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Scott creates ‘Blue Ribbon’ panel to revamp higher ed

Friday, May 4th, 2012 by Dara Kam

After vetoing a tuition increase for FSU and UF, signing off on a controversial new state university and axing $300 million from the universities’ budgets, Gov. Rick Scott launched a possible remake of Florida’s higher ed system with a new “Blue Ribbon” panel announced today.

“The state has a vested interest in ensuring its higher education system produces world-class talent to serve as engaged citizens and meet the demands of Florida’s emerging knowledge-based economy. It’s time to assess the progress of prior reform efforts and identify strategies to improve efficiencies and enhance the system’s effectiveness as an economic catalyst.” Scott said in a statement announcing the “Blue Ribbon Task Force on State Higher Education Reform.”

Dale Brill, president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation, will chair the seven-member panel. The other six members will be chosen by House and Senate leaders and Board of Governors Chairman Dean Colson and Vice Chairman Mori Hosseini. The panel is slated to deliver its recommendations to Scott in November.

Scott last week vetoed a measure that would have given the University of Florida and Florida State University the ability to raise tuition as high as they want. The university presidents insisted the unprecedented authority was necessary to bring tuition at the institutions more in line with the higher-ed market.

But in his veto message, Scott said schools first need to reduce costs and administrative salaries and prove that their degrees equate to jobs for students.

State university system Chancellor Frank Brogan said Florida’s already “traveling toward a new frontier of accountability” and he hopes the Blue Ribbon panel will rely on work already done by the Board of Governors that will create “the most accountable public university system” in the nation.

“In particular, the Board’s Strategic Plan and Annual Accountability Report provide more than 60 System-wide comparative data points at-a-glance. I am confident that these products taken together can provide the strongest possible foundation for this group’s discussion,” Brogan said in a statement.

Board of Governors Chairman Dean Colson reacted with a cautious response that stopped short of an endorsement.

“Additional support for Florida’s public universities is always welcomed, especially if it accelerates the achievement of the Board’s goals and metrics for our university system,” Colson said in a statement. “During the past two years, the Board of Governors has laid out a comprehensive vision through three significant work products: a new 2025 Strategic Plan1, transformed metrics in the Annual Accountability Report2, and a three-year work plan template3 that each university will present annually. We look forward to a meaningful dialogue that bolsters a shared vision for the State University System.”

Another investigation into FAMU hazing practices

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Florida Board of Governors Chairwoman Ava Parker has asked Chancellor Frank Brogan to initiate an investigation into Florida A & M University administration’s handling of hazing in the wake of the death of Marching 100 drummer Robert Champion. Parker asked that Board of Governors’ inspector general lead the inquiry.

Parker sent a lettera letter to FAMU Board of Trustees Chairman Solomon Badger on Tuesday – the day before Champion’s funeral – advising him of the investigation. The inquiry comes alongside investigations into Champion’s death by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. FAMU has also created a hazing task force headed by former Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth and former Department of Corrections Secretary Walt McNeil, now the chief of policy in Quincy.

The latest investigation was prompted by Julian White, the former director of the famed Marching 100 band fired by FAMU President James Ammons last week. White told reporters yesterday he repeatedly warned university leaders for more than decades about the practice of hazing but was ignored. White also said he suspended 26 band members for hazing two weeks before Champion’s death on Nov. 19.

“The events surrounding the tragic death of Robert Champion and allegations by Dr. White that he received little support despite repeatedly advising current and former university administrators of hazing activities within the Marching 100 band, is of grave concern to the Board of Governors,” Parker wrote, adding that the state university system has a “no-hazing” policy.

“While we are aware that the university has a regulation and a rule in place to prohibit hazing activities and to penalize students for engaging in such activities, we are asking Chancellor Brogan to initiate an investigation to determine whether university administration took appropriate action to address the hazing activities referenced by Dr. White and any hazing activities in the student population at large,” she wrote.

Alexander wants probe of USF officials

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander is turning up the heat on the University of South Florida, after the State University System’s Board of Governor’s approved a slow rollout of plans to make USF-Polytechnic an independent university in his home Polk County.

The Lake Wales Republican wants the State University System to investigate USF President Judy Genshaft and other school leaders for what he said was misleading the system’s Board of Governors on details about construction at the Polytechnic’s campus. The BOG set benchmarks for the Lakeland school to achieve before it’s considered as the state’s 12th public university, but stopped far short of giving the school outright independence.

“As Polytechnic moves forward and begins the necessary steps to transition from a regional campus to Florida’s 12th university, I believe it is imperative to correct the record and draw public attention to this campaign of misinformation,” Alexander said, in a letter to BOG Chair Ava Parker.


FSU’s move into FAU turf sparks state universities’ civil war

Monday, August 22nd, 2011 by John Kennedy

When Florida State University agreed to bring its much-honored film school to West Palm Beach, it was a Hollywood-style story, glittering with images of students getting hands-on experience in big-budget movies.

But a year before classes even begin in temporary quarters at CityPlace, FSU and its partner, Port St. Lucie-based Digital Domain Media Group, already have produced their first blockbuster.

Call it “The Civil War.”

FSU’s arrival in the backyard of Boca Raton-based Florida Atlantic University has sparked a fierce turf battle among the state’s 11 public universities, stirring age-old rivalries among schools that compete not only on the football field, but also for lucrative business partnerships, well-heeled donors and faculty-friendly locations.

FAU has cried foul over FSU’s arrival.

Spurred by the bad feelings, a panel of the State University System’s Board of Governors is scheduled to consider a new regulation today that would assign schools to specific regions and require them to get approval from the schools in another region before offering programs in that region.

“It’s a tough issue,” said Ava Parker, a Jacksonville lawyer and Board of Governors chairwoman. “The world has become more mobile and global. But a lot of this is about bricks and mortar, and where they are placed.”

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