Above photo: A student forum about House Bill 423 on Tuesday attracted a crowd of eight — three of whom were members of The Crow’s Nest staff. Jonah Hinebaugh | The Crow’s Nest
By Emily Wunderlich and Anna Bryson
Rows of empty chairs lined USC Ballroom 3 as interim Regional Chancellor Martin Tadlock addressed the room.
In a bid to assure the campus that the proposal to end USF St. Petersburg’s separate accreditation was not a power move by USF Tampa, Tadlock spoke to an audience of three students, two USF employees and three members of The Crow’s Nest at a Tuesday forum.
“Why would Tampa want us? We’re not contributing to those pre-eminence metrics. We’re not ready,” Tadlock said.
Pre-eminence is additional state funding awarded to universities that meet a set of twelve metrics — a few of which include freshman retention rate, an endowment of $500 million or more and an average weighted grade point average of 4.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale for fall semester incoming freshmen.
USF Tampa met 11 out of the 12 metrics last year, which qualified it as a top-tier state school.
Previously, Florida State University and the University of Florida were the only schools to meet these metrics, allotting them $17.3 million per year, while USF Tampa was labeled an “emerging” pre-eminent university and received $8.7 million per year.
According to Tadlock, pre-eminent universities primarily focus on research, and while that is important at USF St. Petersburg, the university’s main priority has been “teaching and learning.”
“Pre-eminence metrics kind of changes and shifts the mission of the university,” Tadlock said.
Tadlock emphasized that “each campus would retain its current name and preserve its individual identity,” citing the fact that these concerns are in writing.
Tadlock also addressed the university’s future involvement with the community.
“This is St. Petersburg. We are connected to this community intimately,” he said, “They would not want to destroy that or take that away.”
Legislators are in the process of determining the specifics of House Bill 423 — the bill that will strip USF St. Petersburg of its separate accreditation — and how they will affect students and faculty within the USF system.
Tadlock said Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, who proposed the legislation, “has a good heart.”
According to Tadlock, Sprowls wants to bring a pre-eminent university to St. Petersburg because he believes the additional funding will benefit USF St. Petersburg in the long run.
“He sincerely believes we need the resources to become something bigger and better than we currently are,” Tadlock said.
Tadlock reiterated that he wants USF St. Petersburg to retain its autonomy from the Tampa campus.
“We don’t want to be taken over, we don’t want to be governed by some other place across the bridge,” he said. “We don’t want to be told how we can spend our budget. We want to keep that autonomy as much as we can.”
The Crow’s Nest Managing Editor Whitney Elfstrom contributed to this report.