The topic of reunification of the three University of South Florida campuses has drawn a significant amount of media attention during the past two months as legislation works its way through the Florida legislature.
Much of the media commentary has focused on how the proposed legislation will affect the Tampa and St. Petersburg institutions. As USF alumni, and former members of the Campus Board for USF Sarasota-Manatee, we are compelled to express our thoughts about how reunification could impact USFSM and our community.
USF Sarasota-Manatee is unique. It is the only nonresidential institution in the USF system and primarily serves a varied local population of students, many of whom are in the workforce in addition to pursuing a college degree. As a small school, USFSM faculty and staff are able to carefully monitor and support students’ progress to assure that they succeed.
With reunification, our students will be able to access a significantly greater number of academic programs and experiential learning opportunities. Enabling our students to seamlessly gain admission to those programs – while maintaining USF Sarasota-Manatee as their “home base” – would be advantageous from recruiting, retention and graduation perspectives. We would also have the potential to offer PhD programs locally and USFSM could benefit from preeminence funding, limited now to Tampa, to expand our offerings in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and other programs of strategic emphasis such as nursing.
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USFSM faculty, staff, and students, our current Campus Board, Community Leadership Council, and Diversity Accountability Council, have stated emphatically that admissions requirements, cost of tuition and fees, criteria for faculty tenure and promotion, and the ability of the USFSM Campus Board and university officials to make decisions that are distinctive to our community and governance structure must be preserved.
In closing, we would like to emphasize that there are many significant benefits to reunification that have the potential to dramatically change USFSM for the good in the years ahead. Yet it is important to recognize the uniqueness of USF Sarasota-Manatee, its students and faculty, and make decisions that will impact this extraordinary institution and our community in the most positive manner.
USF Sarasota-Manatee alumnus
USF Tampa alumnus