FAU faculty protests to save summer school

Rhonda Goodman (right) from the College of Nursing wore her black academic robes to the protest, along with Charlotte Barry (left). Photo by Christine Capozziello.

Ed. Note: In a former version of this story, the UP incorrectly attributed Charlotte Barry’s quotes to Rhonda Goodman. The error has since been corrected.

Some professors showed up in their black robes and sashes, and some in their everyday garb — but everyone there was chanting that FAU was ignoring its students.

Occupy Fort Lauderdale members showed up for the protest. The group and professors joined together to sing the traditional folk song “We Shall Not Be Moved.”

Members of FAU’s faculty union held signs in front of the Administration Building on Wednesday as part of their “Save Summer School” campaign. Faculty, staff and students, about 50 of them, joined to protest the new guidelines for summer classes set by the Provost’s Office. The protest was led by Chris Robe, president of FAU’s chapter of the United Faculty of Florida (UFF), a statewide union for faculty. This is the third in a series of protests opposing the cuts, the first and second protests coming straight from students earlier in April.

Since the guidelines were introduced on March 21, the university has cut about 800 classes, according to the Bursar’s Office.

UFF president and multimedia professor Chris Robe shouted at the protest, while other professors chanted his words. The protesters held signs and sang in front of the Administration Building on Wednesday. Photo by Christine Capozziello.

Susan Reilly, former director of the School of Communications and Multimedia Studies and a current professor, protested because she’s a part of FAU’s UFF chapter. Reilly’s internship class for communications students was cut. The amount of students registered did not meet the new guidelines. (for a breakdown of these guidelines, see below)

“14 students who registered can’t intern,” Reilly said about the new minimum guideline.

Internships weren’t the only ones to go. Two out of the three required practicums for graduate nursing students were also cut, according to Charlotte Barry, a professor in the College of Nursing.

Each practicum needed 11 students enrolled according to the guidelines — only one is being offered now. Barry said that not offering the class Spiritual Care of Patients is a “violation of patients’ rights.”

The cuts to the summer courses affect professors across the board. Mike Budd, an adjunct professor in the School of Communications, showed up to the protest. He and other protesters wore a blue button with the numbers “24/11” on it to represent the minimum 24-student enrollment requirement for undergraduate classes being offered this summer, and the minimum 11-student enrollment requirement for graduate classes.

The faculty protest had members of Occupy Fort Lauderdale performing live music. When the group performed “We Shall Not Be Moved,” the protesters joined them in singing along. Photo by Christine Capozziello.

“The Provost’s Office never asked deans how this should be done,” Budd said.

Students are going to other universities for their required classes, Barry and Budd both said.

FAU’s Provost Brenda Claiborne agreed to talk to the UP by email about the summer cuts.

She said that the guidelines came in response to the $25 million budget cut that the university will absorb on July 1 — the university is hoping to save at least $500,000 on the summer.

“The goal of the guidelines was to offer a summer schedule that both met student demand and was cost-effective. Classes with proven demand, as well as courses with restricted access such as labs and practicums, are on the schedule,” Claiborne wrote. “Classes with sufficient demand are being added daily to the schedule.”

According to her, the Provost’s Office did consult faculty before releasing the new guidelines, claiming they “were developed in extensive consultation with the deans and department chairs.”

Adjunct professor Mike Budd holds up a sign at the faculty protest on Wednesday. Budd said the Provost’s Office did not consult deans before making guidelines for summer classes. Photo by Christine Capozziello.
Adjunct professor Mike Budd holds up a sign at the faculty protest on Wednesday. Budd said the Provost’s Office did not consult deans before making guidelines for summer classes. Photo by Christine Capozziello.

“Faculty members are responsible for the curriculum at most institutions, and this is true at FAU. For example, faculty determine which courses are included in a degree program, and they ensure that course content is appropriate,” Claiborne wrote. “Departmental chairs and college deans are responsible for scheduling courses in a particular semester. Thus the deans were involved in developing the new guidelines and in requesting that specific, needed courses be added to the schedule.”

The UP asked Claiborne if the guidelines might affect the fall semester, as well.

“The fall schedule is already published and students are registering for courses,” she responded, speaking only in the present sense. “There are no specific guidelines in place for fall, other than the guidelines normally used by chairs and deans for scheduling courses.”

Finally, she wrote that students who are concerned about their classes or the new guidelines are encouraged to see their advisors.

The Office of the Provost detailed the new guidelines in a March 21 memo to deans. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • To be scheduled in summer 2012, classes had to have at least 24 students (undergraduate) or 11 students in summer 2011.
  • Before the summer session begins — on May 14 — the Registrar’s office will cancel courses that didn’t meet the above requirements for the coming 2012 summer. Students will be notified within 24 hours that their class has been cancelled.
  • Exceptions can be considered for exemption from the policy if the class has only so many workstations (like a lab), or if it’s an internship or practicum class. Professors and department chairs are the ones who would have to appeal classes they feel should be exempted.
  • Deans would have to revise the summer schedule to reflect the new guidelines by March 26, five days after the memo was sent.
  • By March 29, the Registrar’s office would have reviewed the schedule and deleted “all courses that do not meet the guidelines unless an exception has been granted for a specific course.” As of press time, and following the three protests, the university was negotiating adding more classes, almost a month after this deadline.

Kathy Buerosse, a senior sociology major, is worried the cuts are setting a standard for FAU’s future.

“It’s like they’re teaching future machines by not allowing kids to learn about controversial subjects,” she said about the summer class cuts. “They’re all just going to be robots without these programs.”