Bush criticizes FSU handling of chiropractic school dispute
The state Board of Governors should "vote their consciences" on whether it gets built, he says.
By STEVE BOUSQUET
Published January 19, 2005
TALLAHASSEE - Gov. Jeb Bush on Tuesday criticized the way Florida State University has handled a controversial proposal to create the nation's first public chiropractic school, and called for deep spending cuts in the program.
Bush urged his appointees on the 16-member Board of Governors, which oversees Florida universities and must approve the chiropractic school, to "vote their consciences" in a critical meeting next week.
"They shouldn't be swayed by political pressure," Bush said. "This has gotten way out of hand. They ought to vote what they believe to be the right way to go for the state university system."
Bush's comments appeared to provide maneuvering room for members of the Board of Governors, most of whom are appointed by Bush, to vote against the school Jan. 27.
The governor also said he was disappointed in the way FSU has handled the project.
"I had hoped that FSU would have gone through the normal process for a graduate program of this magnitude," Bush said.
He said the proposal should have been thoroughly vetted by the FSU administration and voted on by the university's trustees. But that didn't happen.
Instead, the faculty was cut out of the process and the trustees punted the issue to the Board of Governors, voting last week to ask the board if the university can continue studying the proposal.
If the Board of Governors approves the school, Bush recommended spending $1.9-million on it next year, far less than the $9-million the Legislature passed last year. Bush said budget aides reached the lower figure after talking with FSU administrators.
Bush said he opposed a provision in this year's budget that allows FSU to spend the $9-million on other programs if the chiropractic school is not built. "I don't think that's appropriate," he said, "so we asked them (FSU administrators) for their best estimate of what it would take to implement it."
FSU did not ask for the chiropractic school. The Legislature created it with the prodding of then-Senate President Jim King, an FSU graduate; Republican Sen. Dennis Jones of Treasure Island, a chiropractor who hopes to work at the school; and lobbyists for the Florida Chiropractors' Association, one of whom, Guy Spearman, is an FSU booster.
Bush previously opposed a public chiropractic school, but dropped his opposition last year as part of a deal between King and then-House Speaker Johnnie Byrd, who were at odds.
The proposal is snarled in two long-running debates: whether chiropractic is sound medicine and how much influence politics should have over higher education policy.
The debate prompted Senate President Tom Lee, R-Brandon, to suggest that lobbyists be banned from serving on state university boards because they are too beholden to lawmakers.
Hundreds of faculty members, including FSU's two Nobel laureates, have signed a petition opposing chiropractic school as "pseudoscience."
Jones has called the criticism bigotry and said the school would encourage more African-Americans and Hispanics in Florida to become chiropractors.
FSU trustee Manny Garcia, who opposes the chiropractic school, circulated a draft of a letter to his colleagues Tuesday urging them to lobby members of the Board of Governors to kill the proposal. Garcia could not be reached for comment.
"What is very upsetting is that this proposal is born out of pure politics," Garcia wrote. "Mr. King's desire to create a lucrative job for a friend and his power to appropriate taxpayer money for a chiropractic school is very impressive. ... However, in this situation this politician's behind-the-scenes work has the potential to harm the reputation of this university, and that I do care about!"
The governor's remarks were applauded by Dr. Ray Bellamy, a Tallahassee orthopedist and FSU faculty member who has spearheaded opposition to the chiropractic school.
"All the vibes that I get is that the Board of Governors is going to kill this thing," Bellamy said.