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USF could forfeit faculty quality after Lakeland additions

Published: Thursday, May 31, 2012

Updated: Thursday, May 31, 2012 01:05

Florida Polytechnic University and its creation and maintenance have been a point of contention in the state since Senate Budget Committee Chairman JD Alexander began his pursuit to create it. Now, with the former USF Lakeland campus officially becoming a university of its own, a more pressing issue surfaces: faculty members.

Though it is crucial to provide the existing Lakeland campus faculty with fair opportunities to continue their positions, it is not worth forfeiting the possibility of higher-quality faculty because of a state bill that could potentially harm USF Tampa students.

As early as next semester, USF Polytechnic faculty members could start being absorbed into the USF Tampa faculty, and by June 30, all faculty members at the former Lakeland campus will be placed within the USF system in the appropriate department.

The state bill has allocated a recurring $10 million, five-year budget to USF to ensure that the Lakeland students receive their degrees, but that amount likely will not be sufficient. Additional costs of maintaining the faculty will also be covered, which will most likely be needed since the Polytechnic payroll was about $18 million, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

But this money does not account for the long-term effects of the transition. According to the USF Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President, the university hired 99 new faculty members in 2011-12, which was significantly less than the 169 new faculty in 2009-10.

While including Lakeland faculty on the Tampa campus might seem justifiable, it raises questions as to the departments’ abilities to hire new faculty other than those within the USF System. Though there are myriad reasons for such a drop in the number of newly hired faculty, the recent state budget cut of $36.9 million serves to further limit hiring ability.

Moreover, maintaining these faculty members over a long period of time necessitates a budget, and their presence fills positions that could be filled by other, external professors.

Elizabeth Bird, Faculty Advisory Council representative on the Board of Trustees, said to The Oracle that most of the 2,074 Tampa faculty members will not be affected.

Nonetheless, it is important to take into account the changes faced by Lakeland campus faculty members. Providing them with opportunities in Tampa offers much-needed stability.

Though many of the members of the Lakeland faculty are likely quality members, in the long run they may limit the university’s ability to bring in quality faculty from outside of the USF system. It is unfair to sacrifice the possibility of bringing in quality, external faculty as a result of a state action that could potentially be harmful to students.

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