Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Good News Hits the Media

Check this out, released yesterday on insidehighered.com:

News: Threat to Tenure in Florida May Be Over

Despite the ominous final line in the article, I have it on good authority that this battle is over, at least for this year.  We need to start planning for the next round.  I have some ideas which I will share with you shortly, once my blood pressure fully returns to normal.

Dr. Sandy Shugart, President of Valencia Community College, has gone on record to discuss the merits of tenure.  I was elated to see his open letter in the print version of the Orlando Sentinel today.  Here is the link to the electronic version:

My Word: Tenure's a Mark of Achievement

As beautiful as the e-version is, with scroll bars and comments and 5 stars, it turns out that I'm an old-fashioned girl.  When something meaningful and elegant needs to be said, I love it best in newsprint.  That's why I'm framing this for my wall.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

This just in: the Council of Presidents voted unanimously to oppose HB 7193. Bill Proctor, chair of the Education Committee, has withdrawn the bill in deference to the COP.
More later from a real computer - this is coming from an iPhone.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


On Monday, April 4, I spoke with a student reporter from UCF.  I was greatly encouraged that I was able to change her opinion on the tenure bill from one of "isn't tenure bad for students" to one of "I sure hope they don't take tenure away because that would be bad for students!" in a 20 minute interview.  For those of you wondering what magic I used, there was none.  I simply defined tenure for her and gave her a concrete example of how academic thought and speech could be affected if tenure is eliminated.  Here it is (in spirit, if not necessarily word for word).

Valencia has an academic alliance with Microsoft.  I teach computer technology, but I'm not a big fan of Windows.  Of course I teach students about it because they need to be quite familiar with Windows in order to succeed in the workplace.  However, I also teach them about MacOS and Linux.  While I don't think losing tenure would stop me from teaching about all these operating systems, it probably WOULD stop me from sharing my opinions about them, because without tenure to protect my academic speech, I wouldn't feel comfortable speaking out against a product marketed by our academic partner.

And that's just the black-and-white example.  If you look into the humanities and social sciences, there are far more colorful examples, but I like to speak about what I do personally.

I had a very encouraging conversation today (4/5) that has me almost believing that HB 7193 is just about to die a quick and relatively painless death.  While I'm against death for youngsters in general, I think in this case I can make an exception.  I can't say anything more definitive for now, but stay tuned for reports in the papers about this as the bill sits in the House Education Committee.  Of course I'll link to those here as well.

I do want to mention that even if this bill goes away, it may rear its ugly head again in the future, perhaps in a reworded form.  In preparation for that, I will proceed with my white paper plan.  Faculty interested in participating should contact me directly at my yahoo address, Lisamacon@yahoo.com.  Furthermore, this blog will be kept alive so that we can prepare for the future and also, because it just might be fun to talk about academic freedom in the broad scope.

Friday, April 1, 2011

My Letter to the Honorable Steve Crisafulli

I am sharing my email to my Florida House Representative, Steve Crisafulli, in case anyone wants to see it.  Feel free to use parts of this for your own letter if it makes things easier for you.  You might want to leave the blog address out of your posts, or you may want to include it.  Either way is fine, but please be sure to mention its purpose appropriately if you do.  Here is my letter.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this email.

I ask you, on behalf of all present and future students in the State College System, to oppose House Bill 7193.  If tenure is eliminated at colleges in Florida, faculty will be limited in their abilities to challenge students to think critically and ask tough questions.  Without tenure, faculty would not have protection surrounding academic speech and would be able to be dismissed for discussing controversial topics in their classrooms.  This does not serve students in any way. 

I have created a blog for faculty, staff, students and families in Florida to discuss the bill and formulate plans to oppose its passage.  You are most welcome to visit and view what people have to say.  In only 48 hours, it has generated quite a bit of activity.  The address is:


I urge you to learn more about tenure before voting on this bill.  Tenure is not a guarantee of "forever employment" for faculty.  Faculty can be dismissed at any time due to inappropriate conduct, ineffective teaching, and program reduction.  Tenure simply protects faculty against being dismissed for exercising academic speech, which has long been upheld as a crucial foundation of higher education.  If students don't learn to think critically at state colleges, where will they learn to do so?

Thank you for your time and please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about my email.

Lisa Macon, Ph.D.

