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branch campuses.
The University of Florida, in the small city of Gainesville,
has said it simply can not get any bigger. It announced in
the fall that it would cut faculty in departments including
English, philosophy and religion because of a budget deficit
that occurred when funding for the College of Liberal Arts
and Sciences failed to keep pace with enrollment. The cuts will
come through retirements, but Auxter, himself a philosophy
professor there, estimates that a quarter of the demoralized
younger faculty are shopping around for new jobs.
Nor has the politics abated. InMay, the University of
Florida and Florida State got more than $40 million in
construction money from the legislature that had not been
requested by the Board of Governors. “Somebody cut a
separate deal,” John Delaney, president of the University
of North Florida, told the board in a contentious public
conference call. Board member Charles Edwards added, “We
actually had our own universities out lobbying against us. We
need to look at how our universities’ lobbyists work with us.
They should not be allowed to lobby against the interests of
the board.”
Roberts agrees with Edwards. She has appointed a
committee to decide what penalty university presidents will
face if they bypass the board and go directly to the legislature
for programs or money. “We’re all pro-university,” she said.
“But this competition among the universities in Tallahassee
is not appropriate.” Said Atwell: “This outfit (the Board of
Governors) is not a joke, but it certainly has been rather weak,
and the dog-eat-dog situation in Tallahassee continues.”
The presidential pay arms race persists, too. The legislature
capped presidential salaries at $225,000 in 2003, but local
university trustees continue to award huge raises to their
presidents by using money from their private fundraising
foundations. After winning the medical school vote, the
Education over all public
education, from kindergarten
to graduate school. This
would be a return to the
“seamless system” put in place
by former Governor Jeb Bush
that was widely considered to
be ineffective.
(The reorganization called
for by the Pruitt resolution
would make little difference
to Florida’s 28-campus,
850,000-student community
college system, saidWill
Holcomb, the system’s
chancellor. “The present
system has worked pretty well for us and we support it,” Holcomb said,
but the new arrangement “would not make much of a change for us.”)
On March 27, the Senate approved the resolution, but Republican
House leaders failed to garner the three-fifths vote needed to put the
measure on the November ballot. “We tried; we tried hard, but the
support’s just not there,” said Ellyn Bogdanoff, Republican House
majority whip, in the
St. Petersburg Times
.
Richard Novak, vice president for public programs at the
Association of Governing Boards, opposed the measure. “Florida needs
a governing board to establish policy leadership. The state is growing
fast, enrollment is increasing rapidly, there has been a proliferation of
law schools and medical schools. There doesn’t seem to be good overall
planning.”
In the meantime, former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob
Graham and others have filed a lawsuit, arguing that the 2002 state
constitutional amendment (also pushed by Graham, among others),
creating the Board of Governors, had transferred authority to set
tuition rates from the legislature to the new board. The Board of
Governors joined the lawsuit, further antagonizing Senator Pruitt and
other lawmakers.
“This lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt to get unbridled
tuition increases,” Pruitt said. “God help our students if they win.”
Those who follow the twists and turns believe the Graham
forces will try to defeat the referendum but, failing that, will seek a
new constitutional amendment that once again would establish the
authority of the Board of Governors.
All of this has taken place against a background of financial distress.
Florida, with no personal income tax, relies heavily on sales and real
estate taxes, both of which have slumped due to declines in both
the housing market and tourism. The result was an estimated $1.8
billion state budget deficit in 2008-09, leading to sharp cuts in higher
education spending.
State university campuses have responded by freezing enrollments
and hiring, and by postponing construction of new academic facilities.
“The governance and funding of higher education are a mess,”
Robert H. Atwell, a Sarasota resident and former president of the
American Council on Education, wrote in an op-ed in the
Sarasota
Herald-Tribune
. “The primary victims will be those thousands of
qualified students who will be turned away from the senior institutions
or the community colleges.”
—William Trombley
State spending for
Florida’s university
system, already near
the bottom nationally,
had been cut by $157
million in 2007-08,
with even deeper cuts
expected in 2008-09.
Joan Ruffier, a veteran of Florida higher education politics, believes the Board
of Governors is needed “to prevent the universities from competing to mutual
extinction.”
Todd Anderson, Black Star, for CrossTalk