Students submit more than 1,500 signatures in block tuition referendum

Published: Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at 5:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at 10:33 p.m.

Students for a Democratic Society submitted more than 1,500 signatures Tuesday in support of a referendum on block tuition at the University of Florida.

The non-binding referendum would gauge student support for block tuition, which would charge students a flat rate for a range of credits instead of per credit hour. About 1,000 signatures, representing 2 percent of the student body, must be validated to put the measure on next month’s Student Government ballot.

“I’m very confident that it will make the ballot [and] I think students are going to overwhelmingly come out against it,” said Dave Schneider of the Gainesville-area Students for a Democratic Society.

Under block tuition, full-time undergraduates would be charged for 15 credit hours if they take at least 12. UF officials say the change would encourage students to graduate in a timely manner, while some students argue that it would force them to take more classes and limit their extracurricular activities.

The UF Board of Trustees last month passed block tuition, but delayed implementation until fall 2012 while the effects are studied. Schneider said he thinks a vote against block tuition in the referendum and continued student protests will make it harder for officials to implement the measure.

“If students directly gain some ownership of this issue and they put everything they have into this fight, then I don’t think we’re going to have block tuition in fall 2012,” he said.

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In my stories this month about Haiti, I neglected to mention UF alumnus Brendan Beck.

Beck was killed when the Port-au-Prince hotel where he was staying collapsed in the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake. His family spent more than a month working to ensure his body was removed from the rubble and returned to the U.S.

His father, Barry Beck, earlier this month recounted the ordeal to me. He wants the State Department to improve procedures in handling the deaths of U.S. citizens in natural disasters outside the country.

“The biggest concern we have is there’s going to be another one and it’s going to be farther away,” he said.

Beck said he still struggles with his son’s death, which hits him like “an electric shock” on occasion. The family was able to get back Brendan’s clothes, including a beat-up Gator cap, from the hotel.

Barry said his wife shook her head when he first wore the cap, but he’s continued to do so.

“She doesn’t say anything to me about it anymore,” he said.

He said a UF endowment fund created in honor of Brendan, a civil engineering graduate who planned to return to UF for an advanced degree, is nearing the $30,000 figure needed to be self-sustaining. The Brendan S. Beck Fund for Sustainable Infrastructure is intended to help others pursue education and research in the field.

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