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Charlie Crist ‘deeply concerned’ about USF unification bill

The controversial proposal in the Legislature to combine the three campuses of the University of South Florida has drawn the ire of U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg.

In a letter to Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Crist said he is “deeply concerned” over the bill offered by state Rep. Chris Sprowls, a Palm Harbor Republican. It would bring the campuses in St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee under control of the main USF campus in Tampa.

It also would phase out separate accreditation for each school, which supporters of the St. Petersburg campus argue would reduce that school’s prestige and independence.

“As you know, USFSP worked for many years in its quest for autonomy, achieving this status in 2006. Since that time, USFSP’s enrollment, performance, and fundraising have steadily increased and the institution is on course to become a nationally recognized university in its own right,” Crist wrote. “Further, an independent USFSP is a major point of pride for USFSP alumni, the student body, and the St. Petersburg community.

“I am deeply concerned with the proposal to revoke USFSP’s autonomy. The lack of public input or rigorous study for such a far-reaching, disruptive proposal is also very troubling. At minimum, this issue requires greater analysis, and USFSP students, faculty, administrators and the St. Petersburg community deserve adequate opportunity to have their voices heard on this issue. Unless or until that occurs, I request that further consideration of any proposal affecting USFSP’s autonomy be put on hold.”

In a separate statement, Crist questioned the lack of “appropriate public input” and says the bill is “not in the best interests of the student body.”

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I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

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