Gov. Charlie Crist's plan to buy hundreds of square miles of U.S. Sugar Corp. property as part of the Everglades restoration is an audacious attempt to make an enormous impact that would last for generations. Where is that same vision by state government for higher education?
The University of South Florida has just lost another top professor. Robotics researcher Robin Murphy is headed to Texas A&M for more money and substantially greater resources. She praised USF but was candid about its inability to hire additional faculty because of financial constraints. The professor who deployed her search-and-rescue robots to the World Trade Center site after the 9/11 attacks is leaving a university where she says she has to worry about buying her own printer paper — and taking with her tens of thousands of dollars in federal grants.
Murphy is far from alone. Dozens of other faculty members and administrators are fleeing USF, the University of Florida and Florida State University to better jobs in states that care more about higher education and back up their rhetoric with their tax dollars. Low tuition, high student-to-faculty ratios, hiring freezes and enrollment caps are not the best selling points for a Florida university system with high aspirations and little backing in the state capital.
Murphy said her "opportunities to make a difference in this world are getting shorter.'' That she is leaving Florida to maximize those opportunities says as much about this state's failures as it does about her marketability as a top researcher.
Tuesday's Everglades announcement demonstrates state government is entirely capable of literally changing the landscape on an intractable problem, no matter its size. Where is the similar vision and commitment to save higher education?