The Rest of Higher Education

I get so spoiled by our wonderful faculty and staff, and their deep commitment to Christ and to our students, that I sometimes forget what the rest of higher education is like.  This story from the University of Florida is a jarring reminder of the difference in spirit, calling, values, and integrity of our faculty and staff.

At a moment when the University of Florida is slashing its budget and laying off faculty and staff, administrators thought it was reasonable to ask Florence Babb to increase her teaching load to three courses a year. She doesn’t agree.

Babb, an endowed professor and graduate coordinator of UF’s Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research, has entered into arbitration proceedings to challenge the increased teaching load. Babb was given an appointment letter in 2004 that said her teaching load would be limited to one course each semester, and now says the university isn’t upholding its written agreement.

The United Faculty of Florida, a statewide union affiliated with the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, is backing Babb. As more universities contemplate budget cuts, Babb said it’s important to make a stand.

“This could be a kind of a test case,” said Babb, who makes close to $100,000 a year. “I think there is some awareness that this is a big issue for me, but it’s potentially a significant issue for many more people.”

The university does not dispute that Babb’s appointment letter laid out a one-class per semester course load. Even so, university officials argue that changing teaching loads is permissible under Florida’s collective bargaining agreement with the union. “From the university’s point of view, it is black and white in the collective bargaining agreement that a chair can adjust the assignment of a faculty member whenever they need to do so,” said Joe Glover, Florida’s provost.

According to the agreement, the university is authorized to “determine the mix” of duties, which include teaching, research and service. Assignments must be “fair and reasonable,” according to the agreement

Babb draws an annual salary of $99,223, according to university officials. The two classes she’s teaching this spring have a total of 43 students.

Comments are closed.