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FAMU Faculty Union, Graduate Assistants Air Grievances Ahead Of Board Meeting

FAMU-UFF President Liz Davenport (center), Professor James Muchovej (left), Professor Roscoe Hightower (right) and Professor Carol Scarlett (far left) discuss the collective bargaining impasse with FAMU's administration.

Florida A&M University and its faculty are at impasse over contracts and wages, and it’s the second time in two years the two sides have failed to reach a deal. Now the school’s graduate assistants are preparing to air their grievances.  It all comes as FAMU’s Board of Trustees plans to review President Elmira Mangum’s latest performance evaluation.

At issue are pay wages for the 2015-2016 school year, how tenure is granted and how merit bonuses are paid out. FAMU’s faculty want a three percent pay increase, which would cost about $1.5 million. But the university says it cannot afford that.

"We believe the administration is basically doing lip-service," FAMU-United Faculty of Florida President Liz Davenport said in a press conference a day after the impasse was declared. "They say faculty are important. They say they appreciate faculty. We’d like them to put their money where their mouth is."

The issues are heading to a magistrate to try and sort out.  The last time around, the magistrate sided with the faculty and the two sides settled. Professor James Muchovej says the university has spent money on its administration but not on its teachers:

“I teach a class, there were 15 busted chairs in it and  it was standing room only yesterday. These are the sorts of things we really should e concentrating on. If we had an administration that cared about what the faculty does, we could resolve this fairly easily," he said.

If talks with the magistrate break down—the duty would fall to FAMU’s Board of Trustees to come up with a plan. And that may not be in the best interest of the faculty. Earlier this year a similar situation was posed by labor attorney Michael Mattimore. Speaking at Governor Rick Scott’s education summit, Mattimore suggested an impasse could be good for a university:

“It’s always good to sit down and negotiate with your unionized workforce," he said. "But if that’s not the case, you have options…and you can get to your priority through the impasse process.”

Still, FAMU’s faculty say they’re willing to take their chances. Meanwhile, FAMU’s graduate assistants are also upset, and they plan to speak on what they say are broken promises, concerns about budget cuts and what they view as conflicting information released by President Elmira Mangum’s administration. The university’s board of trustees plans to take up her performance review this morning. Mangum earned low marks in areas such as internal, external and board and faculty relations. But largely met or exceeded expectations in other areas.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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