As the higher education bill containing a University of South Florida System consolidation hits its final House committee today, Rep. Ben Diamond, D-St. Petersburg, has filed an amendment removing the merger and calling for more discussion.
Diamond is asking for more public input and a comprehensive study of the potential merger's effects. As it stands, the bill would mandate that USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee start developing a plan to phase out their separate accreditation and unite with USF Tampa.
Diamond's amendment proposes forming a study committee filled out with students, faculty and officials from each USF campus, plus business and community leaders. The committee would study the issue and deliver recommendations to state lawmakers.
"There was no public discussion of this proposal in our community prior to the start of the 2018 legislative session, and no study done of the ramifications of this proposal," Diamond said in a statement.
He said that since USF St. Petersburg won its hard-fought separate accreditation in 2006, the campus has flourished.
I believe there needs to be more opportunity for community input and study of the implications of this proposal before the Legislature directs changes to the separate accreditation of USF St. Pete," Diamond's statement read.
The committee studying the bill would have to report on consolidation's impact on:
- Academic programs at each campus
- Admissions and college access
- Faculty and staff
- What the business community needs
- What each campus would need to achieve to maintain USF Tampa’s preeminent university status
Should the committee recommend consolidation, it would then propose changes to the USF budget process "provide for additional transparency and input from each campus to ensure that University funds are appropriately and equitably allocated," as well as tackle governance structure.