The Thursday UF Faculty Senate meeting saw some tensions in the discussion of Florida higher education legislation making its way through Tallahassee.
UF faculty senators heard reports from Senate Chair Amanda Phalin, Provost Joe Glover and the University Police Department about upcoming events, the current legislative session and UPD’s 2022 police activity.
UF President Ben Sasse didn’t attend the meeting but held a Senate dinner at his home on Tuesday with Phalin and 10 other senators. Those invited to the dinner shared faculty concerns over the current legislative session ongoing in Tallahassee and educated Sasse on the importance of shared governance, Phalin said. She also briefed the senators about her coming report.
“We found him to be a good listener, very attentive and someone who's really interested in learning from and engaging with faculty and is very curious for our input,” she said about Sasse.
On Thursday, Phalin’s report called for senators to nominate a senator for the chair-elect position, the person who will take over for Danaya Wright, UF Law professor who still holds the position. The Senate leadership team is comprised of three members: the chair-elect, chair and past chair. Wright will take over Phalin’s current chair position June 1. At the time of publication, there has only been one nomination.
Glover’s report covered House Bill 999 and its Senate companion bill, Senate Bill 266. The UF provost, who will leave his position in June, notified faculty that the academic affairs office is tracking the bills’ progress and reassured the Senate his office is paying attention to Tallahassee.
Glover interpreted recent changes to HB 999 as a positive improvement for faculty, he said.
“In the last version, I would have interpreted the department of women's studies and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to be at risk,” he said. “Under this version, I do not consider that department to be at risk.”
The previous version of the bill included a broader variety of courses than the current draft. The second version focuses on critical theory, according to Glover.
However, Glover said, not every controversial bill had improved. SB 266 would drop the number of general education courses offered at the university by between 12 to 15 courses, he said.
“This is a problem — and not just for us,” Glover said. “This is a problem for the entire system.”
Phalin thinks faculty, students and their families have a strong voice in legislative matters, she said.
“Understand exactly how detrimental the current legislation is going to be to the value of a Florida education,” she said. “I can’t overstate the damage that this bill could do.”
Following Glover, UPD presented its annual report. Introduced by Police Chief Linda J. Stump-Kurnick, Capt. Latrell Simmons and Capt. Greg Streukens walked the Senate through the last year of UF police activity.
In 2022, UPD received 10,001 calls and 184 sworn complaints; generated 1,548 reports; and made 73 arrests, according to the report. The officers also presented their co-responder team, an extension of UPD that is licensed in crisis intervention and came to fruition in July.
“The co-responder team is going to be a game changer for the UF community,” Simmons said.
The program’s goal is to reduce resistance and keep people in mental health crises out of jail by reducing the use of force and number of individuals taken to jail, Simmons said.
The next UF Faculty Senate meeting is scheduled for April 20.
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