USF realigns departments, faces more cuts

06/13/08 Seán Kinane
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Florida’s universities received notice of further budget cuts this week – at the same time that the University of South Florida is announcing tuition increases, restructuring, and a dean’s resignation.

On Thursday USF announced a realignment of academic departments, colleges and schools. The university’s largest college was most affected. Under the restructuring, the College of Arts and Sciences will be divided into three schools: Behavioral and Social Sciences, Humanities, and Sciences.

Harry Vanden is Professor of Government and International Affairs at USF.

“I think it comes as a surprise to a lot of people in the College of Arts and Sciences and elsewhere in the university. I believe people knew that there were various organizational plans afoot. I think it would be fair to say that most of the faculty feel they were not involved in the process of realignment and that many of them would prefer not to have the realignment as it is,” Vanden said.

As part of the realignment, two institutes and one department will be added to the revamped College of Arts and Sciences -- the economics department, the Institute on Black Life and the Institute for the Study of Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Women’s Studies and Africana Studies departments had been concerned about being dismantled or joined into larger school. They managed to maintain their departmental status.

Kim Vaz, who is chair of the Women’s Studies Department, said she has concerns about the realignment.

During the spring semester, students led teach-ins and rallies to save the two departments, including a one that culminated in a 200-person march to the administration building in April for an hour-long meeting with Provost Ralph Wilcox. But two months later, Chair of the Africana Studies Department Deborah Plant said there was still “a lot of uncertainty.”

One source of the confusion is how administrative consolidation would occur, Plant said.

Government and International Affairs professor Harry Vanden agrees that the realignment plan has not alleviated any confusion.

“I think unfortunately it has further added to the feeling of disorganization and perhaps even chaos that many people feel in the university particularly the faculty and also amongst the staff. There have been layoffs and this is very concerning to people,” Vanden said.

Ralph Wilcox, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at USF, said the realignment will reduce administrative overhead by creating the three schools "that will encourage greater synergy across the humanities.”

Meanwhile, on Thursday USF trustees voted to increase in-state graduate and undergraduate tuition 6 to 10 percent – an increase of about $105 per semester for undergrads. Out-of-state graduate students in some programs will see their tuitions decrease by 10 percent, Wilcox said.

“We want to do utmost consistent with our strategic priorities of attracting the best and brightest minds to the University of South Florida. We wanted to ensure that we were being competitive in our pricing and our ability to recruit non-Florida resident students at the graduate level only to USF,” Wilcox said.

In an email sent Sunday, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences John Skvoretz announced that he will resign, effective Aug. 6. The realignment of his college was one reason Skvoretz cited for his resignation.

He wrote, “It has been extremely difficult over the past six months to see the advocating of proposals for its potential dismantling with quite limited considerationof [sic] the up and down sides of such an [sic] large and potentially contentious undertaking.”

The day after Skvoretz’ email, USF announced that Communications Professor Eric Eisenberg would be interim dean of Arts and Sciences until a new dean can be hired.

“Eric is a widely sought after leader and expert in organizational change and in particular, leadership for organizational change in difficult times,” Wilcox said.

Compounding the USF’s financial problems, Gov. Charlie Crist announced on Thursday that his office will withhold 4 percent of the budgets of all state agencies, including universities, because sales tax and other revenues are anticipated to be below expectations. That means about another $14-million cut for USF. But Wilcox said the school was somewhat prepared for additional cuts.

Photo by Seán Kinane/WMNF

USF realignment

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