Opinion Columns & Blogs

Vetoes to USFSM hurt entire community, not just the school

University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee campus
University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee campus Herald file photo

As many of you have seen by now, Gov. Rick Scott released his list of line item vetoes in the state appropriations bill last week. With a few strokes of his pen, the governor slashed roughly 14 percent of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee’s total funding and an astonishing 28 percent of its recurring base budget.

That is detrimental to our whole community, not just USFSM.

I graduated from USF in 1971 and have been involved with the USF system — and specifically USF Sarasota-Manatee ever since. I have seen firsthand how important this campus is to our community, the state of Florida and the world.

That is why these vetoes are particularly worrisome to me. They aren’t vetoes that “trim the fat” from the state budget, but instead are cuts to essential programs and partnerships that were developed because of a sincere demand from the businesses and organizations in this community.

The projects that earned vetoes from Rick Scott late last week include funding for the following projects:

A partnership between USFSM and Mote Marine Laboratory that allows students to take biology and chemistry courses in newly constructed laboratories at Mote, learning side-by-side with Mote’s world-class scientists and researchers. That partnership allows USFSM biology students to take part in researched-based internships, allowing the best and brightest students from our area to have the opportunity to conduct meaningful research while gaining valuable experience that will give them a step up over their competition as they enter the competitive job market or apply to graduate school.

In addition to the funding of the Mote partnership, the vetoes also impacted funding for several initiatives within the Florida Center for Partnerships for Arts-Integrated Teaching, which is housed at USFSM. That center helps to train educators on how to integrate arts into their curriculums to have a more substantial impact on the learning outcomes of students.

Why were these items vetoed? These are core initiatives for the university and the funding from the state is something that USFSM relies on to help meet the needs of this community.

USF Sarasota-Manatee and all of the state universities are charged with developing more students in science, technology, engineering and math which enables graduates to enter careers in high demand, high-paying fields and establishes Florida as an enticing place for businesses to call home.

Florida’s universities, especially those with service areas, are asked to listen to the local business community to fill needs and to develop programs and workforce to help stimulate the economy.

USFSM’s partnership with Mote achieves both of those objectives and is widely supported by our community, our businesses and our local legislative delegation who fought hard to make this a priority for the university and the region.

I am sad to see that these priorities were not given the investment that they need and that they deserve.

Roger T. Frazee, a USF and Palmetto High School alumnus, has been involved with the USFSM campus since May 1989. He is chair of USFSM 2016 – 2018 Community Leadership Council, co-chair of USFSM 2017 Brunch on the Bay, and was president of USF 2009-2010 National Alumni Association. Email: rtfrazee@yahoo.com