Saint Leo University in Florida said that its governing board voted not recognize its standing faculty union, and that it’s moving forward with a new form of shared governance. Karen Morian, president of Florida’s American Federation of Teachers- and National Education Association-affiliated statewide faculty union, told WMNF that no faculty member at Saint Leo was consulted about the change and that this constitutes “the opposite of shared governance.”
Saint Leo reportedly announced the shift via email, stating the board's intention to create a new shared governance structure that keeps “with the university’s Catholic Benedictine identity.” It also cited a recent decision by the National Labor Relations Board involving Bethany College, which limited the board’s jurisdiction at religious colleges and universities. Previously, the Obama-era board expanded the board’s oversight at faith-based institutions.
D. Dewey Mitchell, Leo’s board chair, said in a statement that COVID-19 means the college needs to be “innovative and flexible.” He said that in “creating a new shared governance structure, faculty members can work closely with the administration to quickly adapt and meet the needs of our students.” Union members deny that they inhibit institutional responsiveness or flexibility with respect to the pandemic.
“We’ve never held up anything, so that we could be viable,” said Valerie Wright, president of the campus faculty union and professor of education and social services, according to WMNF. “If the administration comes to us and says, ‘we need a program in cybersecurity, let’s get it done.’ Then we work with them.”