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COLUMN

Happytown

In which Mike Haridopolos confuses himself into a lawsuit, Rick Scott confuses state universities for idiots and the gays are about to be less confused – legally speaking – in Orlando. A ball of confusion for everyone!

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We never thought we’d say this, but we cannot wait for the state’s legislative session to begin in January! Why? Because we’re hoping that Gov. Rick Scott will have more to do. No, we’re not referring to “DJ Govvy Gov,” nor any of his other embarrassing “Let’s Get to Work Day” role-playing escapades, for that matter. We’re more concerned about the governor’s newfound hobby of torturing public universities during the weeks when they’re at their busiest. In mid-October, around the time Scott chose to publish the salaries of every employee of the state university system (even though that was already public information), he also quietly sent a three-page letter to all public universities in the state of Florida. To be more accurate, it was a homework assignment,comprised of 17 questions, lettered A through Q, to be answered within a period of a month.

To understand why the University of Florida provided a 752-page document in reply, it’s necessary to take a look at the questions, which you can find in the online version of this story. Scott’s interrogatories range from the cornering (“What studies has your university done in the last three years to ensure your graduates are meeting the needs of your employers?”) to annoyingly data-intensive (“Please send me a job description, total wages, number of courses instructed and measurable goals for the fifty highest-paid employees for each of the last three years.”) to maddeningly narrow-minded (“Do you have measurable goals for the number of graduates who remain in Florida post-graduation? If so, please send me the goals and the results for the last five to 10 years.”). Couldn’t this have been saved until the summer? And can someone explain to the governor that not all professors speak in binary?

Apparently not. In recent weeks the state’s universities begrudgingly coughed up volumes of data, and the Sunshine State News, a Tallahassee-based news outlet, has collected the responses. Florida State University’s baby weighed 26.3 megabytes, which, for an Excel spreadsheet, is pretty massive – and even more staggering, considering that there’s also 479 pages of supplementary documentation. The University of Central Florida’s response, on the other hand, is a mere 195 pages. Whether that’s due to concise writing or half-assed data collection is a question for the governor, whom we imagine is going to read these reports cover-to-cover.

For some incisive commentary on Governor Scott’s ultimatum, we turned to Joyous Crybaby, the blog of UCF creative writing professor Lisa Roney. “On the surface, like so many things, it looks not unreasonable,” Roney wrote about Scott’s letter. “But there are two things disturbing about it: First, most departments and other units at state universities have never had a budget or staff to collect this kind of extensive data, which Scott demanded in one month. More disturbing is the fact that Scott’s letter doesn’t just make it clear what he intends; rather, he has assumed that we will all fall in line with his intention, and the mission he intends to force is that of vocational training for our students. I have nothing against job-production, and higher education is key in that effort, but to define it as the main or only mission for universities is scary.”

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