Under legislation passed last year, the University of South Florida has until next summer to bring the accreditation of its three campuses under one umbrella.
But when System President Steven Currall presented a consolidation plan to the USF Board of Trustees last month, it drew criticism from some students and faculty, as well as lawmakers, who blasted it for giving too much control over USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee to leaders on the Tampa campus.
A revised plan unveiled Thursday returns some of that authority to the regional chancellors of those branch campuses.
Currall says that under the updated framework, dubbed “Version 2.0,” Martin Tadlock in St. Petersburg and Karen Holbrook at Sarasota-Manatee will have authority over their campuses’ academic and budgetary decisions.
“So, we spent a lot of time in this version going into more detail about the role of the regional chancellors and exactly how decisions are going to be made on the branch campuses to ensure that we're in compliance with the state law,” said Currall.
He added the new plan shows that university officials are listening to concerns from many people, including incoming House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R-Palm Harbor), who originally pushed for consolidation.
“What I would emphasize to folks is that this really represents an alignment, a convergence among the interests of all three campuses, so we've been very pleased with our ability to have a dialogue, to find common ground and converge on a plan going forward,” said Currall.
“What we’ve done through deliberations is elaborate and refine the model, talk a lot more about how we’re fulfilling the legal obligation about branch campuses.”
The plan released Thursday also included information about several programs and ideas only hinted about previously, including:
- A reassignment of oversight of some USF Muma College of Business academic programs to the St. Petersburg campus, such as the B.A. in Finance and Master’s in Finance degrees;
- An interdisciplinary USF Center of Excellence in Oceanographic and Environmental Sciences on the St. Petersburg branch campus;
- An interdisciplinary USF Center of Excellence in STEM Education on the St. Petersburg branch campus;
- Distinctive programs in Journalism and Digital Communications on the St. Petersburg branch campus, leveraging their proximity to the Poynter Institute for Media Studies;
- A path for expanded nursing, public health, architecture and community design, engineering and other programs on both the St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee branch campuses;
- An interdisciplinary USF Center of Excellence in Aging Studies on the Sarasota-Manatee branch campus;
- A distinctive partnership between the USF College of Education and the Florida Center for Partnerships in Arts-Integrated Teaching on the Sarasota-Manatee branch campus;
- Distinctive programs in Risk Management and Insurance; and Hospitality and Tourism Management on the Sarasota-Manatee branch campus; and
- Additional specialized academic programs and/or centers of excellence contemplated for the future.
In addition, budgets for colleges on multiple campuses, like the College of Arts and Sciences, would be controlled by each campus; student services, including advising, financial aid and career services will still be available at all three campuses; and fees paid by students on the branch campuses won’t go to fund activities or services on the Tampa campus.
Currall believes that the updated plan – which he said will continue to evolve – will help push USF to greater heights.
“When these three campuses come together, I think there's going to be great opportunities for those students to have exposure to new majors and new academic programs, for the faculty to have new opportunities to engage in interdisciplinary research across the campuses, and those boundaries are going to become much more permeable across the campuses,” said Currall.
Further refinements to the plan – nicknamed “Version 3.0” – will be presented to trustees at their next meeting in early December.
A comprehensive consolidation prospectus is due to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) next March. USF is bound by state law to have single accreditation completed on July 1, 2020.
For more information on the consolidation process, click here.