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USF needs to get its act together. For an organization comprised of highly educated professionals, it’s making a lot of mistakes. As those mistakes continue to pile up, it is becoming far too easy to deduce that USF is not taking the United Faculty of Florida (UFF) seriously.

USF failed to maintain confidentiality at the negotiation table when an e-mail that included notes was accidentally sent to faculty. The e-mail revealed the fact that UFF chief negotiator Robert Welker stood to gain the most from those negotiations.

Welker has maintained that any amount he personally profits from the negotiations will be given to charity, but is actually under no obligation to be disinterested. The labor and management sides of the employment contract negotiation are all interested – disinterested parties in management/labor negotiations are referred to as mediators, which Welker most certainly is not.

So the Welker issue was not a serious mistake. But in its attempt to correct it, USF tried to recall the e-mail that revealed Welker as an interested party. In the process, USF managed to delete an untold number of e-mails. This isn’t very good conflict management: Instead of just confessing a mistake that ended up being discovered anyway, USF chose to make its error worse by doing something that may very well be viewed – especially by the UFF – as an act that threatened academic freedom.

The purpose of providing faculty members and students with e-mail addresses is not so that USF administrators can delete e-mails, either on purpose or by accident. E-mail communication must be free and unhindered everywhere, including on campus. In order to keep a secret that wasn’t exactly scandalous anyway, USF has made a mistake that could be viewed as a betrayal of privacy rights.

USF also weakens its own position regarding the employment contract through mistakes such as these. By not presenting a unified and exceedingly competent front in matters related to its union, USF is prolonging negotiations at best and strengthening the animosity between it and its faculty union at worst.

If any of the deleted e-mails contained essential information, USF’s error could have threatened the functioning of the University. Of course, USF’s continued errors threaten the possibility of a positive outcome in its negotiations with the UFF, which also – in its own way – threatens the functioning of the university the administration is paid quite well to manage.