USF President Judy Genshaft on Friday began an endeavor to meet with faculty in the different colleges to help answer questions about new emergency rules and a new bargaining agreement that will be discussed today at a Board of Trustees meeting.
On Wednesday, Genshaft sparked a faculty uproar when she refused to answer questions on stage after apologizing for lack of faculty consultation in developing the new rules.
Speaking to faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences, Genshaft said she learned more about how other universities are handling a new bargaining agreement after attending a meeting with the other state university presidents and Gov. Jeb Bush on Thursday.
“All the universities are trying to figure out what to do about the collective bargaining agreement,” she said. “It’s a time of a lot of ambiguity, and it is important that we all work together.”
Genshaft explained to the faculty that she wants their opinions to help develop a stronger line of communication in order to come up with the best possible set of rules.
However, Steven Johnston, a government and international affairs professor, said the best way to get help from the faculty is avoiding fiascos such as the meeting held in Theatre I Wednesday.
“Faculty were very upset that (Genshaft) had left after 15 to 20 minutes,” Johnston said. “They wanted to ask questions, and that was not well received.”
Johnston said Genshaft’s intention to communicate with the faculty backfired on her at that meeting.
Genshaft said she avoided the situation because she knew a conversation in that forum wouldn’t be productive.
“Our idea was that we would go out, and we would be able to talk to some of the staff and faculty, and as we were walking out, the screaming was such that it wasn’t going to be a civil dialogue,” Genshaft said. “It was very clear.”
Johnston said the main concern the faculty had was the lack of an open discussion, especially because the meeting was being broadcast on the Internet.
Provost S. David Stamps said the administration thought the meeting would not be beneficial if it became a debate with the union. Instead, he said, the administration wanted to meet the faculty and apologize for the lack of consultation with them about the temporary rules and to answer individual questions.
“We wanted to make sure that the faculty understood the core values of the university, that they were being upheld,” Stamps said. “We wanted them to know that academic freedom, tenure and shared governance is something that the president and I hold dear to our hearts. Maybe it was a mistake, (to leave the meeting), but those were our intentions.”
But faculty union president Roy Weatherford said the administration is reorganizing itself to try to break up the union.
On Jan. 7, the union’s collective bargaining agreement expired after more than 15 years. The Board of Trustees required the administration to put in place a set of temporary emergency rules of misconduct so that the university could continue to operate. The rules will last 90 days until a set of permanent rules is made. The new Board of Governors also delegated authority to the BOT for purposes of bargaining.
Today, the BOT will meet to modify the rules and to eliminate confusion and define misconduct as it was under the collective bargaining agreement.
“They are trying to gain an advantage over the faculty,” Weatherford said. “It wasn’t an accident that they wrote those rules. It’s a policy they wanted.”
Weatherford also said the administration is trying to win over the faculty.
“They are trying to drive a wedge between the union and the faculty. Basically, they are trying to screw us,” Weatherford said.
Genshaft and Stamps, however, both said they have nothing against the union.
“We don’t have a problem with the union,” Stamps said. “And we are not trying to do anything to the union.”
Some professors expressed concern at the meeting that the BOT doesn’t have the faculty’s best interest at heart. They wondered why the administration can’t go back to the old collective bargaining agreement until a new agreement is made.
Mark Snow, interim general counsel for USF, said it has been too long to use the old rules, and it has come to the point where the university has to adopt a new set of rules. Snow also said the temporary rules were put into place because the university needed some type of governance after the Jan. 7 deadline. One of the things that the BOG did, Snow said, was pass a set of resolutions that delegated authority to the university, allowing the university to start establishing its own rules.
“The administration needs to figure out how to get input from the people that matter about the rules,” Snow said. “These are the issues that I think are really important.”
However, the BOT votes today on whether the definition of the temporary rules should be changed, and the faculty will then still have to wait to bargain with the BOT for a new contract.
Yet, Snow said, it is not the university’s responsibility to start making new rules. Instead, the university is going to recreate a bargaining agreement that will be similar to the old one.
“The old agreement was a statewide agreement. The new one will be specifically tailored for USF,” Snow said.
Stamps said the union could go to the Public Employee Relations Commission and request a Representation Acknowledgment petition to be named as the agent for the faculty. The university would then be able to bargain a new contract. He also said he is confused as to why the union hasn’t applied already.
Michael Reich, director for media relations, said PERC would officially certify the university as the employer soon.
Weatherford said that, under the law, the union is to be certified in order to have the right to claim representation of the faculty. He said there are two ways to do that. One is by a representation certification or an election and the other is voluntarily recognition.
Weatherford said the union filed for an RC as a last resort. In the end, if PERC decides to order an election, it will issue a status quo order, which would allow the union and the administration to recognize the existing contract.
“(The administration’s) plan is to have the union be forced to agree at any period of time,” Weatherford said.
Weatherford also said that if the union were to appeal to PERC, it would imply that the union is not recognized, when that is not true.
“The administration could just agree with us (that we are recognized), and we could start bargaining,” he said.