Edging toward a solution?
The administration saw it as a way to continue the daily operations at the university. The faculty union, on the other hand, perceived it to be a violation of its contract.
Since the faculty union’s collective bargaining agreement expired in November and a set of temporary emergency rules were implemented, faculty and administration have been distant.
On Nov. 21, the Board of Trustees approved a set of rules addressing misconduct, academic freedom and responsibility, and tenure.
Tuesday, those rules expired, as was required by its 90-day limit. But, as administrators and human resources allow an updated version of the rules to continue, faculty and administration remain in limbo.
Keith Hauger, assistant general counsel for USF, said it may be the end of July or the beginning of the fall semester until a set of permanent rules are put into effect.
Hauger said the temporary emergency rules were updated by human resources and administrators, but he was not certain whether faculty were included in the development process.
“They’ve already sent out notices (for faculty members),” Hauger said. “There’s some slight differences in there.”
Michael Reich, director for media relations, said the only changes made to the temporary rules were grammatical changes and a technical change in the definition of misconduct.
Reich said the temporary rules officially expire April 11, and he expects a draft of the permanent rules to be completed by early summer.
Administrators implemented the rules to allow the daily operations of the university to continue after the faculty union’s contract expired.
The faculty union’s collective bargaining agreement expired Jan. 7, a date that was set when it was created. And while the faculty union pressed for a new contract, USF administrators said they were unable to begin contract bargaining because the Public Employee Relations Commission did not award certification to any university faculty union, following the addition of the Board of Governors.
Reich said on March 21 the faculty union agreed to allow the Board of Trustees to voluntarily recognize them for the bargaining of a new contract.
Reich said the university and the statewide United Faculty of Florida signed the agreement to be reviewed by PERC. Reich said the bargaining process can begin once PERC verifies signatures collected from USF faculty members allowing the faculty union to be their representative.
According to a letter from USF President Judy Genshaft, she said administrators have said “many times” the BOT would be willing to voluntarily recognize the union. Since January, the administration has tried to get the faculty union to follow the University of Central Florida’s faculty union path, when the university allowed its Board to voluntarily recognize it.
“It certainly puts us on the fast track,” Reich said.
But faculty union president Roy Weatherford said he is concerned about the faculty’s involvement in the contract bargaining process, as well as the development of permanent rules.
Weatherford said he was never officially notified about the updated rules, and the university denied his request to negotiate the new rules.
“We are on the same footing as a truck driver from Miami,” Weatherford said. “Under the contract, any rules that might affect terms and conditions in the bargaining unit must be negotiated. Since administration is refusing to recognize the contract … they refuse to negotiate.”
Weatherford added that there have been a number of contract violations the faculty union has experienced since Jan. 7, and it is preparing to take possible legal action against USF. Weatherford said he is not sure when any legal action would be taken, but the faculty union would file unfair labor practice charges along with charges that the university has failed to recognize the union and negotiations.
Reich said he has not received information about the faculty union’s plans with attorneys but did say the university would handle the situation appropriately.
“It would depend on the legal action. I’m not sure I have enough information (to comment),” Reich said. “But we’ll do the right thing every step of the way. I don’t want to speculate on anything I don’t know about.”
Reich added, however, that negotiation is the appropriate process for creating rules.
“They’re developed by consultation with faculty, staff and others who are affected by them,” Reich said. “I’m not exactly sure what (Weatherford is) referring to.”
Reich said the Faculty Senate has a rules committee, which has been involved in the development of the permanent rules.
“Where we are right now is in the consultation process with different campus groups,” Reich said. “Faculty Senate has a committee that is looking at the rules. And it is our hope that we will have a set of permanent rules available for comment by the beginning of May.”
Reich said once the permanent rules are developed, the Faculty Senate and administration will review the rules to make a final agreement.
“The Faculty Senate as a body that represents the faculty has taken the initiative to look at the rules,” Reich said. “And I think they have gone through the rules with representatives from the provost’s office … and have done a commendable job of looking at them with a fine tooth comb.”