The trustees overseeing State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota have no right to demand respect from the faculty and staff when they have failed to earn that honor by running roughshod over every reasonable objection to a new tyrannical policy.
One trustee, Robert Wyatt, took umbrage at some of the faculty comments made at Tuesday's board meeting after the panel completed the dismantling of future faculty tenure on a unanimous vote. He publicly stated: "Now that we've voted in this rule, I would like to hope that (SCF President) Carol (Probstfeld) would really make it a point to bringing the faculty back together and show respect for the board."
Hogwash. Independent thinkers should not be admonished to toe the line when that line runs counter to their beliefs. That's the very definition of both oppression and subjugation. These are college instructors who won't be intimidated.
Wyatt apparently was uncomfortable being dressed down on Tuesday by educators fully engaged in the future of their school and deeply wounded by a clearly unwarranted attack on future professors, the college's sterling reputation and student enrollment in a school that will now treat future instructors as disposable hires -- especially if they don't kowtow to meddlesome trustees who demand fealty to political whims versus sound education policy. That's the palpable fear here.
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Since the trustees, none of whom are educators, are all political appointees of the governor, that is a plausible fear. Will trustees censure certain textbooks and literature that don't align with their views? Fire professors and instructors who open the minds of students with politically disagreeable material?
Those battles are being fought elsewhere in the nation. Politics should not drive education, but this is Florida after all -- with its all too rich history of crusading in personal agendas and power.
The latest example: A new bill in the Legislature would muzzle the Florida School Board Association and other membership organizations by banning the groups from spending public dollars on lawsuits against the state that fight what members consider unconstitutional laws and programs. This is simply another sign of lawmaker arrogance and self-righteousness. It passed two committees in the House and Senate just days ago.
SCF trustees are driving down this same shameful road.
The justification of abolishing tenure reads like the political playbook of Gov. Rick Scott: Everything should operate on the business model. But businesses fail under reckless leadership.
And the worst -- potentially -- is yet to come. SCF trustees are looking at a proposal to reduce job applicants to bidding salaries in order to get hired.
What business does that? Companies want the best employees and thus pay for their talents and skills. The how-low-will-you-go bid on a job runs counter to recruiting the best and brightest to yield corporate success.
How will SCF possibly succeed with a patently foolish policy like that in place? What are trustees thinking?
One trustee, Dr. Craig Trigueiro, even allowed at Tuesday's board meeting that he believes the Legislature could eliminate continuing contracts at all state colleges, thus leveling the playing field in instructor hiring.
We believe this experiment at SCF is bound to fail. Florida's other state colleges would rise up in unity to fight any such legislation, too, hopefully leading to a repudiation of SCF board's decision. The demise of SCF's tenure program looks like a solution in search of a problem.
It's somewhat telling that the trustee who proposed the ban on tenure, businessman Carlos Beruff, did vote in favor of his plan but said nothing during Tuesday's meeting -- his first trustee meeting since September. The community backlash against this has been fierce, not just from current faculty but from across the citizen spectrum. Beruff's standing in the community took a hit.
Public education is just that -- public. Taxpayers, students and their families foot the bill for the state college system, and they should be treated with respect, just as professional educators should.