discussed and both resolutions passed easily. Briggs was the only dissenting vote on the BOT resolution.

Other than those two items, Tuesday’s meeting was rather mundane. The board approved a few housekeeping items and ratified the selection of Gordon Michalson as the new president of New College. The board approved its mission statement.

The other responsibility for the board was approving its five selections to each BOT. For USF, the governors approved Lee Arnold, Steven Burton, Ann Wilkins Duncan, Rhea Law and Robert Soran. All had previously served on the USF board.

Those selections are added to Gov. Bush’s choices. The governor selected Dick Beard, Margarita Cancio and John Ramil to continue in their trustees role at USF. Not returning are Connie Mack and Chris Sullivan, who is now a member of the Board of Governors.

Three new members the governor appointed to the USF board are Debbie Sembler, a 46-year-old Pinellas Park resident who works in marketing; Kiran Patel, a 53-year-old from Tampa who is chairman of Empire Solutions; and Tampa resident Sonja Garcia, a 64-year-old retired library director.

Rounding out the new board will be student body president Mike Griffin and, as a result of Amendment 11, Faculty Senate President Greg Paveza.

The Board of Governors adjourned after agreeing to quarterly meetings. The next meeting has not been set.

Before the next meeting, board members will probably review and begin to formulate opinions about what responsibilities they will keep and which will be delegated to the BOTs.