Audit analysis falls short

In an effort to gain insight into USF’s funding situation — and most notably, the approximately $240 million left untouched in unrestricted reserves — Faculty Senate Vice President Steve Permuth proposed that Leroy Dubeck, an expert in trend analysis and budgets, be invited to analyze the University’s budget from the past five years. The goal was to provide a neutral, third-party perspective.

Joining the USF chapter of the United Faculty of Florida (UFF) and the Faculty Senate, Student Government agreed to use Activity and Service fees to pay a third of the cost for the additional analysis, and for bringing Dubeck to campus to discuss his findings.

Unfortunately, Dubeck’s subsequent report, Review of the Annual Financial Audits of the University of South Florida, leaves much to be desired. It provides nothing more than commentary along with general definitions and a summary of assets, both of which are already provided in the official state audit. 

Dubeck’s report concludes that USF is in “excellent financial condition” — a phrase that could cause a bit of mental dissonance for professors facing funding problems and students dealing with the rising cost of tuition.

The trio of organizations chose Dubeck because he could provide budget information from an academic perspective, rather than strictly looking at whether the figures balance properly as an accountant would. From this perspective, however, “excellent” doesn’t accurately describe USF’s commitment to maintaining the quality of education amid budget cuts.

Dubeck suggested that USF should be willing to use more reserve funds to help it through the recession. This advice is based on the dangerously optimistic prediction that the economy will improve in two years, and that more federal funding will be devoted to higher education. 

Relying on the speculation of an increase in federal funding is not only risky, but also provides insufficient reason to spend more in a time when fiscal conservatism is necessary. 

It is laudable that UFF, SG and Faculty Senate brought Dubeck to USF with the intention of providing additional perspective. However, there should have been more insight provided on behalf of the USF faculty and Dubeck himself. Students need more than hopeful prediction. They need empirical analysis and careful consideration of how their tuition and tax dollars are being handled.