President Sonja Martin Poole's Welcome Address
2018-19 School Year
at the Policy Board Meeting
September 5, 2018
Welcome to the 2018-2019 Academic year! I hope that you enjoyed your summer and the first two weeks of the fall semester have been good to you.
As you recall, last spring many of us ran on the Re-Union platform. Our aim under the platform involved Reforming, Rebuilding, and Rejuvenating the Faculty Association. Here is how we have – and intend -- to deliver on this mission.
Over the summer, the executive team and several representatives worked collectively to build out the intentions of the Re-Union platform. Our work culminated in 3 priorities for this administration:
1. The first priority is to build an effective, inclusive and transparent leadership necessary to sustain a strong organization able to address the difficult challenges that face us at USF at this time. That means first educating and training our leadership.
Because it was important that we educate ourselves about the existing operations, Keally, Ed, Justine, Gabe and I met with the outgoing officers before our official start date of June 1st. We established open lines of communication for the transition and transferred critical information, documents, and financial accounts. The transition period extended throughout the summer. Our outgoing leaders were open, available and cooperative during this process. In particular, Elliot Neaman made time to answer my questions, give me advice and meet me whenever I called, emailed, or texted him. Which was quite often. He was nothing but gracious and encouraging and I am grateful for his cooperation and support.
On June 1st , we hit the ground running. Gabe Maxson, Rebecca Mason and I went to the California Federation of Teachers’ Union Summer School at UCLA. There we learned the ins and outs of collective bargaining – from preparation and planning to campaigning and negotiating. They educated us about workplace rights, self-advocacy, and resources for union engagement.
Also in June, we built on our experience at Union Summer School. Union trainers met with us on campus to provide operations training for the entire executive team. In addition to providing us with materials and tools to support effective operations and meeting facilitation, they shared valuable advice on how to incorporate practices that encourage open communication and democratic decision-making.
In July, Justine and I attended the CFT Treasurers training in Sacramento. There we got a comprehensive training in financial stewardship, including examples of best practices essential in union administration.
One of the requirements of a union is to conduct an annual audit. As treasurer, Justine worked with our accountant the entire summer to provide the documentation and financial information necessary to conduct the audit which involved numerous hours of tracking down receipts, accounting for previous expenses, and working with the rest of the executive team to develop standard policies and procedures. We learned that one of the reasons it had been difficult in the past to understand our financials is that our financial activity was combined with that of the part-time union. This summer, however, we took the necessary steps to completely separate our financials and distinguish ourselves from the PT faculty union. We now have a clean slate to examine and track our financials in an organized, transparent manner. Because of Justine’s work this summer, the Policy Board will soon present an operating budget for all of our members to see for the first time.
Taken in whole, the training and educational opportunities we experienced reinforced our belief that in order to be a strong Association, we need to be organized, professional, and most of all, prepared. That is why we intend to provide similar educational opportunities for all Policy Board leaders. In addition to sending PB leaders to CFT workshops and seminars, once a month, we will integrate a short leadership development exercise in our Policy Board meeting structure. There will be lessons in effective meeting facilitation, inclusive leadership, financial stewardship, familiarity with our governing documents and powerful communications. The aims of these mini-trainings will be to strengthen our representational program and expand our outreach and efficacy.
2. Our second priority is to demonstrate meaningful faculty governance. Recalling how during the VP Forum last semester Provost Heller stated that he supports creating a faculty senate, we investigated and realized that we already have one! One of the unique aspects of our union is our built-in faculty governance structure. This is the lesser known and least talked about aspect of the USF Faculty Association. But thanks to our founding members (Mike Lehmann), it does exist!
As Keally will demonstrate in her own remarks, The USF Faculty Association was established not only to protect and further our rights and interests, and ensure our well-being and development; it was also established as an instrument of faculty governance.
Combing through our documents, Keally revealed something critical–the Faculty Association runs this place! Committees that are essential to the university’s sustainability, such as the Peer Review Committee for Tenure and Promotion, the Curriculum Committee, the Joint Faculty-Administration Task Forces, and even the College Councils in each of our divisions, are all Policy Board/Faculty Association Committees.
