Tribune Editorial Hits the Rim and Bounces Out

Forgive that headline, but I so rarely get to mix basketball and blogging. Take a few moments and read the unsigned editorial concerning USF in today’s Tampa Tribune.

Of course, USF can achieve greatness without satellite campuses. Colleges have done that for years. However, without USF Lakeland they can’t achieve Central Florida domination.

I’ve written about my preference of a Liberal Arts college over the Polytechnic model. However, “USF-Whatever it is called” can better serve our community when it serves our community and isn’t simply a feeder college to funnel students to classes in Tampa.

The independent accreditation allows the branch campuses to largely set their own agendas, do their own hiring and promotions, set their own admissions standards and run their own fundraising – without much regard for the concerns of the greater university. The arrangement creates more bureaucracy and expense, since each campus must support independent operations.

Letting USF Lakeland and USF Sarasota earn separate accreditation from Southern Association of Colleges and Schools makes those schools more flexible. As for bureaucracy, having the staffs report to the main campuses creates additional layers of management. The Tribune writer has forgotten that with great hierarchies come slow reactions to change. We need small, nimble staffs without extra layers of management. Separate accreditation leaves the satellite campuses with more options.

The bigger concern for USF and other state universities should be holding their ground, not launching expensive bureaucratic exercises at fledgling campuses still in need of buildings and professors.

Seriously, I’d love to see the Trib’s numbers on how separate accreditation is an “expensive bureaucratic exercise.” Always publish the numbers when you have them.

USF President Judy Genshaft has a solid plan to develop Lakeland into a polytechnic university on the Florida High-Tech Corridor between Tampa and Lakeland. But once Lakeland has its own independent accreditation, its leadership could go in any number of directions, without regard for the greater university’s goals.

Actually, I believe I am the only person in Polk County who prefers USF Lakeland doesn’t follow the polytechnic model. And I’m hardly “leadership.” I think USF Leadership is gung-ho in favor of going high-tech.

…or USF should simply cut the campuses loose and rid itself once and for all of this distracting academic tribalism.

Well, that’s a point where we could agree. However, I believe that strong and fast satallite campuses will bolster the USF mothership. Different approaches for different needs ensures each community, Tampa, St. Pete, Sarasota, and Polk County gets the college that fits the community.

Update: I left this out earlier, but USF Lakeland’s enrollment is well above 2000. For Spring 2007 it was 2,789. It is 4,073 this Spring. That’s a 46% increase in a year. It’s a growing campus.