USF President Judy Genshaft’s lofty goal of making USF one of the nation’s top 50 research universities within the next five years could put the university on the map. It is debatable how likely it is the plan will succeed — different people will tell you different things — but any such plan should be executed with careful attention not to undermine the diversity in education the university has worked 50 years to achieve.
Research in its own right is well and good. When important breakthroughs are made, it improves the prestige of the university.
In recent years, USF was called a “hotbed of terrorism” in conjunction with an indictment by Attorney General John Ashcroft and the arrest of Professor Sami al Arian. Faculty members were threatening to go on strike (which may still happen), saying the administration was trying to “screw” them.
After all this, any good news would be a welcome change.
Research can also bring grants and other funding to USF, which will no doubt help the university gain credibility on the academic landscape.
Naturally any advance in science could also have benefits that may not even be foreseeable yet.
But in its endeavor to establish a name, departments that usually do not bring as much money into the system should not be neglected. It is unlikely that departments such as the philosophy department will suddenly crack the longstanding question about the reason for our existence and bring the university fame and glory. But nonetheless, subjects such as philosophy and ethics are important in a well-balanced education.
The last thing the university should do is cut funding for programs or departments that offer such staples in education in its efforts to establish USF as a leading research institution.