Letters to the Editor 9-14-2011

In response to the Sept. 7 article “Higher education reform proposals raise concerns at USF”

Thank you for running the Sept. 7 article on faculty and administration concerns about some of Gov. Rick Scott’s proposals. Since some of them involve tenure, we should be clear about what tenure is – and what it is not.

“Tenure” is a labor union notion that an employee cannot be dismissed at will; there has to be a reason and there has to be a process. A century ago, academics saw tenure as a way to protect academic freedom; after seeing colleagues fired for teaching evolution and making political speeches, academic organizations pushed administrations to adapt “academic tenure.” A faculty member with academic tenure could not be dismissed without cause, and even then, the administration would be subject to a process for making or defending that dismissal.

Notice that a tenured professor can still be fired; it requires reason and it requires work, which is why no administration fires a tenured professor unless provoked. This is not just because of “tenure,” but also because we have a union contract that requires that the administration do its homework before firing anyone. Meanwhile, tenure at non-union institutions is withering away (the non-unionized University of California claims that tenured faculty do not have the right to vote against the administration in faculty committees but USF faculty’s right to do so is protected by our contract).

Tenure has become nearly universal in this country, and those institutions lacking tenure are regarded as marginal. It is almost impossible for an institution lacking tenure to retain, much less hire, research faculty; that’s one reason why the USF administration would prefer to have a tenure system here. And if USF is to help lead Central Florida into the 21st century, it will need tenure to compete.

Gregory McColm is spokesman for USF’s chapter of the United Faculty of Florida and an associate mathematics and statistics professor.


The world at your doorstep

As USF welcomes new and returning students, it is important for you, as a student, to begin thinking about building your brand while at USF. After four or so years when you have graduated, you will enter into a world that has undergone global economic, cultural and political changes. These changes influence individuals and human communities by affecting social habits, communication styles and, most importantly, the distribution of knowledge and economic resources.

Though technological revolution has been recognized by most, accompanied cultural transformation of societies has not. It is imperative that students are prepared academically and culturally to benefit from the global change. Job market and economic opportunities are global and there is an increasing global demand and competition for talent.

Global society is not only when you study or work in a distant country, it is right here in your community and your school. The world has arrived at your doorsteps. What you learn and experience at USF will continue to inspire and motivate you to become catalysts for change in your communities and around the world.

Aziz Talbani is director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs.