There’s still a tremendous amount of anxiety about University of South Florida consolidation, according to a report at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus board meeting.
Concerns about equity and organizational responsibilities linger, Raymond Arsenault, a history professor and president of the USFSP Faculty Senate, told campus board members Thursday.
Board members also heard some encouraging numbers about student success,and got an update on construction projects on campus.
Consolidation, or bringing the Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota campuses under a single accreditation, has been debated for months. USF President Steve Currall initially proposed a plan that was met with harsh criticism from St. Petersburg leaders and many USFSP faculty. He later revised it to retain some of the authority for regional chancellors on each campus.
The USFSP Faculty Senate has been monitoring the process, Arsenault said. He had three observations on the plan as it currently stands.
• Adjustments to faculty governance including promotion and tenure decisions. “There have been good accommodations made to make sure everyone has a fair shake in that process.”
• Equity, in terms of research resources and faculty loads and salaries. “The estimates are it would cost upwards of $100 million to actually bring about that equity for the faculty and staff, and that may be a low estimate.”
• A new draft of the organizational chart. “I know it’s only a draft and I hope it’s only a draft because it doesn’t seem to correspond to some of the ongoing negotiations and agreements we thought had been made and the legislation that guarantees us branch campus status,” Arsenault said, adding that on this topic he was speaking only for himself and not the USFSP Faculty Senate.
“It may seem like we’re too anxious about these things, but if you look at the history of the campus and how hard we have fought to have a first-rate university here against some pretty tough odds at times, I think a lot of it has come about because we retained a lot of autonomy,” he said. “Most of us did not seek consolidation, did not think it was a good idea, and still don’t, but we’ve tried our best to cooperate, realizing it’s a fait accompli in terms of its concept. So we want to make it work, but we don’t want to give up the things that have made this campus so special.”
Stephanie Goforth, a USF Board of Trustee member who also chairs the USFSP campus board, said she agreed with everything Arsenault said.
“Let me assure this group that your campus board and board of trustees absolutely agree with you. We’ve all just seen the most recent draft and hope it’s not a strategy. I am also having these conversations and taking it to the strategic committee next week to clarify the roles,” Goforth said.
Also at the meeting, Martin Tadlock, regional chancellor of USFSP, updated board members on key metrics.
• The fall-to-spring retention rate hit 95 percent, which means 95 percent of the students who started in the fall stayed for the spring semester. Five years ago, it was 90 percent.
• The academic progress rate, or a measure of how many students are advancing with a grade point average of 2.0 or higher, stands at 88 percent. Five years ago, it was 79 percent.
• Research awards have increased dramatically. For the fiscal year that started July 1, 2017, USFSP had $4.7 million in research awards. For the next fiscal year, July 1, 2018-June 30, 2019, research awards climbed to $6.2 million. For the first seven months of this fiscal year, the awards are up to $16.8 million.
Those numbers matter in the broader community, as the city likely will look to strengthen its partnership with USF — a step that consultants said at the City’s State of the Economy was vital in order to attract A-list tenants to a redeveloped Tropicana Field site.
USFSP also is updating several parts of the campus, including a new 375-bed residence and dining hall. See the gallery below for project updates.
The new residence hall also has a new name, following a contest run by the Residence Hall Association. With a focus on Florida sea birds, the new hall will be named Osprey, while two existing ones will be named Ibis and Pelican.
“Those names are temporary until we have a donor — I would be remiss if I didn’t say this – that would like to name them. We’d be glad to substitute that out. Raise your hand,” Goforth said.