President gives updates on university’s current affairs

Rebeca Piccardo and Junette Reyes/ FIUSM Staff

President Mark B. Rosenberg sat down with Student Media before the Thanksgiving holiday to provide updates on important issues and projects going on this year and in the future.

There are a lot of changes coming up at the University: expansion, the health services merger, construction, new buildings and changes in state funding.

Here are the latest updates:


The Nov. 4 election brought a big win for the University — the fairgrounds.

“We won in almost every voting precinct in Miami-Dade County,” said Rosenberg.

Now with the county and the voters’ support, the University can move forward with finding an alternative site for the Miami-Dade County Fair and Exposition, Inc. The deadline is set for March 2015.

Another matter to settle is what the cost of the relocation will be: Rosenberg has said in the past that he’d spend up to $50 million, but Youth Fair CEO Robert Hohenstein has said that the fair relocation would cost $250 million.

The price differences, according to Rosenberg, are based on what the Fair thinks it would cost to acquire a new site and make improvements to suit the Fair’s needs.

“It’s a number that’s out there, but it would not make this workable,” Rosenberg said. “We hope to have an alternative site and an agreed upon amount by early March.”

The University is counting on the Florida Legislature to provide most of the funds needed to relocate the site. This last summer, the state legislature gave the University $10 million for this specific project.

“This down payment was so important,” Rosenberg said. “It got the county commission to move.”

He added that the state has supported FIU growth since it was given the smallest space to build their main campus out of all the schools in the State University System.

“The state helped build this campus. The legislature gets FIU,” said Rosenberg.

Once the University selects a suitable site and raises the money for the relocation, it must give the fair three years’ notice to move.

Ideally, the University would break ground on it’s expansion projects in the next three years, Rosenberg said, and if things don’t move quickly, then it would take up to six years to start building on the 64 acres adjacent to the Modesto A. Maidique Campus.

The University plans to expand their programming and space in the science and technology fields by adding more labs, academic health center buildings, expand the College of Engineering and Computing and add more student housing and parking structures.

Performance Funding

Going in to the second year of the Board of Governors’ Performance Funding Model, the University is facing tougher competition.

Last year, the University tied in third place. It scored 34 points out of the 50-point metrics, restoring its $5,464,558 share and granting it $1,491,676 in additional funding.

With a 0.16 percent net increase in base funds, the University earned $7.2 million in funding  for the 2014 to 2015 academic year.

However, universities that scored 25 points or less risked losing a portion of their base funding, which would be reallocated for the use of the higher-scoring, thus higher-performing, universities.

The model includes eight measures common to all Florida state universities: employment rates, wages, the cost of degrees, graduation rates, grade point averages, the number of Pell-grant recipients, the number of bachelor’s degrees in science, technology, engineering and math and the number of graduate degrees in STEM.

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

Although the University has stayed in the top threshold so far, schools that were at the bottom have applied aggressive tactics to work their way up, which could bring the University further down in the rankings this year. The final scores will be announced by June.

The biggest areas of improvement are graduation rates and second-year retention rates, Rosenberg said.

“There could be some surprises,” he said. “We need to continue to show significant progress.”

Student Academic Support Center

For students wondering what’s taking the place of the parking spaces that were next to the bookstore, this is it.

The 74,000-square foot Student Academic Support Center, scheduled to open in the spring of 2016, will be the one-stop building for all students’ financial and academic needs — the first building that incoming students will see and use most throughout their academic career.

It will hold the front office of all enrollment services, including the registrar, financial aid and advising. The building will also house the offices for Honors College,  University Graduate School, Career Services, International Student and Scholar Services and the Study Abroad Program.

It is also scheduled to have classrooms and become the main location for orientation and academic seminars, as well as the University’s largest auditorium.

“It gives us the ability to have more serious orientations and recruitment,” Rosenberg said. “I want to give the best experience for students at FIU even before they are students.”

This building has been talked about since the late 1990s, Rosenberg said, but there were other priorities at the time, like building more classrooms and labs.

