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The history of conflict between USF’s Tampa and St. Petersburg campuses is far from over, but there’s a tragic side to all of the infighting: With proper management, it never had to happen in the first place.

USF St. Petersburg accuses Tampa of taking steps that would essentially deprive it of its autonomy. Those accusations are understandable, since President Judy Genshaft’s 2007-2012 Strategic Plan incorporates several ideas that diminish – or worse, appear to diminish – the control the St. Petersburg campus has over itself.

Genshaft wants USF to be a member of the American Association of Universities (AAU). Her ideas to achieve this – most notably, language in the Strategic Plan that is “all about centralized control,” according to USF St. Petersburg psychology professor Eric Odgaard – have presented some pretty vocal protests from St. Petersburg.

Genshaft denies that centralized authority, most notably the proposed assumption of control of USF St. Petersburg’s Poynter Memorial Library, is a detriment to USF St. Petersburg. Rather, she thinks it is an important step toward USF’s admittance into the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), which is in turn an important step toward AAU membership. Nearly all universities in the AAU are also members of the ARL.

Furthermore, she denied the idea that USF Tampa wants to deprive USF St. Petersburg of its livelihood, especially its accreditation.

“We have worked tirelessly with you for that accreditation,” Genshaft said. She accused USF St. Petersburg of assuming the worst.

Certainly this is a complicated case, but Genshaft has to realize that although it is her contention that USF St. Petersburg was represented at the repeated meetings in which the Plan was discussed, its faculty members do not feel represented. If they did, comparisons between USF Tampa and colonial England couldn’t have been drawn.

USF St. Petersburg must remember that it is a branch university and that Genshaft therefore has some control over it. While the current rhetoric about autonomy for USF St. Petersburg is clearly deserving of attention, the nature of branch universities diminishes the control USF St. Petersburg can have over itself.

Genshaft is correct: USF St. Petersburg is assuming the worst. The idea that USF Tampa would ever aim to remove accreditation from one of its branches is not a well thought out deduction. But at the same time, USF St. Petersburg is correct: Its faculty has a right to be represented, and they have legitimate reasons to feel the way they do. Fortunately, the one in charge of making the faculty feel represented has started to do so, but Genshaft, as University president, should have never allowed the feeling of not being represented in St. Petersburg to become as strong as it has.