I don't know much about Crisafulli.  I was able to establish that he did not sponsor the bill that eliminated tenure for K-12, and he does not serve on the education committees.  I don't know how he voted on the K-12 bill, but I intend to call him Monday and find out.  If I can get a dialog going with him, even better.

Updates and Plans

My optimism about the impending failure of HB 7193 is at an all-time high.  Not that this is saying much.  Here is what I know.
  • Bill Proctor, head of the House Committee on Education, will be meeting with the Council of Presidents this coming Thursday, April 7. Or maybe Monday, April 4.  I've heard discussion about both dates.
  • Valencia's President, Dr. Sandy Shugart, has publicly stated to the Orlando Sentinel that he strongly opposes the bill.  He has also informed employees at Valencia that this bill was a complete surprise to him and that it was never discussed with the Council of Presidents.
  • I have spoken to several folks this week involved in law and politics.  None of them think this bill will go very far.  Of course, none of them thought it would ever come into existence, so this bullet point is not as comforting as it might otherwise be.

There is very little new to report today. I did find a copy of the InsideHigherEd.com article from Tuesday posted on the UFF-FAU blog... which was interesting.  The universities are worried.  And well they should be.

I am encouraged greatly by the amount of activity this blog is starting to generate.  I'm very good with social media and using it to inform people about something, so this blog... that's easy.  However my experience as an activist is limited.  These are my plans.  Let me know if I should be doing anything else.
  • Gather a core group of faculty at my college to write a white paper on the importance of tenure in student learning.  This may or may not be necessary.  It may or may not be useful.  But it cannot hurt.
  • Keep updating this blog regularly and posting links to it wherever possible.  The more people who know about this, the better.  Divided, we are conquered far more easily.
  • Keep writing and calling my representative and encouraging others to do the same.
  • Talk to reporters.  A student reporter from UCF is meeting me on Monday. I am hopeful that this opportunity to appeal to college students may generate some support among that population.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Decent Proposal

For updated information on where HB 7193 is and where it is headed, visit this link:

I am well known for telling my students, as well as my own children, that responding to an unpalatable proposed change by simply saying "OH NO! DON'T DO IT!" is not the most effective method to make others listen to your case.  I heartily recommend proposing a solution to the problem that brought about the proposal, in the form of a better proposal, which addresses the same problem in a more logical way.

The employment of this technique seems very important in the current situation.  After all, ousting a few ineffective community college professors by eliminating tenure for all faculty is tantamount to using a sledge hammer to eradicate a pimple.  Let's get out some Oxy 10 instead and deal with the problem appropriately.

My proposal is built on the following tenets:
  1. Tenure, as a tool to ensure academic freedom and support learning, is a good thing.
  2. There are ineffective community college professors who have tenure.
Eliminating tenure may solve the problem (because ineffective professors may be more easily eliminated), but it won't solve the main issue, which is that ineffective teachers should not receive tenure in the first place.

Here's how it happens.  At some institutions (and these may be institutions of the past, having since made positive changes that wouldn't allow this to happen today), faculty are/have been granted tenure after serving a certain number of years at the college.  The process is somewhat hostile in that faculty can be denied tenure for the smallest of infractions, or with no justification at all.  Many faculty are granted tenure who should not be given this protection, but they have played their cards right for the allotted period of time, and here they are - tenured.

That is not the way things work at community colleges where a high value has been placed on learning.  I know of at least one institution where new tenure-track faculty are subjected to a strict regimen of faculty development courses to learn about outcomes-based practice, learning styles, diversity, rubric design, etc. leading up to a portfolio project that includes an action research component and, quite frankly, frightens me only slightly less than did my own doctoral dissertation on graph theory.  Not everyone gets tenure at the end, but anyone does who places a high value on the process and follows it with the appropriate focus on its importance.  Since this process was put in to place, I assure you, no dead wood has floated through the net.  Even better, the potential dead wood professor can be transformed into a highly effective teacher through the process.

Doesn't it make sense, rather than eliminating tenure for new contracts, to require a rigorous process such as the one I just described to faculty under new contracts?  Wouldn't this be closer to using an appropriate medicine on the pimple?

