CONTENT="By pressuring university trustees to take his side against Amendment 11, Bush demonstrates the need for it. "> By pressuring university trustees to take his side against Amendment 11, Bush demonstrates the need for it. St. Petersburg Times (http://www.sptimes.com) story.

[Amendment 11 would return us to an independent state university system, under a new Board of Governors.

Do you see a certain irony here?

The very purpose of Amendment 11 is to try to reduce the direct influence of politicians over higher education.

Precisely by pressuring university trustees to take his side against Amendment 11, Bush demonstrates the need for it.

Of course, Florida has slid so low, into such a backward, marry-your-cousin kind of dull acceptance, that the governor's letter was not especially big news. It ought to have been bigger.]

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http://www.sptimes.com/2002/10/28/Columns/Bush_letter_shows_nee.shtml

Bush letter shows need for university system repair By HOWARD TROXLER, Times Columnist
St. Petersburg Times, published October 28, 2002

On the 11th of this month, Gov. Jeb Bush sent a letter to each member of the board of trustees of each state university in Florida. On the 11th of this month, Gov. Jeb Bush sent a letter to each member of the board of trustees of each state university in Florida.

The recipients of this letter already knew Bush, of course. Every one was named to his or her post by Bush last year as part of the brand-new "reorganization" of the state university system.

Every one of them, in the future, might need to be in Bush's good graces to be reappointed.

In his letter, Bush asked his appointees -- actually, he "strongly urged" them -- to give him political help.

Bush asked them to give money to defeat Amendment 11, a proposal put on the Nov. 5 ballot by a citizens' petition.

What would Amendment 11 do? No, it's not the one about smaller class sizes, which Bush also opposes. That's Amendment 9.

Amendment 11 would return us to an independent state university system, under a new Board of Governors.

Do you see a certain irony here?

The very purpose of Amendment 11 is to try to reduce the direct influence of politicians over higher education.

Precisely by pressuring university trustees to take his side against Amendment 11, Bush demonstrates the need for it.

Of course, Florida has slid so low, into such a backward, marry-your-cousin kind of dull acceptance, that the governor's letter was not especially big news.

It ought to have been bigger.

It ought to have been a banner headline. It would be, too, in a state that was proud of a first-rate, independent university system and also valued the idea of politicians keeping their hands off it.

GOVERNOR SQUEEZES TRUSTEES FOR CASH

Schools angrily refuse, condemn 'meddling'

Grand jury to convene

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Obviously, that kind of outrage is not part of the Florida culture. No doubt the governor does not see the slightest thing wrong with pressing his political appointees to take his side in politics.

It is not enough of a fig leaf to have put a little note at the bottom saying, "Not printed at taxpayer expense." The top of the letter said, "JEB BUSH, Governor of the State of Florida," and bore a seal that said, "Executive Office of the Governor."

Never mind that the people who are supposed to be running Florida's universities ought not be getting political correspondence at all from the man to whom they owe their jobs.

Of course, neither do the trustees see anything at all wrong in kowtowing. Several of Florida's university boards, including our own University of South Florida, already have obediently passed resolutions opposing Amendment 11.

I do not know of any trustees who have been so bold as to support it publicly, and why should any of them? The current boards lose their precious little kingdoms if Florida reunites its universities into a coherent system.

Once again, therefore, we see the spectacle of the government telling the citizens how the citizens ought to vote. Furthermore, according to Bush's supporters, anyone who criticizes this abuse of government power is "a liberal."

Again, do you see the irony here? It's now "liberal" to oppose the abuse of government power in elections. It is "conservative" to use that government power against the petitioning citizens.

Even if Amendment 11 passes, it will not be a magic wand that changes everything instantly. The individual boards would still be around. They have tasted their power and would fight to keep it.

Besides, the governor himself would appoint most of the new Board of Governors and would be within his rights to name the most do-nothing bunch possible. So changing the structure is necessary but not sufficient to change Florida's culture. Changing the governor's mind and heart is. C'mon, governor, go down in history as the guy who put us back on the right track.

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