Florida universities as a “farm team” for other states’ universities: Be careful not to carry the analogy too far

A few years ago, a very earnest young woman in my class was expressing her concerns about the future of her university (and mine).  With a complete lack of guile, she said, “Dr. Cottle, all the good professors have left FSU!”

Even though I am (sometimes painfully) aware of my own limitations, I could not agree with her.  In my own department, we have lost some excellent people, one who departed for a new campus under construction in the University of California system (talk about going from the frying pan into the fire!).  But among those that young professor left behind are many who are both spectacular scholars and wonderful human beings (yes, even in a Physics Department! Don’t believe everything you see on Big Bang Theory).

Not that the financial pressure put on the university hasn’t taken its toll among those who are still here.  One young faculty member, a brilliant theorist and terrific colleague, was so insulted by last year’s compensation cut (performed via pension reduction) that he almost left.  Others may have had the same reaction, but I wasn’t within earshot.

But there are some who are left behind here at FSU who are not being courted by other institutions but are nevertheless providing valuable service to our students, helping them learn and grow.  While we all understand what President Barron means when he says that FSU and other Florida institutions have become a “farm team” for other states’ universities, it is almost inevitable that it plants a little seed of doubt in our minds that anybody still knows or cares that we are here, slogging along to do our best work every day.

As long as President Barron continues to take whatever opportunities he has to acknowledge the value of those of us on the faculty who are “left behind”, that seed of doubt will not grow.  It would be helpful if the state’s leaders would make such an acknowledgement as well.  After all, the already-executed cut to pension funding and the inevitable cuts to health insurance are going to be sending the opposite message.  The universities and their remaining professors are going to have to do their best to keep the educational trains running on time, and a little encouragement wouldn’t hurt.

(See this morning’s editorial in the Tampa Bay Times)

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