University President Judy Genshaft received an unexpected letter last week.
It was from Gov. Rick Scott, and he had 17 questions for USF.
Scott sent copies of the letter to the presidents of all 11 institutions in the State University System of Florida to ask questions in relation to his job creation plan.
The letter included questions like, “Do you have measurable goals for the number of graduates who remain in Florida post-graduation? If so, please send me the goals and the results for the last five to 10 years,” and “What programs do you have to educate students regarding job opportunities?”
University spokesman Michael Hoad said that because USF’s evaluation systems and strategic plans include measuring the progress of the University, the administration is not concerned about the letter, which the governor has requested that all presidents reply to by Nov. 15.
“USF is ahead of the game,” he said. “We’re not really worried about it.”
Yet, not all are comfortable with the intentions of Scott’s letters.
Gregory McColm, spokesman of USF’s United Faculty of Florida (UFF) chapter, said in conjunction with Scott’s recent statements about anthropology, his pushing of the Texas education plan called “Seven Breakthrough Solutions” and cuts to pension plans, the letter is unsettling.
“Under normal conditions, we would say this is typical kind of information gathering in the state of Florida,” he said. “The thing is that the tone of the letter and nature of the questions (were) a little bit peculiar, and we’re a little bit unsure about what this is leading up to. If you put those things together, it forms a pattern – he’s using us as a punching bag.”
McColm said Scott’s questions were not designed for assessing a research institute and worries USF will lose further funding in the spring. He said he expects to see tenure and further cuts to pension plans up for discussion in Tallahassee during the next legislative season.
“It’s almost like reading tea leaves,” McColm said. “You look at things (Scott) said and all these questions … at this point, we don’t know. It’s not entirely sure what we’re going to be facing next spring, but we’re going to be facing something.
“He’s looking for information that fits into his conceptual framework,” he said. “Other than consume people’s time at the Patel Center, what is this going to lead to?”
Hoad said administrators have yet to decided how to respond to the letter, but will do so by the deadline.
Officials at the State University System’s and Scott’s press offices were unavailable for comment.