Professor criticizes USF campus
By ANITA KUMAR, Times Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG -- A professor who was denied a promotion at the University of South Florida says his case illustrates the problems the St. Petersburg campus is facing as it seeks separate accreditation from the main campus in Tampa.
David Carr, a history professor and administrator who helped lead the accreditation process for 18 months, laid out his complaints in an e-mail last month to the accrediting group. He sent the e-mail the day before USF president Judy Genshaft met with the group.
Carr cited several reasons the St. Petersburg campus does not have the necessary autonomy for accreditation.
"Whatever autonomy is here is a mystery," said Carr, 59. "It's a facade."
Carr, a USF history professor for 31 years specializing in medieval Renaissance history, was denied a full professorship in April by USF officials in Tampa after his promotion was recommended by the top St. Petersburg administrator.
As a result, Carr quit as director of the college of arts and sciences in St. Petersburg and chairman of the USF accreditation committee.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools already has questioned whether the St. Petersburg campus would truly be financially independent and whether the head of the campus would still answer to the president of the main campus in Tampa.
USF officials were unaware of Carr's e-mail but said they hoped it would not have any impact on the process. They will try to diminish concerns in a report to the group in August.
"It's just one opinion," said Bill Heller, longtime dean of the St. Petersburg campus who is now called the campus executive officer.
Later, Carr said Heller told him he was upset about the e-mail and thought it would affect USF's accreditation bid.
Heller originally recommended that Carr become a full professor, which means more prestige and money, after Carr spent 25 years translating records of the city council meetings in Salisbury, England, from the 14th and 15th centuries.
Genshaft and provost David Stamps did not recommend his promotion to the university's Board of Trustees.
The two could not be reached for comment.
Accreditation amounts to a seal of approval signifying that an institution has met certain standards in its academic programs, faculty credentials, campus facilities and other areas. For students, accreditation could be essential. Federal financial aid goes only to accredited institutions, and other colleges accept credits only from accredited colleges.
Currently, the USF St. Petersburg campus is accredited through its affiliation with the USF main campus. Separate accreditation would be a milestone and perhaps a step toward complete independence.
The enhanced independence is the result of a hard-fought compromise after state Sen. Don Sullivan, R-St. Petersburg, tried to make the St. Petersburg campus completely independent of the Tampa USF campus.
The result is a hybrid, with USF St. Petersburg enjoying some autonomy while remaining a part of the larger urban research institution.
"I can understand that point of view," Sullivan said. "In my humble position, you're either autonomous or you're not. And my understanding is, they're not."
Ann Chard, executive director of the Southern Association's Commission on Colleges, refused to comment on Carr's e-mail to her, saying it shouldn't have any impact on the process.
"Lots of people change positions," she said.
USF expects to find out whether it received accreditation in about a year.
Genshaft and Heller went to Atlanta last month to discuss the accrediting group's concerns, unaware that Carr had sent his critical e-mail the day before .
The association "is an organization that deals with things like this letter," Heller said. "They know not everyone is happy with what goes on on campus."
-- Anita Kumar can be reached at 727-893-8472 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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