In response to the June 1 editorial USF could forfeit faculty quality after Lakeland additions.
A cursory review of faculty credentials of the Lakeland faculty would indicate several easily recognized facts:
1. Many of the Lakeland faculty were already tenured in Tampa so their physical return would hardly cause a loss in Tampa prestige. We feel that we have always been part of the USF System faculty, which is what makes USF a great institution. Also, we were approved by Tampa faculty in our respective disciplines, recognizing previous accomplishment and/or potential to be productive in a diverse community.
2. Many Lakeland courses are taught by Tampa faculty while many Tampa students come to Lakeland for course availability. This has not been a problem because we are, in theory at least, an egalitarian community.
3. While recruiting criteria vary somewhat for regional campuses, academic excellence is not one of the variables. Rather, regional faculties usually have a greater teaching and service requirement as part of their charge to meet community needs, with research still being a significant emphasis. This difference in emphasis is generally true across academia in the U.S.
4. Lakeland worked to offer academic programs not available in Tampa thus offering enrichment for the USF System. This enrichment will not be lost through assimilation.
5. Lakeland faculty, staff and students have been through a very difficult period for political reasons not of their own choosing. Our USF System president, Judy Genshaft, has worked diligently to welcome and place us in new, productive positions in Tampa. How could The Oracle take such an opposition view to an opportunity to integrate new proficiencies into the Tampa educational enterprise?
6. It is clear that, rather than harming students, increased faculty diversity improves student outcomes. It would be refreshing to see the Oracle editorial staff welcome colleagues from Lakeland as an enrichment rather than a risk. The academic community, to survive and thrive, needs to present a united front, pointing out the historically positive aspects, economic prosperity and improved quality of life associated with communities of scholars and students. Erroneously labeling parts of the USF System community as substandard is self-defeating and needlessly offensive.
Paul M. Terry, Ed.D., is an associate professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the USF Lakeland campus. L. Preston Mercer, Ph.D., is a professor of chemistry at the USF Lakeland campus.