In recent weeks, UWF has launched a media crusade depicting a bright future of enrollment growth and massive institutional expansion. Unfortunately, this public relations campaign has involved some highly misleading and even inaccurate statements.
A factsheet correcting these inaccuracies is available here and will be sent to faculty.
More needs to be said about President Bense’s recent bonus in light of the serious problems emerging at UWF as a result of the lack of adequate faculty and staff compensation.
How ironic that the Board of Trustees grants President Bense a substantial bonus justified on merit while the faculty and staff do not get merit pay. The concept that you deserve a bonus because you “hit the mark” apparently applies only to President Bense and not to the faculty and staff. Yet, it is the faculty and staff at UWF, hardly the president alone, who are responsible for the continued success and growth of UWF.
Why are they not rewarded for their years of hard work, commitment to excellence and dedication to delivering a superior education? It is the blood, sweat and tears of the faculty and staff, and not President Bense, that have put this institution on the map.
Still, President Bense publicly complains that she is the lowest paid university president in the state — again how ironic, considering we are the lowest paid faculty and staff in the state.
This past week, the chairs and other division heads at UWF issued a public statement demanding that all personnel who have contributed to the success of this university should be rewarded for their hard work and dedication, and that we must now focus attention on the single most divisive issue on campus — salary compression and inversion.
“The salary gap between new hires, brought in at today’s competitive rates, and colleagues with lengthy records of commendable service cannot be reasonably or fairly justified,” they declared, and they called upon the powers-that-be “to make salary compression the primary issue” and for “other matters be considered secondary to this most pressing issue affecting personnel morale and retention during a period of sustained growth.”
Yet the president and the BOT have offered the faculty and staff a trifling amount that would not correct salary problems in a single department, telling us that they have no money to give while the president accepts a substantial bonus and spends profusely on things not directly related to delivering a superior education.
While President Bense relishes in presenting to the public an image of massive expansion and future growth, while she spends all her time in Tallahassee and across the state lobbying for a football program, for erecting statues on campus, for painting blue faces on the pavement, and for completing other cosmetic incidentals, a cancer eats away at the vital organs of UWF.
Yes, the things she is spending millions on are fine and wonderful for a university, but not when they come at the expense of education, not when they are purchased on the very backs of those who constitute the heart and mind of a university and who alone determine its success, the faculty and staff.
The sad fact is that President Bense and the BOT do indeed have the money. President Bense tells us, however, that the millions in her back pocket are “encumbered” reserved for other pots.
Why not “unencumber” them?
Move them to areas that are real priorities in higher education, and spend time lobbying for funding to enhance education.
The problem here is that the administration simply lacks the will to resolve salary deficiencies, choosing instead to hide behind the slogan of “encumbered funds.” If football was on the line, the funds would be moved to meet that objective.
Because of the president’s inexplicable unwillingness to correct the most serious problem at UWF, two equally serious phenomena are occurring.
First, there is a mass movement on part of faculty to go elsewhere, resulting in a “brain drain.” Second, morale at UWF is at an all-time low, and low morale is one of the most underestimated consequences of the serious problem we now face.
When you lose recognized and capable faculty and staff, when morale reaches rock-bottom and you are starting to dig, it directly undermines the ability of the university to do what it is ultimately created to do, and that is to deliver to students the highest quality education possible.
When all is said and done, the unwillingness to compensate faculty and staff fairly adversely affects the students the most — they are affected as much as the faculty, they will not get their money’s worth, they will not receive the highest quality education that they deserve, and education is all about the faculty-student relationship.
So, while the outside glitters with gold, a cancer metastasizes at UWF — and the students will pay for it in the end. But rest assured, that while President Bense seemingly desires to turn UWF into some river-front time-share resort, or even possibly a cut-rate community college, we, the faculty and staff who remain, will continue to labor hard to keep UWF what it was intended to be — an unrivalled institution of higher learning.
— William S. Belko
Associate Professor of History
Chief Negotiator, UWF UFF