FIRST MEETING WITH SENATE

Machen meets with UF faculty


Published: Friday, January 16, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 16, 2004 at 1:24 a.m.
University of Florida President Bernie Machen appeared for the first time Thursday before the Faculty Senate - a body that has not always seen eye to eye with Tigert Hall.
He went for a laugh almost immediately. "UF has the distinction of having the worst parking of any of the universities I have worked at," Machen said. "I flirt daily with getting a ticket. I park in places I think ought to be parking spaces."
Machen worked his way into discussing upcoming issues that could affect the faculty and the university including: next year's budget, Bright Futures scholarships, a collaboration with The Scripps Research Institute and shared governance.
But when the 15-minute talk was over and Machen opened the floor to questions, there was mostly silence.
"People are waiting on internal changes," Reza Abbaschian, a professor in the department of materials science and engineering, said afterward. "That's why people were quiet."
Indeed, new changes could be on the horizon. Faculty members just aren't sure what to expect.
Several faculty members said they are encouraged a new relationship can be fostered between the faculty and the administration.
"I'm extremely optimistic that he will be able to lead us to the next level," Faculty Senate President Tony Brennan said.
A plan for a shared governance program, touted by former President Charles Young and supported by Machen, could give the Faculty Senate much more say in the day-to-day goings on at the university.
Just what the Faculty Senate would get to do, however, is still unclear. As a result, many faculty are taking a wait-and-see approach.
Machen urged the group to work for a "true collaborative spirit."
"Only working together can we come up with the kind of joint agreement that works for the administration and for the faculty," Machen said.
He said several years of budget cuts have begun to "undermine our stability as a system of higher ed."
"The line in the sand we are trying to draw is no more cuts," he said.
Gov. Jeb Bush is expected to announce the budget for state universities next week.
But Machen added that a change is needed to the state's scholarship program, Bright Futures, which is holding back tuition rates statewide. Higher tuition means more state money would be needed to cover the scholarship costs - money the state doesn't have.
"We've got to be careful or (Bright Futures) is going to turn around and become a real destructive force at an institution like the University of Florida," he said.
And he was encouraged about future collaborations with Scripps. Last fall, the La Hoya, Calif.-based biotechnology research institute said it plans to build a facility in Palm Beach County.
"We are the only institution in the state that has the kind of top-level research that can interface with Scripps and what they have been doing in La Hoya," Machen said.
While Machen touched on many of the topics immediately facing UF, some faculty had hoped to hear a little more about Machen's plans for them.
"I expected him to say, 'this is how I stand on the faculty,' " said one attendee, who did not want to give her name. "I expected him to say a little more."
Janine Young Sikes can be reached at (352) 337-0327 or sikesj@gvillesun.com.

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