tampabay.com

UF slight takes a substantial turn

By SHANNON COLAVECCHIO-VAN SICKLER
Published April 11, 2007


TALLAHASSEE - So Jeb Bush couldn't get an honorary degree at the University of Florida. But maybe he can do better, maybe he can get a building named for him.

The "Jeb Bush College of Education at the University of Florida" would come complete with a big sign.

In what has been a pingpong game of Snub the Former Governor vs. Honor the Former Governor, the third volley came Tuesday when the building proposal passed a legislative stop.

Step 1, the snub, came a month ago: The UF Senate faculty leadership denied Bush an honorary degree, irking Bush supporters and UF president Bernie Machen.

Step 2, honor, came days later: The UF Alumni Association board of directors made Bush an honorary alumnus. They denied the timing had anything to do with the degree rejection, saying it was a nod to Bush's support for research at UF, which got millions for research centers and top-notch faculty under him.

Step 3 came Tuesday, when a House education council passed a proposal sponsored by Rep. David Rivera, a South Florida Republican, who said naming a building at UF would honor the governor "who had a great passion for education."

Rivera also wants to name the president's house at Florida International University in Miami after former President Ronald Reagan.

His proposals are an amendment to a larger bill to name university buildings after people who have donated money to the school. Sen. Paula Dockery is sponsoring the companion bill on university building names in the Senate.

Dockery, a UF grad, hadn't heard about Rivera's additions on Tuesday, but she was skeptical about a Jeb Bush building at UF. "I think the faculty would be very unhappy."

She said naming buildings after supporters is a way to generate donations. "Jeb did a lot of things, and that deserves recognition," she said. "But I don't think this is the proper recognition."

If the recognition does come through, it guarantees one thing for the UF faculty who voted against Bush: With that big sign, they would have a constant reminder of the snub that backfired.

Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler can be reached at svansickler@sptimes.com or 850 224-7263.