When making this building became one of the top priorities, it was planned to wrap around the FIU Stadium, similar to what other schools, like Florida State University, did.

This changed in 2009, when the administration decided that this building needed to be someplace very visible on campus — close to the center point of campus, and visible when entering.

“This is a destination building,” said Rosenberg. “It is aligned with performance funding. Hopefully it’ll help us improve.”

FIU Health/Student Health Services Merger

When the Board of Trustees met in the summer, the Health Affairs Task Force committee asked for Student Affairs to work with the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and merge the Student Health Services to be part of FIU Health.

The merger is meant to make things easier for students, especially those with chronic diseases. The ultimate goal is that every student has health coverage.

Like any merger, there is always the possibility of new jobs as well as downsizing.

“I would expect jobs to be created, and some might be eliminated,” Rosenberg said.

However, nothing is set in stone with this merger and a lot of things have not been defined yet, he said.

Campus Safety

Every year, the police department and student leaders go on a campus safety walk to identify areas that might be risky on campus.

This year, the areas on campus that needed lighting improvements are the Recreation Field, the corridor near the Graham Center fountain, the parking lot next to the GC Ballrooms, Parking Lot 9D behind the new Management and New Growth Opportunities Building and the back of the Ryder Business Building.

Rosenberg said that since he became president, he has worked to improve the overall luminosity at night, but there have been funding issues that have set them back at times. Making sure the parking garages are well-lit has been a priority for Rosenberg.

“There isn’t enough lighting we can place for students at night,” he said.Soon, students will see more blinking lights around campus crosswalks and the University is working with the Florida Department of Transportation to improve the lighting at the crosswalk on 107th Avenue and 16th Street.

Another area the president is looking at is the new traffic circle at the main entrance on campus. He said that area between the education and architecture building needs lighting improvements.

Rosenberg wants to improve pedestrian safety and particularly worries about skateboarders on campus, that they might hit or hurt other pedestrians with their “high-speed comfort level.”

Although there has been much scrutiny nationwide over police militarization, Rosenberg stands by the University Police Department’s decision to purchase the M16 rifles and the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle.

“I don’t want to under equip them,” he said. “I’d like to think we would use that vehicle to save lives.”

The armored vehicle would help in time of terrible flooding, when lakes and roads are so flooded, that people get stranded. This equipment would also help other police departments that have interlocal agreements with FIUPD.

“I want the equipment to help as many people as possible,” he said.

Rosenberg said a significant amount of police officers have been hired under his presidency and that he is confident in Chief of Police Alexander Casas and his training to keep the campus safe.

“We are in an urban area. Anyone can enter campus,” he said. “My wife and I live on campus and my son and daughter both lived on campus.”

‘Marty’s Cube’ – “You don’t make up for a lost tradition.”

This summer, the University lost a popular student tradition as the 15-foot cube sculpture, “Marty’s Cube,” was taken back to the collector due to safety concerns.

“The decision was made by me,” Rosenberg said. “I could not afford a student getting injured or maimed.”

These safety concerns prompted the University to return the piece back to its original donor, Martin Margulies.

The Margulies Collection curator, Katherine Hinds, said in May that over a period of time outdoor sculptures tend to have maintenance needs. The cube will be donated to another educational institution in Florida, one that will have the funds to maintain the sculpture, she said.

“Universities make budgetary decisions,” said Hinds, who was glad that the University gave her the opportunity to take back the sculpture to renovate it and bring it back to top-notch conditions.

Spinning the cube had become a part of the freshmen orientation tour, midterms week, finals week and the Student Government Association’s Cram Jam events. The cube had been at the University for about 16 years.

“You don’t make up for a lost tradition,” Rosenberg said. “We have other student traditions embedded in our campus life. Hopefully that can fill the void across time.”

Another of Margulies’ sculpture on campus, “Argosy,” which is displayed on the traffic circle at the 16th Street entrance, will be repainted.

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