Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Chamber chair wonders if other universities blocked USF's preeminent status

TAMPA — Just as University of South Florida football strives to be on the same level as teams from the University of Florida and Florida State University, so does the Tampa institution when it comes to academia.

But Mike Griffin, chairman of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, believes one of those two competing universities chop-blocked USF to prevent it from obtaining "pre-eminent status" in terms of the education it provides and the millions of dollars in state funds that come with it.

"I don't have direct proof," Griffin said. "But do the math."

Over the weekend, the chamber joined forces with USF to pressure the Tampa Bay area's legislative delegation to stop this from happening.

And the thousands who took part in this effort made their belief clear — USF deserves the pre-eminent status and it was being stolen away.

It won't take long to see if the campaign worked.

Bills before the Legislature since January stated that a four-year graduation rate of 50 percent was needed to be considered pre-eminent.

USF is now at 54 percent, seemingly clearing the way for it to join UF and FSU, which already have that status, and to split the $48 million set aside next year for universities that meet 11 of 12 performance metrics in areas that include student test scores, national rankings and research spending.

But in the final hours Friday, lawmakers changed the bill to raise the graduation rate to 60 percent, which USF does not expect to make until 2020, according to USF spokesman Adam Freeman.

Griffin places the blame on behind-the-scenes lobbying from FSU or UF.

Further changes to the bill cannot be made. It can only be voted for or against, which occurs today.

So, over the weekend, the chamber joined with USF in a call to action to not just the university's students, alumni and supporters but also the business community, asking everyone to contact state elected officials to express anger.

Tactics included emails and calls to these leaders, social media, an online petition through the Tampa chamber and a USF Alumni association website page that helps send messages to elected officials.

USF's Freeman said more than 7,000 such messages were sent within 24 hours.

The chamber could not obtain numbers on Sunday.

"There has been a significant amount of outrage throughout the weekend," said chamber chairman Griffin, a USF class of 2003 graduate. "This is a tactic to take millions of dollars outside this community and put it elsewhere."

Griffin said he personally called every state House member and senator from the Tampa Bay area to let them know where the chamber stands.

This will affect the entire business community, Griffin said.

Pre-eminent status would mean USF can better attract the best and brightest students from around the world, he said. Then local businesses can seek to keep them here, or perhaps the students will launch their own local endeavors.

"Educating the next generation of workers is fundamental to the growth of our community," said Ronald Christaldi, a past chair of the Tampa chamber. "To deny any university the ability to create jobs and grow our talent pool is wrong."

Still, when pressed if he thinks either UF or FSU was behind the change to the bill, Christaldi, who earned his master's and law degree from FSU, would only say, "I have no basis to judge whether that is accurate.

"We all sink or swim together and this should not be about taking away from one to give to another."

If the bill is voted down, the status quo of a 70 percent six-year graduation rate for preeminent status remains. USF is now at 67 percent, Freeman said, and expects to reach 70 by next year.

"We were on the goal line and they moved it back a few yards," Griffin said. "If we allow this to happen now they will do it to us again."

As for which university he thinks is to blame, he wouldn't say.

"At least one of them," he said. "I don't think both."

Contact Paul Guzzo at [email protected] Follow @PGuzzoTimes.

To see one of the documents being circulated by USF backers, visit www.usf.edu/bullish/documents/a-diverse-metropolitan-preeminent-research-university.pdf



More info

To see one of the documents being circulated by USF backers, visit www.usf.edu/bullish/documents/a-diverse-metropolitan-preeminent-research-university.pdf

Tampa Chamber chair wonders if other universities blocked USF's preeminent status 05/07/17 [Last modified: Sunday, May 7, 2017 9:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Lightning approaches decision time for Mikhail Sergachev

    Lightning Strikes

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Mikhail Sergachev had dinner with his host family from juniors Monday.

    The Lightning has to decide, as early as this weekend whether Mikhail Sergachev will stick in the NHL or return to juniors for another season. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]
  2. Tampa man charged in hit-and-run crash that killed bicyclist on I-4 exit ramp in Tampa

    Accidents

    TAMPA — A 44-year-old Tampa man was arrested and charged Wednesday in a hit-and-run crash that killed a bicyclist earlier in the day.

    Christopher Jerimiah Cole, 44, of Tampa was driving this silver Mercedes on Wednesday when it struck a bicyclist on the exit ramp from eastbound Interstate 4 to southbound U.S. 301, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Cole kept driving, troopers said. The bicyclist, a 45-year-old Brandon man, died at the scene. His name was not immediately released because troopers were working to notify his family. [Florida Highway Patrol]
  3. Quarterbacks, head coach targeting Vernon Hargreaves; 'I'm not producing,' he says

    Bucs

    Eli Manning gathered his receivers together during the Giants' Week 4 game against the Bucs and informed them of the weakest link of the secondary he planned to target that afternoon.

    Quarterbacks this season have a 128.7 rating when targeting Vernon Hargreaves. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  4. Rick Baker's radio ad said Rick Kriseman missed NAACP event---but he didn't.

    Blogs

    A radio ad narrated by St. Petersburg civil rights activist Sevell Brown and paid for by a political-action committee supporting Rick Baker asserts that Mayor Rick Kriseman "couldn't be bothered to show up" for a recent NAACP event.

    Rick Kriseman didn't skip recent NAACP event, but Rick Baker radio ad claims he did
  5. Demolition begins on wing of Channelside Bay Plaza, making way for Water Street Tampa (w/video)

    Business

    TAMPA — The original developers of Channelside Bay Plaza at first wanted the name of the complex to include the word "Garrison." That would have fit, because the center turned out to be fort-like, inwardly focused and unwelcoming.

    A pedestrian bridge in the southwest wing of Channelside Bay Plaza was demolished in Tampa on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. [Gabriella Angotti-Jones  | Times]