Monday was a good day for Karen White.
White, a 51-year-old concert violinist, music professor and dean, was introduced by USF President Judy Genshaft as the new campus executive officer for USF St. Petersburg.
This is the perfect opportunity for someone new at the helm to push for St. Petersburg’s separate accreditation, which would allow the campus to function as a four-year institution while retaining its ties to the main campus.
Regardless of whether the St. Petersburg campus gains accreditation, White will be forced to address the campus’ continuing problems. She will have to find a way to expand the already cramped campus into St. Petersburg’s encroaching downtown.
But to make the campus a force in local politics, White should seek separate accreditation. After adding new programs and classes, the St. Petersburg campus seems ready.
Faculty and students at St. Petersburg have long dreamed of having a campus similar to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. That campus contributes to the UNC system while offering students a traditional and separate four-year program.
St. Petersburg accreditation will strengthen the USF system by creating a separate, unique institution. The campus, as an accredited part of a Research I institution, will be able to develop its own programs, such as marine science, without forcing students to travel to Tampa for classes.
Unfortunately for White, St. Petersburg faculty and students have wondered in the past whether USF’s leaders want accreditation. Last June when former CEO Bill Heller was forced by Genshaft from his position, some asked openly if the move had been made to keep the campus under USF’s thumb. Genshaft vehemently denied those accusations, and, with the exception of a few flare-ups, they died away.
White should make accreditation her priority. More than that, she needs to not just talk about it, as some leaders in the past. She needs to make it happen.