The Board of Trustees (BOT) will officially decide what the blueprint of the University of South Florida system will look like post-consolidation at Tuesday morning’s meeting in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom.
But to say that everyone is on the same page in terms of what is best for the university and its three campuses — Tampa, St. Pete and Sarasota-Manatee — would be like saying the sky isn’t blue.
That is simply not the case.
The consolidation task force — led by Mike Griffin — proposed last month that the St. Pete and Sarasota-Manatee campuses operate under the title of “branch campuses” rather than “instructional sites.”
This would leave things largely the same as they are now from an administrative standpoint, giving each campus individual autonomy to govern how it sees fit, while also reporting to the overall system president, who will be based out of the Tampa campus.
In a letter composed by Tampa’s Faculty Senate, it is made clear that it does not support this motion.
The letter cited jeopardizing the university’s status as a preeminent campus as one of the main reasons the Faculty Senate is not in support of this.
“If the metrics of all three institutions were combined today, preeminence would not be attained,” the letter read. “It is highly implausible that USF could attain preeminence operating as three separately managed entities focused primarily on implementing their own individual projects, rather than working together as a unified institution.
“The costs of losing preeminence status would be enormous in terms of the acclaim this recognition confers on students and their degrees, on faculty and on the institution, in addition to the obvious financial costs.”
However, the Student Government (SG) from the St. Pete campus fired back with a letter of its own that was sent to The Oracle last week.
“The recent letter sent by the USF Tampa Faculty Senate was willfully ignorant, and unfortunately represented another example of where faculty members can fail to work in the best interest of the students,” the St. Pete SG letter read.
It was signed by St. Pete’s Student Body President Daniel Kelso, Senate President Tiffany Porcelli and Chief Justice Nisuka Williams.
In an email to The Oracle, St. Pete’s Regional Chancellor Martin Tadlock said the Tampa Faculty Senate’s stance “provides another perspective for the USF Board of Trustees to consider.”
Tampa’s Faculty Senate President Tim Boaz said after consolidation all three campuses will be “in this together.”
“The concern expressed in the letter from the USF Tampa Faculty Senate was that the organizational and budgetary structure proposed by the Consolidation Task Force will make preeminent status more difficult to achieve,” Boaz said in an email to The Oracle.
But does the Faculty Senate’s stance have merit?
According to Paul Dosal, Tampa’s vice president of Student Success, the answer is complicated.
“After July 1, 2020, when we are one, our performance is evaluated as one,” Dosal said. “If we are not careful and improve our performance in certain areas we might lose preeminence, it does not mean that we will.”
Dosal said Tampa earned preeminence by improving two of the 12 defined metrics: first-year retention rate at 90 percent and the four-year graduation rate at 60 percent. He added that as a system, including all three campuses, those metrics will not be met, though university administration is working toward that mark. In order to achieve and maintain preeminence status, the university must meet 11 of the 12 metrics each year.
Though nothing is clear until the BOT makes its decision at Tuesday’s meeting, Dosal said a path back to preeminence, should it be lost, is already underway.
“If we were to lose or fall beneath the benchmark on any one, we might lose preeminence for that year, but I think we can regain preeminence the following year by boosting our performance,” Dosal said. “Our goal really is to push up on both of out weakest metrics so that we are not going to be worried about falling back anytime.
“I want to continue to push Tampa’s numbers up, I want to work with St. Pete and Sarasota-Manatee to boost their numbers up because any one of those things can strengthen preeminence.”