Sunday, February 23, 2020

Florida Poly Tech and New College – The Classic Example of Academic Self-centeredness

Tampa Bay, Fl 
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin, So You Want to Blog.
It did not take long for the academic claws to come out following the announcement of the Florida House bill HB 7087 from the House Education Committee to merge Florida Poly with the University of Florida and New College with Florida State.

For some detail check out this Article by Gary White in the Ledger: Florida Poly leaders oppose merger with University of Florida.
Florida Politics Jacob Ogles, The fight to save New College is on
Baypost Media 2020
If you have ever had any significant involvement with a college or university, public or private, you have probably had at least a glimpse of the political structure of these institutions. For infighting, backbiting and turf protecting it is difficult to beat an academic institution.
That was clearly on display as the presidents of both Florida Poly and New College quickly mounted full-frontal  attacks to protect their turf.
Florida Poly President Randy Avent rushed to Tallahassee to defend his turf, and likely his job. Donal O’Shea president of New College was not far behind.
This may not seem like much of a deal to you if you do not attend one of these colleges or have a child who does, but in the bigger picture, it points out a serious problem at the intersection of legislative over site and perceived academic self-value.
One of the major concerns is the amount of administrative cost.
Small colleges can be a wonderful place for the academic elite. Havens for those prefer the academic life in contrast to the hustle of a big university. Small, usually lovely campuses, smaller classes, and fewer of them, lots of time to sit and think, good pay, tenure, and at the top, social status and often lots of money.
The day of the small publicly funded college be it liberal arts or STEM where students can be coddled in the academic womb may be a thing of the past.
Rep. Randy Fine, the Palm Bay Republican leading the charge for the mergers, said, “it’s critical for other lawmakers to consider the plan.
You will hear a lot about the value these smaller colleges afford their students, the benefits, often undefined, to the community, seemingly massive economic impacts they have, but little about what really matters most to them, which is protecting their turf.
I’ll bet you thought it was the students who were important.
If that was the case, we would have had a solution to the student-loan problem long ago. All that borrowed money flowing into University system is what has caused this problem.
If you want to see how big, the Florida Poly problem is just note that large and rather odd-looking white structure off, I-4 near Lakeland. One of the first structures put in place at Florida Poly, it is testament to how these things get out of control.
To paraphrase: Hell, hath no fury like a small college president challenged.
The Florida Legislature and the House Education Committee may have just grabbed a tiger by the tail. The old adage goes if you hang on it will drag you to death, and if you let go it turn around and eat you alive.
I would not be surprised if the Florida Legislature decides to pass on this one this year.
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