Friday, April 27, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: USFSP proposal needs work to win over skeptics

With just four weeks left in the legislative session, University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft and key state lawmakers have yet to sell Pinellas County civic and political leaders on phasing out USF St. Petersburg’s separate accreditation and folding it back into the major research university. The concept may have merit, but lawmakers have to add guarantees the St. Petersburg campus will be enhanced and treated fairly for this proposal to win more public support and move forward.

A key opportunity to flesh out the plan proposed by Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, could come as early as Thursday when the legislation, HB 423, could make its final committee stop before a vote by the full House. To his credit, Sprowls plans to add details in the House Education Committee aimed at easing the concerns raised by USFSP supporters.

Here are five areas that should be addressed:

• Developing the plan. The legislation now directs the USF Board of Trustees to submit a plan to the Board of Governors, which oversees the state university system, in January 2019 to phase out separate accreditation for USFSP and USF Sarasota-Manatee. The plan should be developed by a separate panel with broader representation that includes voices from the regional campuses and their communities.

• Governance. The legislation should require significant representation from Pinellas on the USF Board of Trustees, a strong leader at USFSP who would report directly to Genshaft, and a separate campus board for USFSP.

• Programs. The legislation should direct the panel creating the plan to specify areas of distinction that would be delivered in St. Petersburg, such as engineering, technology, health care or communications. It should require the panel to make recommendations in other key areas such as adding doctoral programs in St. Petersburg that are critical to research, and defining the relationships between the separate schools of business, education and communications. Named colleges, such as the Kate Tiedemann College of Business at USFSP, should keep their names.

• Student Access. The legislation should require the panel to recommend whether there should be one common admissions application and standard for the entire university. If the campuses keep their distinct identities, how would USFSP accommodate Pinellas students, particularly minority students, who now have the grades and test scores to be admitted to USFSP but not to USF in Tampa?

• Transparency. The legislation should require budget transparency that would enable the public to easily monitor how USF allocates its financial resources between the Tampa and St. Petersburg campuses, and there should be mandatory annual reports to legislative leaders.

Sprowls makes a reasonable argument for merging USF campuses, but his failure to sell the concept before he quietly rolled it out last month was a mistake. So was Genshaft’s initial lack of candor and quick shift from neutrality to enthusiastic support. On the record as opposing the change or urging a time-out: St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, the St. Petersburg City Council, the Pinellas County Commission, the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, the Pinellas County Economic Development Council, the St. Petersburg branch of the NAACP, St. Petersburg’s Council of Neighborhood Associations and USFSP’s Retired Faculty/Staff Association.

There are other views. Dr. Jonathan Ellen, president and CEO of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, makes a thoughtful argument to support the merger. The St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership suggests ways to improve Sprowls’ approach. But there are an awful lot of skeptics to convince. Sprowls should add considerable detail to the legislation. St. Petersburg’s state senators, Republican Jeff Brandes and Democrat Darryl Rouson, should help improve the concept or seek a time-out. Ending USFSP’s separate accreditation and creating a unified pre-eminent USF may have merit, but it will not be good for anyone if this is viewed as a hostile takeover.

Comments

Editorial: It’s up to Florida’s voters to restore felons’ civil rights now

The disappointing ruling Wednesday by a federal appeals court should erase any doubt that the decision on restoring voting rights for felons rests solely on the conscience of Florida voters. A tortured ruling by the minimum majority of a three-judge ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

A St. Petersburg waste-to-energy plant now under construction has been billed for years as an environmentally friendly money saver. Now it looks more like a boondoggle, with the cost and mission changing on the fly. It’s yet another example of a city...
Published: 04/25/18
Updated: 04/26/18

‘Happy hour’ tax cuts may result in hangovers

Evidence is mounting that the $1.5 trillion tax-cut package enacted in December by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump was a bad idea, not only for the long-run health of the economy but for the short-term political prospects of the ...
Published: 04/25/18
Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18