Death of a Gator Nation
Daniel E. Canfield Jr.
May 14, 2008 is the day "my" GATOR NATION died! Quietly and without warning, input, or knowledge, the University of Florida, as we have known it for more than 100 years, ceased to exist.
I shook my head as I walked across the campus, recollecting the pride I knew President Abraham Lincoln felt when he signed the Morrill Act of 1862 creating institutions of higher learning "of the people, by the people, and for the people." This Land Grant College Act assured that higher education would always be available to people of all social classes.
We are no longer a Land Grant University and the major reorganization has begun. When the Legislature ordered a six to eight percent budget cut, President Machen and the Board of Trustees voted to restructure the university making it into a top-ten public university like the University of Michigan. More than four hundred thirty of my colleagues will be laid off. Student enrollment is being cut; which is why some of Florida's best and brightest did not gain entry this fall. To be like the University of Michigan, a non-Land Grant University, student enrollment will be cut by about ten thousand, average faculty salaries will increase more than $10,000 per year, and tuition will increase by more than $6,000 per year (in state) and $11,000 per year (out of state.) However, President Machen continues to enjoy his $300,000 bonus.
Let there be no doubt that the University of Florida is one ofAmerica's great universities. Built on the backs of its faculty, staff, students, and all the citizens of the great State of Florida, it achieved that greatness. Maybe UF was not the "Harvard of the South" but all the members of the University of Florida community worked hard to enhance the ability of all Florida citizens, businesses, and communities to prosper!
The Board of Trustees has transformed UF from a university accessible to a broad sector of Floridians to a multimillion-dollar business enterprise with limited access. Students are clients and the Faculty and Staff of the University of Florida are human capital, to be used, depreciated, and disposed of by the CEO and his management team.
I thought of my colleagues and the devastation to their families as well as the students who would never grace the hallways of this place I called home. The immortal words of President Dwight D. Eisenhower rang in my ears, "Yet in holding scientific research and discovery in great respect, we must be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become captive of the scientific-technological elite."
What are the chances your son or daughter will become a Gator now? Will the University of Florida remain an affordable people's university or will it become an elitist "Public Ivy League" university?
Only the people of Florida should decide. Time is short. Contact your Legislators and Governor Charlie Crist, immediately. Ask them to intervene with the University of Florida's Board of Trustees. Force the Trustees to reconsider the road they have chosen for the University of Florida. They must consider all alternatives or the people's university shall be gone forever from the Great State of Florida.
Governor Crist's Citizens Hotline telephone number is: (850) 488-4441, the fax number is: (850) 487-0801, and his email address is: Charlie.Crist@MyFlorida.com
All other telephone numbers and email addresses are located at www.myflorida.com
Daniel E. Canfield Jr. is a professor in the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida.
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