In addition, there are committees that are critical to the functioning of the Policy Board and its union-related activities. One such committee that I will highlight here is the Grievance Committee. When I took office in June, the Faculty Association had 7 ongoing grievances, but no Grievance Committee. Under the direction and council of Elliot Neaman and Mike Lehmann, I quickly got up to speed on the CBA and the grievance process and managed the grievances on behalf of the Faculty Association. All but 2 of the grievances were resolved over the summer. It was an amazing learning experience. Nonetheless, I came to appreciate that the process would be a lot more effective and efficient if an active committee supported and facilitated this work with the chair.
The Grievance Committee is essential to supporting members when they have a potential conflict with administration and when the administration has violated the CBA. The GC is essential to the grievance process, but it is also central to our power as a collective bargaining unit. A fully functioning GC has 1 representative from each division who is well-versed in the CBA. It is chaired by the president of the Faculty Association and together we investigate conflicts in support of the Association member and accompany and represent faculty through the grievance process. In doing this for individual members, we in essence establish policy for the rest of us. Unfortunately, over the years, this committee has not been active. We aim to re-activate it this year.
After I sent notices to the Policy Board reps of each of the 7 divisions asking that you identify among yourselves a GC rep as indicated in the Bylaws, you responded with vigor! THANK YOU. We now have 5 committed PB representatives that have agreed to serve on the GC – and I am certain that we will get the last two by the end of this week.
One of the new members of the reactivated GC is your colleague and Arts Policy Board representative, Mike Webber. Mike has the relevant experience that I believe will support the functioning of this committee. Mike has been at USF for over 40 years. A full professor in the Sociology Department, he has served as a grievance representative for the Faculty Association before along with other Policy Board/Faculty Association committees. He has also served as a dean and a VP at this institution. He brings a valuable perspective to this role that few of us have and his council will serve this committee well. That is why I have asked Mike Webber to serve with me as vice-chair of the GC. He has agreed to serve in this role, pending the approval of the policy board.
3. Our third priority is to establish solidarity. We aim to develop a unified community of faculty and librarians who are committed to one another and dedicated to initiatives and activities that promote our mutual benefit. There are two main reasons that solidarity is an important priority.
First, a supportive community is essential to the health and well-being of our members. As faculty, we spend much of our lives on this campus, serving this institution. Our lives here, our work, should be a source of friendship and and a place of fulfillment. To this end, we aim to champion initiatives that lift us up and bring us together.
One such initiative that the executive team conceptualized over the summer is the Faculty Association happy hours. It is our hope that Association members will deepen their connections during these monthly get-togethers. We believe that in order to create our union community, we need to be in relationship with one another in a way that includes spending time together in low-stakes, relaxing environments. That may involve sharing a meal, a beer, or a cup of coffee. It always involves conversations.
Faculty solidarity is also important because it gives us strength during and between negotiations. Besides grievances, solidarity is the only tool we have to demonstrate power to influence and establish institutional policy. The slogan, “Strength in Numbers” does not apply only to Warriors fans. We have to insist that the administration take seriously our proposals, feedback and input. When we call on members to resist, we need all members to participate in the resistance. Strength in numbers.
This community of support extends to members of other campus collective bargaining units, and our sisters and brothers in the larger labor movement world-wide. Keally, Kathy Coll, and Rebecca Mason have already activated lines of communication and avenues of support to engage other collective bargaining units, such as the Part-time faculty union, OPE, and SF Labor Council. Keally has formalized these efforts by proposing a committee that will be dedicated to lifting up the issues of our sister unions.
A current issue that may require collective action is the recent decision by the administration regarding faculty and staff discounts. As many of you know, they are discontinuing the 20% discount on campus purchases -- a discount that is estimated to cost the university $60K per year. As one of our esteemed colleagues, put it,
“This unilateral decision seems poorly timed and decided. At a time of increased costs in housing and food throughout the Bay Area, it becomes less sustainable to live here, especially for junior faculty and staff … The cost of $60k, when the College of Arts and Sciences has been reduced by almost $2 million, seems petty, nickle-and-dimey, and a drop in the $400 million annual operating bucket.”
Other issues that affect faculty well-being and our ability to do our jobs include
· The reallocation of faculty development funds;
· The repeal of retirement severance packages;
· Academic prioritization; and
· Service overload
These are the kind of issues that require collective action. If we want to be heard, if we want to enact change, we must be in solidarity.
To recap, our 2018-2019 priorities are
(1)to build an effective, inclusive and transparent administration;
(2)to demonstrate meaningful faculty governance; and
(3)to establish solidarity
Thank you for the opportunity to lead us in these efforts.