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Saturday, April 13, 2024

With the announcement of UF Provost Janie Fouke's resignation, the beginning of a reorganization of UF's administration is now underway.

UF President Bernie Machen's plan to move budget operations under a single chief financial officer signals a much-needed change to business as usual for UF. And we think that's a good thing - for the most part.

We understand that the true purpose of a university is a marketplace of ideas, and though it shouldn't necessarily be run like a real marketplace, desperate times call for desperate measures.

In a sense, the university is providing a service, though it may be in the intangible form of a well-educated student body and the piece of paper we get at graduation being the product.

While it is unusual for a state university to be run with an "entrepreneurial" spirit - by the way, great euphemism for corporate, Bernie - we can't say that the current system we have warrants any opposition to the proposed change.

And it's not like it's completely unheard of.

Last October, the president of the University of Oregon contended that if the state did not allocate more funding, the University of Oregon would need to look at the possibility of leaving the Oregon University System and find a new system of governance to succeed.

And some have even completely weaned themselves off any state support.

In December 2003, South Carolina gave all 13 of its universities the option to go private, and Colorado's state university system is preparing a contingency plan to convert all four of its universities to private status by 2009.

Sure, the flagship university of any state should probably be run like a public institution, but that is becoming more of the ideal nowadays. What's a cash-strapped administration to do when the state refuses to hold the university's best interests in mind? Or when the money is just not there?

While the Legislature and the Board of Governors continue to duke it out over tuition increases in their Tallahassee usual power plays, our great university is suffering.

The University of Miami just received $80 million in state funds for its genetics institute partly due to its ability to attract top researchers, and UF was left looking south like a jealous, forlorn stepsister.

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Faculty are fleeing to other states to chase higher and more competitive pay, and doors are closing to transfer students and well-qualified freshmen.

And no one wants to see their exams printed on thirds of paper anymore.

If we wanted what we already have, then Machen could just keep doing more of the same. But that's not what we need.

We cannot reasonably expect Machen to stand back and watch the university crumble when it is well within his power to stop the destruction.

Enter this recently revealed business approach.

Though these changes will have to be carefully considered and allow for academic control over how funds are allocated, we welcome the change if the faculty are adequately represented. After all, they are ultimately responsible for the quality of education we receive.

The financial structure may reek of corporate influence via the Board of Trustees. But if it makes the university less reliant on the whims of the Florida economy and politicians seeking re-election by showing off in Tallahassee, it may very well be a necessary evil.

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