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Salient Points: Why Tenuring Faculty is Student Centered

For the past 48 hours, I have been chained to my computer, reading everything I can find about tenure and academic freedom.  Most of the articles quoting lawmakers in favor of eliminating tenure in the Florida State College System make it clear that reporters, in general, don't understand what tenure is and what purpose it serves for students.  I was a little hazy on this topic as well before I attended the Community College Conference on Legal Issues.  I attended a session there on academic freedom, but tenure was also a major topic of conversation.  I was fascinated to learn what tenure is and is not, legally speaking.

Tenure is...
A guarantee of due process for faculty in support of academic freedom in the classroom and in research.  In other words, if I challenge students in class to consider ideas that differ from those upheld by my college administration, I am protected by my tenure regarding my use of academic freedom to encourage students to think critically and ask questions.

Tenure is not...
A guarantee of forever employment, nor is it a way to protect bad teachers from losing their jobs.  It does not allow me to behave inappropriately towards students or colleagues.

In my own words, tenure does not make me "furniture" at my institution.  Rather, it makes me the kind of teacher who is permitted to inspire my students to think, to question, and to act within their system of values.  Tenure has made me a good teacher, and my annual performance reviews confirm this fact.

Now, if you are going to write to your state representative, don't tell them what tenure means to ME.  Tell them what it means to you.  Some discussion points you may want to consider are listed here, but please feel free to use your own. Try to keep them focused on what ending tenure would mean to the students and to learning - not what it means to you personally.  Besides, you are a good teacher and your job is not in jeopardy, right?  But your students' learning is
  1. Tenure was created to protect academic freedom and the right, no - the obligation of faculty to inspire students to think critically and ask important questions.  It is critical that faculty teach students to do these things.  We are educating tomorrow's future citizens.
  2. Tenure is what allows faculty to innovate.   Asking questions and trying new things has led to countless developments in the industry of education.  Without it, innovation will suffer.
  3. Think of a controversial topic you've discussed in class that may have been at odds with someone in your supervisory path.  Without tenure, you may not have felt able to share ideas with students and inspire them to think.   Share this story in your letter.
  4. Teaching at a community college is a calling for many people.  But many of the best community college teachers are actively recruited by universities hoping to boost the performance of their lower-division students.  A good percentage of these instructor positions carry tenure.  Does it make sense to not entice the most talented teachers to stay at the institutions where they can be of service to the students who need them the most?
Those are just a few thoughts I have for now.  Please comment and share other ways to express your clear, cohesive, logical thoughts on this with your representative.  These folks are most often not from the educational field and it is our job to educate them about this issue.  Let's take that seriously.

It has been suggested to me that it might be helpful to develop a "canned communication" to share with folks who may not have the time and inclination to write their own letter but would be happy to forward something on.  I'd love to do this, but I need some help.  Please contact me if you are willing to help out with this!  Thanks.

How to Find Your State House Representative

Go here:

It's difficult to find your rep simply by searching - many counties have multiple reps.  I used the "Find Your Representative" option to type in my home address, which brought up the contact information for my representatives at the state and national level.

You want to contact your State House Representative.  The next post will tell you what are, to me, the salient points that faculty and others may wish to stress.  I welcome comments adding points that will help make our case for academic freedom for students.  Please contribute if you have ideas! 

Here I Stand in Defense of Academic Freedom. Feel Free to Stand With Me.

Disclaimer - all opinions expressed within this blog are MY OWN and do not represent those of Valencia Community College or any other organization. 

On Friday, March 25, 2011, the Florida State House of Representatives introduced the following bill aimed at eliminating tenure in the state of Florida for state college faculty:

On Tuesday, March 29, 2011, the House subcommittee on K-20 Competitiveness voted 8-4 to approve the bill.  The bill still has to go through a longer process before it can become law.

This link is to the latest Orlando Sentinel article addressing the proposed bill.

I am a faculty member at Valencia Community College, currently serving as President of the Faculty Association until May 19, 2011.  I am starting this blog with several goals in mind.
  1. Keep faculty at Valencia and other colleges informed about the issue.
  2. Form a united faculty front to fight this bill before it becomes law.
  3. Prepare to rally against the bill should it become law.
My next blog post will detail how to find your representative, how to contact your representative, and the salient points that faculty may wish to use in their communication with representataives.

Finally, a plea. I cannot do this alone.  I need my eloquent colleagues from around Florida to help me out.  I am keeping comments open on this blog.  Pipe in and join the battle.