Letters to the Editor

Construction noise cannot impair teaching

Year after year, I continue purchasing parking passes even though I can rarely find a space. I have watched tuition fees increase yearly while course offerings have diminished and class sizes have grown. Generally, I have kept my frustrations to myself. Until now. Today, I experienced the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. As I walked to the Business Building to teach my course, I was excited by the prospect of reviewing for the exam and discussing the upcoming paper assignment. However, it soon became very clear that I would not be able to do any of these things. The construction on the building was so loud I could not be heard over the pounding. The walls of the classroom were actually shaking. I was infuriated by the fact that no one bothered to inform me that I would be unable to prepare my students for the final exam. Teaching is sacred to me. It is the very reason I have chosen to pursue my doctoral degree. I take it very seriously. I have naively believed USF was an institution that prioritized higher learning. But I guess education is a distant second to “progress” at this institution. Is it foolish of me to think that construction should be done when classes are not being conducted? Am I silly to think I should have been informed about the noise and given options well in advance? Am I supposed to show up for the final exam and hope the construction has been completed? My anger is very justified.

There is absolutely no valid excuse for disrupting the educational process in this manner. And I am not alone in my anger. As I vented my frustrations to other students, staff and faculty members I was inundated with similar stories.

Apparently this is a problem all over campus. And for what purpose? Quite frankly, I don’t care what the administration at USF decides to build. Just do not let it interfere with the learning process. We need to get our priorities straight. Is this an educational institution or a corporation? I’m convinced it’s the latter.

Melissa Jarrell is a Ph.D candidate and instructor in the Department of Criminology.

Written bargaining agreement needed

An article by Gary Haber, in the Nov. 21 issue of The Tampa Tribune, quotes USF Board of Trustees Chairman Dick Beard as saying, “Just because they (the rules) aren’t written down, doesn’t mean (faculty) are losing anything.” It is difficult to believe that this remark is not either incredibly naive or simply disingenuous. Yes, I, perhaps not unlike Beard, regret the loss of the days when handshake and a vow in the presence of God were sufficient guarantees that agreements between honorable persons were binding and could be counted on. Unfortunately, those days (if they ever really existed) are long gone, and we live in a society in which, if there is not a contract or some other legal agreement, written, signed and ultimately enforceable by a higher agency, no one feels that her or his rights and responsibilities are secure and protected. Anyway, if, after the reorganization of the state’s universities, USF’s administration and the BOT really had wished to establish an atmosphere of trust between faculty and themselves, it would have helped if they had made a statement to the effect that, until the status of the relationship between the union and the university was clarified, they would voluntarily continue to adhere, as closely as possible, under the new system, to the rules and guarantees and procedures outlined in the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement; and, given their view that the former agreement was no longer in effect, and should a new agreement in fact have to be negotiated, they would take the last agreement as the starting point and not insist on restarting negotiations from degree zero. Of course, such assurances, which would have helped alleviate the uncertainty of an uncertain time, never came. One doesn’t have to be clinically paranoid to suspect that this refusal was a strategy for setting back the collectively bargained processes and guarantees of the agreement and exhausting faculty negotiators by putting them in a position where every gain achieved over the past quarter of a century would have to be renegotiated. And yet, we now are asked simply to “trust” them, to believe that, absent a formal contract, we are nevertheless not “losing anything.” Well, maybe we aren’t. But frankly, at this point, I’d like to see that in writing.

Silvio Gaggi is a Professor of Humanities and Chair at the Department of Humanities and American Studies.