History department chair Dr. Daniel Schafer is more interested in the future than the past. At least when it comes of UNF's past, he says, it's time to put the contributions of founding faculty and staff into perspective and move on.
"We all have our memories and are proud of our participation but they can be private memories now and private pride," he said. "There are other faculty members who are every bit as important, and in some cases, more important to the organization than we are."
Schafer speaks his mind without apology, but not without forethought. For example, he said, he has been frustrated by the University's neglect of scholarship for professors. "It's my biggest disappointment in my first 25 years at UNF," he said. "The dual nature of the teacher/scholar hasn't been stressed, yet that's the way you have revitalized faculty and exciting teaching."
To recharge his own teaching, Schafer has conducted research continuously since coming to UNF. Public records offices in England, Scotland, Jamaica, and Africa have supplied facts for his studies of slavery-era Floridians, such as Anna Kingsley. A monograph, or short book, on the life of the former slave turned plantation owner is one of several of his scholarly works.
"All that research, for historians and I'm sure for others as well, invariably enlivens classroom instruction," he said. "Staying vital in your field is the most important thing you can do. Your teaching keeps getting better and better, rather than becoming like a can of pop with the fizzle gone."
UNF's current administration should be applauded for its handling of tenure and campus growth, Schafer said. "Some schools have taken the wrong approach by going without tenure. Faculty members can't make a real determined commitment to instruction when they have to start looking for another job right away," Schafer said. He added that keeping campuses centralized, not "farming out" operations at distant satellite locations, is also a wise move. And he is staunchly "anti-portable," at least when the temporary buildings are used as classrooms. "I just can't think of anything worse for the college experience than portables," Schafer said.
Distrust between management and instructional staff is a longtime problem, he added. "I would love it if we could reduce the unnatural barriers between administration and faculty. It seemed to come early in the UNF experience, almost like a boss/laborer relationship," he noted. "Maybe it was that we started right after the student-activist era, when there were demonstrations on campuses and the sentiment that anyone over 30 was not to be trusted was strong. But we're partners in academic enterprise and we need to move to a mutually cooperative spirit."
In the same vein, Schafer added, the concept of service at UNF has never been closely tied to a professor's discipline. "In the beginning, we did the silliest things," he recalled. "I remember responding to a vice president's urgent request to help advance UNF in the community by going to the Regency Mall and passing out literature."
Neither retirement nor greener pastures tempt Schafer, mainly because of the dedicated students UNF attracts, he said.
"I've always been a great fan of the UNF student. In the beginning, the average age was 33. I never had to worry about them not having homework done on time," Schafer said. "And it hasn't changed much. We have very good freshmen. In that respect, I don't think there's a better teaching job anywhere in America. I've not looked for a job since I came here and I don't intend to."