After it was announced that the firm Skanska won the contract for the new $46.5 million USF Polytechnic campus and donated a hefty $1 million to the USF Foundation a year later, many wondered if USF was more concerned with donations than qualifications when choosing contractors for University building projects.
According to an editorial in the Tampa Bay Times, the University asked potential candidates for the job how they would help raise money for USF. The University’s practices prompted an investigation by state Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales. However, no public university should turn down donations when private companies offer them, considering it’s a much-needed benefit in a time of cuts from state and federal funding. Budgets surrounding this project are minimal to begin with, so any support that patrons or vendors can lend should be appreciated.
Conserving funds where possible should be a priority when building an addition in a rough economy and should be applauded. Polytechnic interim Regional Chancellor David Touchton moved last month to eliminate five positions and save the campus $1 million. Donations from companies such as Skanska would preserve, not only resources, but also jobs, and that money is just as good as an individual donor’s money.
USF campuses should always encourage donations, as it allows them to allocate money with greater ease, and students are usually the ones to benefit. Many other state universities rely on donations to sustain growth. For instance, according to the Orlando Sentinel, Florida State University recently accepted a $5 million donation for an indoor practice field for its football team.
According to the Sentinel, the project costs an estimated $15 million, and the remaining $10 million will be generated through fundraising. Assuming USF is the only university looking for handouts is absurd. USF is just another growing college in need of financial support to maintain its population.
At least 75 other companies that work for USF also donate money to the University, according to the Times. There is no reason why Skanska should be treated any differently. If the company is qualified, USF can get a two-for-one deal: donations and a new building.
While Alexander may be against USF and other state universities accepting donation from contractors, one would expect a senator to facilitate and endorse resourceful colleges. Alexander’s investigation won’t do anything to help the University or win him popularity points with voters.
USF is a constantly expanding college, by size and recognition, which may make onlookers skeptical of its motivations. If anything, USF appears more concerned about using Florida tax dollars wisely then generating extra revenue for the college. Any help a learning institution can get in this economy should be received with open arms.
Thomas Powers is a junior majoring in creative writing.