The Fine Print is back and ready for action. Stay tuned for weekly installments of Paper Cuts, our quick updates and occasional commentary on headlines that matter. If you think we’re missing something important, feel free to email us. Here are some developments you may have missed over summer.
Block tuition gets the axe.
If you’re new to UF, “block tuition” is the idea of charging students a minimum tuition fee equivalent to the value of 15 credit hours each semester, even if they’re signed up for less than fifteen credits. The policy was proposed by the administration last year as a way to pressure students into signing up for more classes each semester, thereby increasing UF’s four-year graduation rates. Students with part-time and full-time jobs would have had to pay about $500 extra for classes they simply didn’t have time to take. On a Sept. 6 Board of Trustees meeting, UF Provost Joe Glover said block tuition is no longer necessary, referring to a recent spike in four-year graduation rates. UF’s administration, therefore, decided to “withdraw the proposal indefinitely.” Not that widespread student opposition had anything to do with it.
Voting on the 15 percent tuition increase.
On August 30, members of Students for a Democratic Society turned in more than 1200 signatures to get a new question on the ballot for the next round of student elections, which will be held on Sept. 27 and 28. The question reads, “Do you support repealing the 15 percent tuition increase at the University of Florida?”
Former tobacco executive joins UF’s Board of Trustees.
In June, the Florida Board of Governors added a new member to UF’s Board of Trustees: Susan Cameron (previously known as Susan Ivey), the former CEO of Reynolds American, the parent company of R.J. Reynolds and the second largest tobacco company in the United States. The Gainesville Sun mentioned that UF’s Board of Trustees had “gone through a major turnover” after Governor Rick Scott appointed Atlanta health care executive W. Michael Heekin, Naples health care executive Alan M. Levine, and Florida Power and Light senior attorney Juliet M. Roulhac. What’s interesting about Cameron’s past, besides the merchant-of-death concerns brought forth by anti-smoking advocates, is the controversy over her company’s questionable treatment of farm workers.
UPD Officer Keith Smith ends his controversial career.
University of Florida Police Department (UPD) Officer Keith Smith was fired on Sept. 1 after pulling over a reckless driver and threatening to shoot him. If the name “Keith Smith” doesn’t ring a bell, he’s the same officer that got reprimanded in 2008 when he accompanied intoxicated Gainesville Police Department (GPD) officers in an incident that involved throwing eggs at “suspected drug dealers and prostitutes” in a poor black neighborhood. This would contribute later to accusations of racism among student protestors and community members, but the facts in this case were questionable. Two years later, he shot a physically handicapped black graduate student in the face, resulting in a life-threatening injury, a tidal wave of student protests, and a soon-to-be-released documentary. Smith no longer works for the UPD, but his termination had nothing to do with the shooting, according to UPD Chief Linda Stump. Here are the details.
No evidence for cancer clusters at the Superfund site?
To make a long story short, residents of the Stephen Foster Neighborhood in northwest Gainesville have been living in fear for decades due to the presence of a heavily polluted 90-acre region known as the Cabot/Koppers Superfund site. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released their Record of Decision, which details their long-term plans to remedy the site, on Feb. 2. In June, The Gainesville Sun reported, “There is no evidence to suggest neighbors of the Cabot-Koppers Superfund site in Gainesville are at an increased risk of developing cancer, according to a Florida Department of Health analysis released Friday… The Stephen Foster Neighborhood Cancer Review compared numbers of cancer cases in that neighborhood’s census tract with the rest of the state between 1981 and 2000.” In the same article, Anthony Dennis of the Florida Department of Health acknowledged that the study had limitations. On July 21, Anne Lowry, a former Hospital Director of Nursing and Director of Investigational Drug studies, wrote an unpublished letter to the editors The Gainesville Sun, calling the study “junk science” and criticizing the Sun for not being critical enough. “Proper and valid health studies take years,” she says. “They require thousands of people to be studied, tracking back over many generations, and must be designed and fully completed by scientists.”
Florida’s springs are not safe from budget cuts.
As originally reported by Emily Morrow for The Alligator: “On June 1, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced the end of all funding for the Florida Springs Initiative and the Springs Basin Working Groups, organizations dedicated to restoring and protecting Florida’s springs. ‘It’s just a real hard blow,’ said Bob Knight, coordinator of the Wakulla Springs working group. ‘We’re seeing the springs degrading, and then we hear the state no longer values them enough to fund their restoration.'”
Protecting manatees from speedboats is “against the Bible.”
Yes, you heard that right. In July, a Florida Tea Party group announced its intentions to fight restrictions on boating in Kings Bay that have been proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We cannot elevate nature above people,” said Edna Mattos, 63, leader of the Citrus County Tea Party Patriots, in an interview with the St. Petersburg Times. “That’s against the Bible and the Bill of Rights.” Mother Jones added the following context in a blog post by Kate Sheppard: “Areas of Kings Bay, which is in Citrus County, have been designated as a federal wildlife refuge since 1980… The number of manatees in the bay has increased from 100 when the protections were put in place to more than 550 today. They are a major tourist draw to the area, but there has been an uptick in manatee deaths from boating accidents in the past ten years.” Paranoid Tea Party members have suggested that efforts to protect endangered manatees may have sinister ties to Agenda 21, an 18-year-old United Nations plan concerning sustainable development.