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UWF Trustees Stand Behind Bense

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University of West Florida
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Repeating its support of President Judy Bense, the University Of West Florida Board Of Trustees Monday passed a resolution to counter a no-confidence vote taken on Friday. WUWF’s Dave Dunwoody was at the emergency session.

The resolution passed with only two dissenting votes after a more than hour-long closed-door session to discuss the opposing vote submitted Friday by the UWF Faculty Senate – which followed the Trustees’ vote of confidence earlier this month.

Leading the charge against Bense was Steve Belko – an associate professor of history and chief faculty union negotiator. The union and administration have been at loggerheads over a collective bargaining agreement.

In a lengthy statement, Belko laid out the Senate’s differences with the administration, including what he calls the failure to secure and achieve the necessary academic standards.

“(Bense) consistently ignored the needs of the faculty and staff, as they struggle to deliver quality instruction, and conduct superior research in the wake of poor presidential leadership and misguided presidential politics,” said Belko.

Belko also cited an “adverse” admissions policy, which increases enrollment without hiring extra full-time faculty -- in favor of a mushrooming number of administrators. After being granted extra time by the next speaker, Belko then turned to the new UWF football program – although he did concede that he has no real problem with it. 

“The consequent financial burdens imposed by requirements of Title IX (which requires equal access to interscholastic sports for women),”Belko said. “Hiring of coaches and other football-related positions. The establishment of football scholarships totaling over a quarter of a million dollars. And creation of a recurring 2% raise for the coaching staff, while no such line-item exists for faculty and staff.”

After the meeting, UWF President Judy Bense said she understands that the faculty is frustrated, adding that so is she. While the buck stops with her on UWF’s budget, she contends there’s simply not as much money for recurring faculty and staff pay raises compared to previous fiscal years.

“It’s 22% less than when I became president,” said Bense. “It’s varied since I became president. In other words, we’ve gotten bad cuts and they (Florida Department of Education) reduce them a little. Right now, they’re holding up four million of our dollars because of our position on the metrics – which is at the bottom of the state university system.”

Those performance-based metrics evaluate Florida’s 12 public universities on a range of issues. Two of which are chosen by the Board of Governors and a school’s board of trustees. UWF’s chosen areas are Baccalaureate Degrees Awarded without Excess Hours; and Percentage of Adult (age 25 and older) Undergraduates Enrolled.

Monday’s emergency trustee meeting did not have to be called. But Chairman Lewis Bear said it was important to reiterate their support for Bense, in light of the no-confidence vote. As far as UWF President Judy Bense’s relationship with the faculty, its senate and its union going forward…

”It comes with the job. It’s frustrating times,” Bense said. “I don’t like it, but I don’t like the times, either. The times have got to get better, and we’re all trying to pull in the same direction.”

Bense, who succeeded John Cavanaugh in 2008, has not decided whether she’ll seek another contract as UWF President, when the current one runs out in June, 2015.

That, she says, will be up to the Board of Trustees.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.