State College of Florida to consider multiyear faculty contracts

SCF trustees end tenure for future faculty

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MANATEE -- Three weeks after eliminating continuing contract employment for new faculty at State College of Florida, some school trustees say they will consider instituting multiyear contracts with increased job protections for instructors.

During a workshop session Monday, trustees and faculty proposed new employment contract options. They also continued a sparring match concerning the end of continuing contracts, commonly known as tenure.

The 90-minute session resulted in an agreement among trustees to have policy options drafted for two- and three-year contracts, as well as for beefed-up one-year contracts that would allow fired faculty more opportunity to appeal dismissals.

What it didn't produce, to the disappointment of several faculty members attending, was a statement from the board giving a reason for eliminating the continuing contract system. It is something faculty have asked for since the policy change was introduced in August.

They asked for it again Monday.

Christina Dwyer, an assistant professor of mathematics at SCF, told trustees knowing their objections to the contracting system is critical to proposing a new one.

"I just have to come back to asking again the reason why continuing contract was eliminated," she said. "I don't know what was wrong."

Trustee Dr. Craig Trigueiro said no answer to that question will be forthcoming.

"To try to talk about why we did it is a waste of time. It's done," Trigueiro said. "It serves no purpose to give an explanation as to why we did it."

What the two sides did seem to agree upon is incoming college faculty need more certainty when it comes to their jobs. With last month's policy change, faculty members who had tenure or were already on a tenure track can retain or gain continuing contract status. Faculty hired after the start of 2016 will work on one-year contracts with no guarantee of renewal.

Robyn Bell, a music professor and president of the

SCF Faculty Senate, said the most compelling reason to come up with an alternative to continuing contracts is to make SCF more appealing for faculty job applicants. She said one candidate for a recent job opening decided to withdraw from consideration after learning the school no longer offers continuing contracts.

Bell suggested the school adopt a hybrid contracting method used at Florida Gulf Coast University and other schools around the nation: Sign faculty to multiyear contracts that don't expire unless an instructor fails to perform to standards several years in a row.

The proposal didn't gain traction with board members. However, three other contract schemes proposed by trustees did make the grade and will be written up in draft form by the school's legal counsel for consideration at a future board meeting.

Those proposals are:

A one-year fixed contract under which instructors not offered new contracts after the completion of an old one would be able to appeal the decision. Presently, faculty have no right of appeal after an annual contract ends.

Proposals for two- and three-year fixed employment contracts.

The options and the discussion at the workshop drew some praise from faculty members, including Floyd Winters, a computer science professor. He said he was glad to see trustees are open to contracting alternatives.

Still, the mood in the room remained contentious. Faculty have largely galvanized in opposition to several policy changes the trustees made over the past six months. Two weeks ago, the majority of school instructors petitioned the state to form a union chapter at SCF.

They have also bristled at the suggestion the school needs to be run, in Trigueiro's words, in a "businesslike fashion." To some, that statement sounded like cost cutting.

Hyun Kim, a religion and philosophy professor at SCF, said he fears reducing contract protections could allow SCF to push higher-paid instructors out in favor of those willing to take lower salaries. Trustees, including Trigueiro, said that is not the case.

The board next meets Feb. 23. It has yet to review a controversial policy proposal advocating having job applicants bid their salaries. The policy's author, trustee Carlos Beruff, said low-bidding applicants could save the college money.

Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027 or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.