EDITORIAL: Diet of ‘pork’ unhealthy, but may be best option

USF has achieved its goal of becoming a member of a Top 10 list rating national colleges.

Unfortunately, it isn’t as prestigious as the school may like. It also has little to do with academic standards.

USF has been ranked ninth among all colleges in a study conducted by the Chronicle of Higher Education for the amount of earmarked funds they receive from the federal government. While ninth is high, it is a drop since the last time a report was made in 2003, when USF ranked second.

These earmarked funds are usually referred to as pork, and the process known as “pork barreling” begins when politicians allocate federal money to institutions and organizations within their home districts.

One of the primary reasons this practice is taboo on the academic level is, as the Chronicle states, federal money for research can be assigned to projects “without review of the projects’ merits by knowledgeable scientists.” Also, the money going towards local projects may persuade voters and benefactors to support the politician in power, in essence purchasing votes.

These federal funds can be traced to nearly all politicians, but there are a few exceptions.

According to the Chronicle, Hillary Clinton funneled $70 million dollars toward earmarked education programs and Barrack Obama over $19 million. John McCain, however, has never supported earmarking and “promised a total ban if elected president.”

Clinton and Obama have since come out against the earmarking.

So, who is the behind USF’s share of pork? Congressman C. W. Bill Young. If that name sounds familiar to you, it is because you might be taking a lecture course in – or have driven by – the shiny new C.W. Bill Young Hall that was built for USF’s ROTC program.

Young is, according to his Web site, has served 18 terms as a Republican in the House of Representatives and is a member of the “Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and the Appropriations Select Intelligence Oversight Panel.”

This also reveals the nature of USF’s recent research and construction projects that lean toward military projects.

Of course, even if something is contracted for the military, it doesn’t mean that it won’t have a positive impact on life in the civilian world. It does, however, alter the outlook and opinion toward an institution of higher education that seems to fit squarely in the middle of the military industrial complex.

Politicians – at the highest level – now find it important to argue against the process of pork barreling, and academic institutions may believe the funds are going to less qualified schools.

But the reality is that many universities – particularly in Florida – are facing a budget crisis and there is currently a state government that wants to prevent tuition increases.

As unfortunate as it may be, these funds are becoming more important to universities and, until the government is willing to provide for students overtly, it is hypocritical to bemoan the covert nature of these earmarks.