Former education leaders back Graham initiative

Published: Friday, November 1, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 31, 2002 at 10:19 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE - U.S. Sen. Bob Graham's drive to restore a state board to oversee public universities was endorsed Thursday by several former education leaders and current faculty.
The list included two former state education commissioners, Ralph Turlington and Betty Castor, two former chancellors of the State University System, E.T. York and Charlie Reed, and several former university presidents. Graham said the group has been "fighting for years to improve Florida's higher education system."
Amendment 11, the initiative championed by Graham, would revive a statewide board to manage all the universities but retain boards of trustees for individual universities.
Gov. Jeb Bush and the Legislature abolished the 36-year-old Board of Regents and gave public university oversight to the Board of Education.
The current university presidents oppose the measure as does Bush and the Florida Republican Party.
Tom Auxter, United Faculty of Florida president, said the state universities' faculty senate unanimously endorsed the amendment.
Auxter argued that the current system weakens the curriculum by neglecting to address the needs of core subjects and specialties and instead opening the door to unneeded big-ticket programs.
"Classes are packed," he said. "They're filled to the max."
Like Graham and other critics, Auxter said the current system politicizes decisions that should be made by academic leaders.
Richard Briggs, an associate professor of radiology at the University of Florida and current president of the state association of university faculty senates, said the threat to academic freedom and stability posed by the current system was the biggest he's ever seen.
But the leader of a group of opponents, Floridians for Education Reform, argued that the amendment won't be the fix that its supporters say it will.
Political involvement won't cease with restoration of a state board, argued Carolyn Roberts, a former member of the Regents and current member of the Board of Education.
"Amendment 11 will not stop that, cannot stop that," she said.

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