A two-class society is being created at USF: One part of USF receives money, buildings and other perks because they are associated with prestigious research. The other, more “traditional” part of USF, is told that money is short, leading to a steady decline in USF’s general education quality.
USF already fell several ranks on U.S. News and World Report’s annual college rankings. It is now ranked 189, nine spots below last year’s result.
This tumble stems from USF’s desire to improve an already-solid reputation as a research university.
While the progress to improve USF’s reputation in that field is notable and important, it cannot come at the cost of USF’s other fields. The damage of having a reputation for being academically weak is greater than any benefits that may come with a strong research reputation.
Members of USF’s administration love to emphasize that the University is a Research-I university, often to an extent that it is outright comical. USF’s President Judy Genshaft, for example, relies on the phrase so often during her speeches that one could – not that we suggest it – make spotting the phrase a drinking game.
But for those departments at USF that have to constantly beg the University for the most rudimentary facilities, such as classrooms or teaching staff, this is not a laughing matter.
Nor is it for USF’s students. Their efforts to earn a reputable college degree are undermined by the administration’s zeal to score funding or media attention for certain prestigious fields while others are neglected and struggling for funds.
It is understandable that USF is trying to grab as much positive media attention as possible, especially considering the fallout surrounding former USF professor Sami Al-Arian, who is standing trial for allegedly having connections to terrorist organizations. The issue has tarnished USF’s reputation and seems to haunt the University – it became a point of contention in the 2004 Florida Senate race. All news that does not involve the words “hotbed of terrorism” or “lack of academic freedom” in association with USF are good news for the University.
But the administration’s efforts to advance USF must be more evenhanded – otherwise this strategy will create more damage than good, even if USF manages to grab some glitzy headlines in the process.