EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story misstated the qualifying term for three-year contracts. It has been corrected here.
Four months after eliminating faculty tenure at State College of Florida, SCF’s board of trustees chose a new contracting option Monday that gives future hires more job security.
By a 4-2 vote, the trustees approved a three-year contract faculty can qualify for after five years continuous employment. The term is three times longer than the one-year standard in place since the January tenure vote.
Most trustees got what they wanted, namely a contracting system under which all SCF instructors hired after January will be re-evaluated annually with the possibility of not receiving new contracts or going on probationary status if they don’t meet performance standards. And, for at least the next five years, every new faculty hire at the college will work on annual contracts.
Prior to January, SCF used a continuing contract system that automatically renewed teaching contracts with qualified faculty who met school evaluation standards. Commonly known as tenure, the continuing contract system remains in place at Florida’s 27 other state colleges.
The board requested the contracting options in February in response to criticism that eliminating tenure would make the school less attractive to future applicants for teaching positions. During the months-long lead up to the board’s January tenure vote, faculty and school administration repeatedly voiced concern qualified instructors might stop applying for positions at SCF because jobs with the possibility of tenure are viewed as more secure.
In a memorandum outlining one-, two- and three-year contracting choices presented to the board Monday night, SCF President Carol Probstfeld said offering multi-year contracts “would allow the college to remain competitive with other higher education institutions when hiring new faculty.”
Dr. Craig Trigueiro was the member of the board most vocal supporting the three-year contract option. He said the longer term plays toward SCF’s staffing strategy.
“You want the stinkers gone and the good to stay,” he said.
Before the vote, Trigueiro insisted the three-year contract proposal that came before the board be changed slightly. It was originally worded such that those longer contracts would automatically be renewed if a faculty member met renewal standards. The final, approved language states those contracts “may” be renewed.
Not all board members favored the measure. Peter Logan, appointed to the board of trustees in January, said any contract exceeding one year is too long.
“I have a philosophical issue with it,” he said.
Trustee Lori Moran also voted against the measure.
In a separate vote, the board approved a contracting measure that allows school administration to hire new instructors on a multi-year basis, provided they bring experience and credentials that “enhance the college’s capabilities and stature.” It is standard for new hires to receive a one-year contract.
Probstfeld said that stipulation has been part of the college’s employment policy for decades, but has never been used. She advocated keeping it should it be needed to attract an extraordinary instructor. The trustees approved the measure 4-2.
Former college trustee Carlos Beruff targeted tenure last August as part of a list of cost-cutting measures. The board acted on most items on the list, including eliminating many spring and winter break days for newly hired nonfaculty staff.
The new contracting rules generally do not affect faculty hired prior to the start of 2016. SCF employees who are on already working under continuing contracts or who were previously on a track to earn that status remain eligible to stay on that contracting system.
The loss of tenure has driven a wedge between SCF faculty and the trustees. SCF faculty are in the process of trying to unionize.
Eighty-two of SCF’s 120 faculty members signed union cards in February. Since then, lawyers representing the United Faculty of Florida and SCF have been going back and forth on scheduling a union officers election. Courtney Ruffner Grieneisen, SCF’s unionization movement leader, recently accused the college of stalling the vote and working to sway some faculty away from supporting the union.
In a statement, the college stated it is “carefully considering” the union issue.