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News Clips 01/11/2013
EDITORIAL: University of Florida: Machen's Change Of Heart
Source: Lakeland Ledger, 01/11/13
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If there's something nice to say about Gov. Rick Scott's latest effort to influence the State University System, it's that he has a flair for the dramatic. His sense of timing, however, leaves a lot to be desired.
Trustees, faculty and staff spent more than six months on the search to replace President Bernie Machen, who announced in June that he would retire by the end of 2013. The university ended its presidential search Tuesday at Scott's request. Now UF supporters must make sure that the governor delivers on his promise to the university.
The university's explanation for suspending the search was that Scott and board of trustees Chairman David Brown asked Machen to stay to realize a vision of making UF into a top-10 public university. The announcement came just four days before a new university president was expected to be chosen. It was a clumsy way to handle UF's most important decision.
Machen has long sought the power to raise tuition to higher levels, perhaps a realization that it was a more likely possibility than increased state funding. That would be the proper solution, as opposed to the five years of budget cuts that raised substantial doubt about the Florida leader's support for education.
Machen appeared to have achieved his goal last year with the Legislature's passage of the Preeminence Bill. The measure would have allowed UF and Florida State University to seek higher tuition increases for meeting certain accountability standards.
However, Scott vetoed the measure. Ever since, he's repeatedly talked about his desire to keep tuition low. So UF and the rest of the State University System have heeded his call by pledging to forgo tuition hikes this year, as long as the state ponies up the equivalent cash in new state funding.
It's unclear how Machen's decision to stay affects that deal. Among Florida's universities, UF has the most realistic shot of being ranked among the nation's best public universities in short order.
Scott enters the last two years of his first term with dismal approval ratings. If he wants to earn a second term, one way to aid that effort is to help the University of Florida to achieve its goal of greatness. If he fails to deliver, UF supporters can make their displeasure known at the ballot box.