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New college, school approved by Faculty Senate

Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012

Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 07:11

The USF Faculty Senate formally recommended USF administrators to consider creating a new college and school Wednesday afternoon.

After addressing a few concerns, the School of Public Affairs, which will be housed within the School of Social Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Patel College of Global Sustainability were almost unanimously voted to be considered by the Board of Trustees (BOT).

The proposal to create the Patel College of Global Sustainability, announced in October after local philanthropists Drs. Kiran and Pallavi Patel pledged a $12 million endowment to turn the Patel School of Global Sustainability into an interdisciplinary college, still met some resistance despite more than 30 meetings and 10 proposal revisions with deans, faculty and administrators this semester.

Kala Vairavamoorthy, executive director of the Patel School of Global Sustainability, received 31 letters of support for the creation of the new college from deans, local environmental leaders and even the Sierra Club — yet Faculty Senate President Gregory Teague said he received a few emails and letters
expressing some concerns about the motives behind creating the new college.

“There’s a gift that’s been offered here,” Teague said. “The hypothetical question is then, if a billionaire wanted us to create a College of Mashed Potatoes, would we? And the answer is no. ... Finances are an issue, but (this) wasn’t an idea generated from the outside. When it’s something of this scope, (it’s important to think of) the ultimate good for the university.”

Wendy Nembhard, who represented the College of Public Health, said while she supported the concept of the college, she wasn’t comfortable with the lack of detail surrounding it.

A representative of the Council on Faculty Issues said there was not enough detail in terms of financial impact.

Vairavamoorthy provided the Senate with documents outlining the proposed College’s five-year financial plan: During the first year, Dr. Kiran Patel would provide a $1.03 million gift, after which the endowment would provide $480,000 a year for the first five years, and USF would match with $160,000 each year. The Office of Sustainability would provide the college with $136,424 a year, and the Provost’s new Strategic STEM Initiative would provide the college with approximately $5 million over the five-year period.

The plan also estimated that the college would generate approximately $12.6 million over five years through tuition, fees and research grants.

USF Provost Ralph Wilcox said the mixed sources of funding represent the future of what higher education may look like in the face of state cuts.

“If we rely on state-funded positions, we might as well tread water,” he said. “This new source of revenue funds additional positions. Nothing could be closer to the changing model.”

Vairavamoorthy said some faculty expressed some confusion and concerns about how joint appointments would work, whether duplication would occur or whether a College that anticipates enrollment of up to 200 students is large enough to justify “economies of scale.”

But for the most part, he said, faculty expressed overwhelmingly positive sentiments.

“There was a sense USF has international expertise in sustainability and this was a really great way to express it and its visibility,” he said. “It shows a longer-term commitment.”

The motion passed overwhelmingly, with only a few audible “nays.”

The School of Public Affairs, which will contain the Urban and Regional Planning and Environmental Science and Policy programs, passed unanimously.  
The only point of contention in the “budget neutral” proposal’s early days, John Cochran, associate dean for faculty affairs in the College of Arts and Science, said, was the name.

Some wanted to call the school the “School of Public Policy” while others wanted to name it “School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs,” he said. A list of five names were included in the proposal.

“Apparently ‘School of Public Affairs’ is copacetic for all parties,” Cochran said.

The school expects to enroll between 145 to 150 new students per academic year by 2015, and if approved by the BOT will officially be recognized in January 2013.

The BOT Academics and Campus Environment workgroup will meet Nov. 29 to further discuss the proposals.

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