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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

We welcome you to your new home, Paul D'Anieri. When others dropped out of the dean search after an administration shake-up and pressing budget problems, you decided to remain in the running to be at the helm of the biggest college on the UF campus. Congratulations on your selection. We're glad that you're here.

And as you bid your farewells to the University of Kansas - and who could blame you for enjoying the sweet victory of their NCAA championship win - take that time to relax and get situated because the road ahead of you is not going to be as easy as making a 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left in the game.

You're not in Kansas anymore. You're in The Swamp now.

Though it's probably comforting to know that 58 percent of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences faculty recommended you for the job - well, the 25 percent who bothered to respond to the president's advisory committee poll, anyway - you still have a lot to prove. We hope you can live up to their expectations.

But, more importantly, we're really hoping you can live up to ours.

Yes, you remember us, don't you? The students?

Seeing as how we are the reason why this university exists, we think it's most important that you remember us when dealing with those suits in Tigert. It's easy to get caught up in the bureaucracy around here, and we don't want you to lose sight of your promising vision in the shuffle.

We also want - make that need - someone who will not only advocate for the college, but someone who is not afraid to ask for something better. It's time to stop doing more with less.

They might not have made this abundantly clear during the courting process that is finding a new dean, but the college you are now in charge of has some serious problems.

Though you reassured us that you're not worried about budget cuts, we certainly are. UF President Bernie Machen has already mentioned the possibility of a 6 percent cut this year. This to a college who already prints exams on thirds of paper.

So, how would this be accomplished?

By taking drastic measures that would seriously damage our education's quality, including eliminating several degree programs and laying off faculty members.

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You know it's bad when reports are actually recommending eliminating the spring graduation ceremony and all honors and elective courses.

Surely there are better ways to come up with that pesky $3 million, and we're counting on you to find them.

We know during your campus visit and subsequent discussions with faculty that you said you have no "magical answers" to the budget woes, but we're optimistic that you can come up with some more practical ones.

You are probably already aware that 36 members of the CLAS faculty plan to retire this year.

With the college at such a monumental crossroads, it's now up to you to steer it down the right road. Those 36 empty spots need to be filled with progressive, diverse candidates. We're anticipating that your young, vibrant energy will attract faculty who are willing to provide a valuable educational experience.

We're also hoping you overcome the challenges ahead and, despite the initial difficulties, realize why it's so great to be a Florida Gator.

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