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Fight over control of universities resumes

ORLANDO — The fight for control of Florida's public universities is far from over.

If Round 1 was this spring, when lawmakers proposed a constitutional amendment stripping power from the colleges' governing board, then Round 2 comes today.

At its first meeting since the Legislature failed to get the proposed amendment on the November ballot, the Board of Governors meets in Orlando to consider proposals giving it more say over the hiring of university presidents and the purchasing of property.

Some university leaders already are balking, saying the board is overstepping its constitutional powers.

Florida State University trustees chairman Jim Smith wrote to the university system chancellor last week decrying the latest proposals as "unfortunate, needless micro-management and interference."

Meanwhile, the board's legal battle with the Legislature over tuition-setting authority continues. And as lawmakers plan for the 2009 session, relations with the board are improving, but shaky.

It's proof that the power tug-of-war in Florida's university system is going strong. And the outcome could affect college budgets, enrollments, missions and tuition rates for generations to come.

The latest proposals are part of the board's ongoing attempt to define its powers. It wants a presence on universities' presidential search committees and in the evaluation of presidents. It also wants to sign off on purchases of property for instruction or research.

"It's to be part of the process, to be in on the discussion, so that when we affirm the selection of a president, we have members who have been involved," board chairwoman Carolyn Roberts said.

This spring, lawmakers tried but failed to curtail the board's power. A proposed constitutional amendment that would have shrunk the board in size and scope passed the Senate but never made it to the House floor.

Fight over control of universities resumes 06/18/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 18, 2008 11:42pm]
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