Well, the story out of Florida is nothing new. Some politically connected property developer thinks running a college is like running a business. Faculty can bid for the jobs, and the teaching jobs go to the lowest bidder. That’s right, if some PhD says she will teach for a dollar an hour, the job goes to her.
Boss Beruff never attended college
The right-wing idiot who proposed this idea, Carlos Beruff, a Florida home builder and high school grad, sits on the board of the State College of Florida (recently Manatee Community College) as well as a bunch of other boards good for his business. According to the Bradenton, Florida, Herald, “In addition to being president of his company, Beruff was appointed chairman of the Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding earlier this year; he also is a board of trustees member for State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota; a commissioner for the Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority; and a member of the Home Builders Association of Manatee County and the National Association of Home Builders.” And Beruff, a campaign funder and good friend of Florida governor Rick Scott, does not hesitate to use dirty tricks to get what he wants. In other words, Carlos “Bully” Beruff is a political hack representing land developers in Florida. Maybe State College of Florida is on land he wants for condos and a golf course. He didn’t hesitate in 2012 to drive out the FSC president using smear tactics Chicago’s Boss Daley would appreciate. The new president had a business background.
The State College of Florida already turned all faculty into contingent workers with one-year contracts last fall using sleazy Boss Beruff tactics. The full-time faculty were told tenure would be eliminated, but instead they’d get roll-over contracts with legal protections, meaning they’d be indemnified against arbitrary firing. Then, boom, the SCF board of trustees announced that all roll-over contracts would be gutted and every faculty person would work year-to-year. And now Carlos Beruff, who likes to ignore environmental regulations and administrative judges and grease the oversight skids to build houses wherever the hell he and his cronies please, floats the idea of bid contracts for teaching jobs. Beruff’s argument for bid work is nothing new; it’s straight from the tea party playbook, the old “right to work” rhetoric, which means right to fire at will for employers. All jobs are at-will jobs, at the will of an employer.
The Boss Beruff College of Social Darwinism
So with no union, no tenure protection, annual performance evaluations, faculty competing with each other for merit pay, and nobody sure if they’ll be hired from one year to the next, the State College of Florida has ceased to exist. It’s now the Beruff College of Social Darwinism where a student might take a course with a prof one year and never know if that prof will be replaced with a low bid prof off the street the next. And, of course, the bid system drives labor costs to the bottom as well as faculty morale. Why the hell would any instructor feel any loyalty to SCF if the college doesn’t give a damn about its faculty? Rhetorical question. What the hell, college teachers are overpaid pinheads sucking slop from the public trough anyway. Makes you wonder if teachers at the Miami prep school, Howey Academy, Beruff’s high school alma mater, were treated that way? No matter, the private school had business money backing.
Here’s the future, girls and boys, the Beruff future if the trend in higher ed continues toward the erosion of tenure with the hiring of more and more contingent faculty who can be fired at will if the chair of a board of trustees doesn’t like the way a professor thinks or talks or walks or dresses or votes. Republicans only need apply and include an expected salary figure on the form. Seriously, Bully Beruff wants a number. And least you think SCF is any different from the other colleges and universities using cheap, contingent labor, take a look at the SCF language and lit department where, you guessed it. most of the faculty are already part-timers. 37 to be exact. 24 full time faculty.
Of course, reactionary left-wingers don’t agree with Boss Beruff. “Abolishing tenure is an assault on academic freedom,” wrote former Florida state senator Marlene Woodson-Howard, in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
This concept allows ideas to be debated and tested without feeling threat of dismissal. Critical thinking is a major objective in the education process.
I am also writing as a former member of the Florida State Senate (1986-1990). As a former legislator I take issue with the audacity of the members of the Board of Trustees to decide they want this exceptional educational institution run “like a business.” That decision should not be the prerogative of a single college which is a member of a 28-member college system. If that change were to be made, it should only be made statewide to (as the businessmen say) “level the playing field.” This action would not have seen the light of day statewide.
Damned knee jerk liberal. No wait. She’s a Republican with a business background.
The Carlos “Boss” Beruff College of Florida resort hotel
Hey, y’all, let’s apply Boss Beruff’s free enterprise principles to everything at SCF. Let the students bid for classes with the highest bidders getting enrollment. Let the students bid for places on sports teams, for library use, for parking spots, for grades. The highest number wins. Hell, that last idea would make a ton of money for SCF without the need for taxpayer money or destroying any wetlands to build condos and a marina. Shoot, why not turn the college into an education resort. Students could buy enrollment slots and enjoy all the perks of a 36-hole golf course, an olympic swimming pool, a private beach, a bar, a dirt bike track, and other benefits of a college education. In the meantime, SFC could rake in all that federal cash from student loans and Pell Grants just like those other top notch for-profit free enterprise schools swindling vets and other dupes not smart enough to attend Howey and skip college. Who needs college anyway, when you can build condos.
Yes sir, with Boss Beruff in charge, Florida higher education couldn’t go lower. Hell, if Florida homes can be built on toxic landfills, education can be built on a really dumb idea.*