Monday, June 25, 2012

BOG a statewide laughingstock after “cattle auction” tuition-setting process

Board of Governors (BOG) Chairman Dean Colson enjoyed weeks of favorable headlines from state newspapers for shaking his finger at FAMU and lecturing Rattlers about leadership. Those press accolades officially came to an end days ago after Colson showed he was incapable of running the BOG’s tuition differential-setting process in a sensible manner.

The Florida tuition differential law permits every public university to request BOG approval to hike its tuition by an up to 15 percent "differential" that goes beyond the rates set by the legislature.  In fact, the legislature calculated the 15 percent "differential" hike into each university's budget within the annual appropriations bill.

On June 21, the BOG approved a wide range of tuition differential hikes that had little rhyme or reason.

“There really doesn’t seem to be any method to our madness,” said BOG member Ava Parker, the immediate past chairwoman of the board.

The editorial board of the Pensacola News Journal said the BOG used "a strategy that appeared to hold little more complexity than flinging darts blindfolded." Gainesville Sun editorial board members criticized the process for taking place in a "rather bizarre, random fashion."

Palm Beach Post Capital Bureau reporter John Kennedy described the BOG’s tuition differential debate as "a chaotic session" that "had little of the tweedy trappings of academia. Tuition rates were set after votes that basically amounted to offers and counter-offers. The board meeting at times sounded more like an auction house."

Tampa Bay Times reporter Kim Wilmath had the most fun ripping the BOG for its lack of professionalism. She called the meeting chaired by Colson "a back-and-forth banter befitting a cattle auction” and added that “people in the audience joked about making wagers."

Wilmath gave the following tongue-in-cheek description of the two hour negotiation:

"University of South Florida: 11 percent? No, make that 9 percent. No, back to 11 percent. Sold."

"Florida A&M University: 15 percent? No, 12 percent. Sold."

"Florida Atlantic University: 15 percent? Sold."

"Florida State University: 15 percent? No, 13 percent. Sold."

Colson seemed to anticipate the negative headlines.

"This is probably not as pretty a process as we all would’ve liked," he told reporters shortly after the meeting.

The BOG chairman was very effective when he was taking his cues from the governor’s office and bashing FAMU in the newspapers. But when his fellow BOG members decided that they weren’t going to follow Gov. Rick Scott’s recommendation against raising tuition differential rates, he wasn’t up to the task of providing leadership.

If Colson can’t run a simple board meeting with competence, then he is the last person who should be trying to boss FAMUans around.

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