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University chiefs pan governing measure

By Times staff writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 30, 2002

ORLANDO -- The presidents of the state's public universities dread next week's election, and say a proposal to revamp higher education in Florida leaves many of their goals uncertain.

The presidents contemplated what impact a proposed constitutional amendment would have on virtually all of their agenda items at their meeting Tuesday in Orlando, even suggesting that they postpone some until after Election Day.

"I don't know how to proceed in the wake of the election," said John Hitt, president of the University of Central Florida in Orlando. "No one can perceive what life would be like under the other organizational structure."

Amendment 11 would create a two-tier system to oversee the state's 11 public universities, modeled after North Carolina's. A statewide board of governors would spend money and establish policy, and retain boards of trustees at individual universities.

The amendment, initiated by Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Graham , calls for an overhaul of the education system Republican Gov. Jeb Bush implemented. It would take power away from the Board of Education that oversees all state education.

Education board chairman Phil Handy attended the meeting Tuesday, encouraging presidents to show their opposition by writing letters to editors, debating amendment supporters and getting the word out in the next six days.

"It's frankly frightening to me what will happen if Amendment 11 passes," Handy said. "I think the best decisions are the decisions made closest to the students."

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