The same two weeks that ESPN is paying USF large fees for back-to-back national television appearances, the University is looking into hire private security firms instead of paying University Police officers competitive salaries. Do you recognize the problem I see?
The same day that the city of Tampa celebrates the University’s success, UP officers could get better money by leaving the University and moving to the city’s police department.
Do you see the irony?
Tonight, television viewers across the globe will see slickly produced video segments glorifying our campuses and academic programs. Less than a month ago, Channel 10 showed local television viewers how UP resources are stretched thin on the real campuses. Which video segment provides a more accurate portrait of the University?
USF has invested millions of dollars in creating a football team and joining the Big East Conference. And today the football team is nationally ranked. That’s wonderful. But at the same time, USF is preparing to hire rent-a-cops instead of paying UP officers enough money to retain them.
As the faculty union president and as someone who depends on UP for his safety, I am alarmed at the University’s decision. The people who would lay down their lives for students, faculty and staff are underpaid, under-supported and undermined by plans to outsource a large part of the University’s security operations.
This decision, moreover, has become public the same week that USF is obviously benefiting from the football team’s success. If campus security suffers while football benefits, we have our priorities backwards.
Fortunately, the priorities can be fixed. The administration can guarantee that the football team’s success this season will benefit USF, and they can make that guarantee by taking four simple steps.
First, the administration should publicly announce how large the appearance fees this year are. The administration should be transparent about sports revenues and expenses and release the information to the press as soon as possible.
Second, the administration should use a portion of the national-appearance fee to increase UP salaries. Revenues coming from athletic success should address urgent needs of the University.
Third, the administration should funnel a set percentage of every athletic donation into need-based scholarships. Instead of treating athletic donations as a gateway drug to academic giving, we should make every athletic donor into an academic donor by making sure that five or 10 cents on the dollar goes directly to need-based scholarships.
Fourth, beginning in the spring of 2008 there should be a small surcharge on all athletic-event tickets to support Library subscriptions. Because Florida libraries subscribe to most journals through a consortium, this surcharge should be statewide, but USF can start the policy.
I am making these recommendations because I am concerned that athletic successes are divorced from the needs of the University. Athletic revenues cannot plug every hole; USF is a $1 billion-plus enterprise.
But neither should athletics be treated separately from the rest of the University – either in appearance or reality. By taking these steps, the administration can link athletics to the University’s broader interests and academic programs in a clear way. In the long run, both the athletics department and the University as a whole will benefit.
Guest columnist Sherman Dorn is an associate professor of Education and is the president of the USF chapter of the United Faculty of Florida.
GUEST VOICES is an occasional feature of the Oracle.