Budget cut protests must hit Alexander and beyond
The Florida Senate has proposed a budget that would cut 58 percent of USF’s budget, with Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lakes Wales, behind the scenes as Senate Budget Committee chairman – all while creating far less drastic cuts for other universities.
The impulse for students, faculty and others would be to go after Alexander through calls, emails and pledges never to vote for him, yet he is not up for re-election after his term is up later this year. Those concerned about the budget cuts must also now express their disapproval with the politicians and policies swayed by Alexander’s great political
influence in order to help USF.
Another vital bill up for Senate discussion, SB 7100, is one proposed by Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Daytona Beach, that would turn USF Polytechnic into Florida Polytechnic University immediately upon the bill’s approval. USF would have to foot the bill for this split, which provides for much of the funds the University could lose under the proposed budget.
About $18 million would go to absorbing USF Polytechnic’s faculty and students, while $6 million would go to operating the College of Pharmacy on USF Polytechnic’s campus. Another $25 million would be held for the immediate transfer of land and property to Florida Polytechnic University.
When SB 7100 is discussed in the Senate today, any concerned USF supporters should register their displeasure with senators and make sure it does not pass, so USF Polytechnic must split in the transitional way already agreed upon by the Board of Governors in November. If USF Polytechnic cannot split immediately, Alexander does not get what he wants and USF’s budget limitations will become reduced.
It is also important when noting USF’s disproportionate cut to examine Alexander’s ties to other universities and their budget cut proportions. Alexander is the grandson of Ben Hill Griffin Jr., whose company donated 760 acres to Florida Gulf Coast University. His family has also donated more than $20 million to the University of Florida, which would oversee Florida Polytechnic University until it achieved accreditation.
In the Senate budget, Florida Gulf Coast University had by far the lowest funding cut at only 6.6 percent, while the University of Florida only received a 25.8 percent cut. When students, faculty and USF supporters are looking at whom to register complaints with, they should be sure to turn to UF President Bernie Machen, who said he would support an independent Polytechnic from the beginning.
USF Student Government proposes emailing your senator or representative about the budget cuts. However, to influence the budget, one needs to be sure to contact the legislators who will speak on the issue today. Sen. Jim Norman, R-Tampa, serves on the Budget Committee.
Students, faculty and staff need to mobilize quickly and move beyond Facebook petitions and the like. If the budget passes through the subcommittee, it is important for students, faculty and staff to continue protesting. In the best interest of USF and the Tampa area, it will hopefully die on the floor today.