President discusses legislative session, ‘big ideas’ during Town Hall meeting

President Eric J. Barron addresses a group of Florida State faculty and staff members during a Campus Town Hall Meeting on March 13.

Florida State University President Eric J. Barron discussed the 2012 Florida legislative session, the pending “pre-eminent university” bill and the university’s “big ideas” initiative during a Campus Town Hall Meeting attended by 300 faculty and staff members on March 13.

“A healthy university is one that is focused on students needs, is competitive in attracting and retaining excellent faculty, and has the ability to innovate,” Barron said.

This year, the Legislature dealt cuts to all of Florida’s public universities, but Florida State was hardest hit with a one-time $65 million cut based on the amount of cash reserves it had built up over the past six years.

“Unfortunately, the cuts punish those universities who were most frugal,” Barron said.

Since the 2007-2008 academic year, Florida State has suffered $105 million in cuts from its operational and academic program budgets, which has resulted in a decline in faculty numbers and increases in the student-teacher ratio. It also has placed research and creative potential in jeopardy.

Barron said he was pleased that a pre-eminent university bill passed both the Florida House and Senate and is now awaiting the signature of Florida Gov. Rick Scott. The bill establishes benchmarks that state universities can achieve in order to raise tuition levels, but requires them to explicitly demonstrate what they plan to do with the additional tuition-derived revenue.

“These 14 benchmarks provide a level of accountability we have not seen before. It’s quite a sea change,” Barron said.

Barron also discussed several “big ideas,” an overarching vision for the university intended to capture the attention of donors and serve as a foundation for fundraising efforts.

“These ideas involve every college and every department,” Barron said. “Some affect a single area, but most are collaborative and build on the strengths that we already have.”

Barron outlined several of the ideas, including the creation of several interdisciplinary institutes, establishing more graduate fellowships and building a campus center to allow arts students a place to exhibit, gather, perform and work.

“There is no shortage of great ideas at Florida State,” he said.

The Town Hall meeting will air on 4FSU (Comcast Cable channel 4 in Tallahassee) on Tuesday, March 13, at 7:30 p.m.; Wednesday, March 14, at 7 p.m.; Thursday, March 15, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, March 18, at 9 p.m.; and Monday, March 19, at 7:30 p.m. All times are Eastern.

To view an archived webcast of the meeting, click here.