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have enough money to properly equip
the rest.
McTarnaghan spends a lot of time
in Tallahassee, the state capital, trying
to persuade legislators to provide
more flexibility for FGCU, but it has
been a tough sell. “Most legislators
graduated from the University of
Florida or Florida State, where they
do things the old way,” he said.
Confusion over Florida Gulf
Coast’s accreditation has been a major
headache in the first two years.
For many years the University of
South Florida (whose main campus
is in Tampa) maintained an upper-
division branch in Fort Myers. That
campus closed when FGCU opened,
and many of its students transferred
to the new campus, some thinking
accreditation would be transferred
automatically from one school to the
other.
But the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
(SACS), the regional accrediting body, said the campus could
only be a “candidate” for accreditation until its first cohort of
students had graduated, an exhaustive self-study had been
completed and there had been an evaluation by an SACS
visiting committee.
Some transfer students told Florida newspaper reporters
they had been assured by FGCU officials that the new
campus already was accredited, a charge denied by Vice
President Richter. Last spring, 237 of the 318 members of the
first graduating class received University of South Florida
degrees, while many others delayed their degrees until
accreditation questions could be answered.
“This is one of the most frustrating experiences I’ve
had here,” Richter said. “Neither the students nor the press
seemed to understand the difference between ‘candidacy’ for
accreditation and accreditation itself.”
Now the problem seems to have been solved. The self-
study has been completed. The
SACS team has made its visit,
finding no major problems at
Florida Gulf Coast University and
issuing eight “commendations”—an
unusually high number—in
its report. Full accreditation is
expected when the SACS “college
commission” meets in June.
But the viability of multi-
year faculty contracts remains in
question.
Florida Gulf Coast is not
alone in seeking alternatives to the tenure system. A few
experimental campuses, likeThe Evergreen State College, in
the state of Washington, and Hampshire College, a private
liberal arts school in Massachusetts, have used contracts for
years.
Post-tenure review has become almost routine on the
nation’s campuses (although the number of faculty members
eliminated by such a process remains small). Merit pay plans,
rewarding professors who do not rest on their laurels after
receiving tenure, have been adopted by the California State
University system, among others.
A common tactic has been to stop hiring tenure-track
faculty and to replace themwith part-time professors who
have no job security and few benefits. The proportion of
tenured faculty at four-year institutions has changed only
slightly over the last 20 years, from 52.3 percent in 1975 to
51.7 percent in 1995, the U.S. Department of Education has
reported. But among new hires there is a strong movement
away from tenure. The proportion of full-time faculty
members working on contracts increased from 19 percent to
28 percent between 1975 and 1995, while the proportion of
those with tenure-track jobs dropped from 29 percent to 20
percent.
College administrators and governing boards love no-
tenure policies, which they believe enable them to eliminate
faculty “deadwood” and to shift financial resources more
easily from one academic area to another.
The Florida Board of Regents had hoped to impose
multi-year contracts on all ten state universities, but
the faculty union, the United Faculty of Florida (UFF),
strenuously opposed the move. In a compromise, the union
agreed to what UFF Executive Director Llona Geiger called
“an experiment on one campus (Florida Gulf Coast), in
which multi-year agreements would supplement, but not
supplant, tenure appointments and promotions.”
Now, Geiger said, “it is clear that ‘supplement’ is not the
right word—they are simply waiting for all the dinosaurs to
die, and then they will be replaced by contract people.”
Twenty-eight professors gave up tenured or tenure-track
positions at other institutions to teach at FGCU, according
to an article in
Change Magazine
by Richard Chait, professor
of higher education at the Harvard Graduate School of
Kathleen Davey, dean of instructional technology, was surprised by faculty resistance to
distance learning. “I thought I was back at Ohio State,” she said.
The Florida Board of
Regents hopes that
lessons learned at
Florida Gulf Coast can
be applied at the state’s
other universities.