BBC town hall sparks discussion of evolving campus, university

Madison Fantozzi/News Director

President Mark B. Rosenberg listened to student concerns from dining and vending machines to parking and transportation on Feb. 10 at the Student Government Association’s town hall at Biscayne Bay Campus.

Rosenberg noted that with the growth of the campus as it welcomes partners like Maritime and Science Technology Academy, Royal Caribbean Ltd. and Miami Science Museum comes not only a greater demand for such services, but also more resources to make them possible.

Thus, BBC remains in transition as it adapts to a growing population of not only University students, but partnerships alike.

In regards to parking, a relatively new concern for BBC, Chief Financial Officer Kenneth Jessell said the University is weighing new parking options but any project would come at the price of students.

While Rosenberg does not like the idea of a parking garage, Jessell said it is an option as well as experimenting with the parking fee by charging students more or less depending on how close they want to park to campus.

Rosenberg asked students how much they would be willing to pay for better parking services, but Jazmin Felix thinks students shouldn’t have to fork over any extra cash because they are merely victims of the down-turning parking situation.

“We’re being displaced by Royal Caribbean and MAST. I shouldn’t have to pay. We shouldn’t be punished,” said Felix, SGA-BBC nursing and health sciences senator. “I didn’t ask to be pushed back to Kovens. Before you know it, I’ll be in the bay.”

Jessell pointed out that the MAST students are not old enough to drive and RCL is paying for replacement parking.

But Felix said the University needs to consider the parents, the faculty and other traffic that comes along with partners like MAST and RCL.

“It’s starting to seem less about the [University] students and more about everyone else,” Felix said.

“It’s starting to seem less about the [University] students and more about everyone else,” Felix said.

But Rosenberg said that MAST and RCL are aligned with University initiatives and offers resources. “It’s a trade off we have to be mindful of,” he said.

Director of Parking and Transportation Lissette Hernandez said there will be more permanent spaces by Wolfe University Center and Academic Center l by summer.

Students presented a more familiar concern in regards to food services.

Students said they stay well past 7 p.m. when restaurants close and are left with limited snack options from vending machines that don’t always work correctly.

Jeff Krablin, assistant vice president of business services, said an analysis determined that an hour before closing, business curtails at campus dining locations and they do not break even.

With MAST and RCL creating a greater demand, the University is planning to expand hours and create new dining options on campus, Krablin said. BBC will add a Subway and a Starbucks by fall 2014.

In addition to parking and dining services, RCL will create new BBC housing by fall 2015.

According to Jim Wassenaar, executive director of Student Affairs Operations and Auxiliary Services, two firms are currently in talks with the University to build the housing facility.

A final recommendation will be made on Feb. 17 for a development adjacent to the Kovens Conference Center. The facility will have 430-450 beds.

The campus will also see additional facilities by MAST and the Miami Science Museum.

Rosenberg said the University is planning for a facility of dual use by MAST and FIU, and that he hopes for the inaugural class to graduate from the new school. He also mentioned a facility that would be constructed near the marine science building by the Miami Science Museum. He said the University is not ready to reveal more information about these developments.

Rosenberg left the town hall leaving some questions left unanswered regarding malfunctioning elevators, additional shuttle services, bike paths and offering additional courses at BBC. He said he’d look into these issues.

Relating to the latter, Rosenberg said the University is always thinking of new degree programs, “but if they’re not linked to a need in today’s workforce, it will be difficult to push through.”

This is in line with the new performance funding model and its metrics set forth by the Board of Governors.

“What the heck are we doing here?” Rosenberg said.

“What the heck are we doing here?” Rosenberg said. “What we do here will be determined by the metrics outlined by the Board of Governors.”

Although the system still needs approval by the state legislature, Rosenberg thinks it will determine the University’s direction for the next few years.

“In the past, we didn’t have these metrics determining funding. The metric was enrollment,” Rosenberg said. “Now the meter is on. We can’t continue doing things like we have in the past.”

Jessell explained the metric system, which includes eight measures common to all Florida state universities: (1) employment rate, (2) wages, (3) the cost of degree, (4) graduation rate, (5) grade point average, (6) the number of Pell-grant recipients, (7) the number of bachelor’s degrees in STEM and (8) the number of graduate degrees in STEM.

Two additional measures unique to each university make up the 10-metric system. For FIU, these additional measures are (9) the percent of bachelor’s degrees without excess hours and (10) the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to minorities.

Rosenberg said the essence of the system is efficiency.

“We’re spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to lower the average cost of the undergraduate degree,” Rosenberg said.

But Jessell said the University will not compromise the quality of an undergraduate degree for a cheaper cost.

“If you’re not concerned with quality, any numbers guy can find a way to lower the cost,” Jessell said. “But we’re not going to lower the cost to the point of deviating from the quality of education.”

“If you’re not concerned with quality, any numbers guy can find a way to lower the cost,” Jessell said. “But we’re not going to lower the cost to the point of deviating from the quality of education.”

While Rosenberg joked that the performance funding model “isn’t something invented on the fifth floor,” he said the University is working to improve itself based on these metrics.

In terms of excess hours this could mean better advising options and for employment and wages this could mean offering more internships and guidance in career placement.

“I want to own this process,” Rosenberg said. “This is how we’re going to be living for the next few years. Here it is and this is how it’s going to be. If we don’t do this, chances are we won’t get funding.”

Deans from respective BBC colleges offered suggestions.

Dean Mike Hampton of the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management noted the school’s 1,000-hour job and  300-hour internship graduation requirement for its students.

“We work with the industry and provide support for our students,” Hampton said. “We help increase the students’ compensations so that when they graduate they are making that higher wage.”

“It’s more than just 120 hours of courses,” he said. “It’s about planning, support and resources.”

Dean David Klock of the College of Business proposed more faculty and Associate Dean Allan Richards of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication presented a need for more advisers.

Rosenberg said he cannot promise any more resources, however.

“Resources are what they are and I can’t promise one more dollar,” Rosenberg said.

“Resources are what they are and I can’t promise one more dollar,” Rosenberg said.

He said the budget sits at $430 million for academic programs.

Rosenberg did promise, however, that tuition will not go up this academic year. But even that sliver of good news has its share of consequences.

“Maintaining tuition now could mean a much lower acceptance rate in the future,” Rosenberg said.

For a university that values community access and fosters an urban mission, this is considered a difficult trade off.

“To drive graduation rates up, we would have to drive the acceptance rate down too,” Rosenberg said. “Maybe we don’t recruit from certain high schools because those students don’t graduate fast enough.”

Rosenberg said the University is studying the consequences of maintaining access. The acceptance rate is currently 39 percent.

But Rosenberg said he cannot disagree with BOG’s metrics. “It will only make us better,” he said.

– madison.fantozzi@fiusm.com

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