State/National News

Graham Lambasts “Political Assault on Higher Education”

Former Florida Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham called Tuesday for a veto of $300 million in cuts to the state university system, arguing that the University of Florida’s role in attracting the software company MindTree Limited to Gainesville showed the influence of state universities in job creation. “If we’re going to have more MindTrees in Florida, we’re not going to do it by mindless reductions in the capability of our state universities,” he said. Graham spoke as part of a lecture series named for E.T York, the founder of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and former state university system chancellor. Later Tuesday, Graham delivered a lecture at his namesake Graham Center for Public Service at UF about the newly formed Florida Conservation Coalition, a bipartisan environmental group. His speech in the York series was partly a history lesson about the origins of the land-grant university system, marking its 150th year, and partly his thoughts on how York would view the system today. York died last year at the age of 88. York’s wife, Vam, said her husband would be angry about cuts being made to UF and other state universities, according to Graham. “In my opinion, this action not only deserves E.T. York’s anger, but it deserves the anger of the people of Florida because of its stupidity and its shortsightedness,” he said. He said the state’s future should be linking state universities to industries that recognize their value, citing as an example last week’s announcement that India-based MindTree has chosen UF’s Innovation Square development for its U.S. center. He contrasted that with the Legislature’s decision to make cuts that include tapping $150 million in university reserves. “There has been a political assault on higher education in Florida,” he said. He called for a cascade of email from UF students, employees and alumni to urge Gov. Rick Scott to veto the cuts. Graham said after the speech that there is precedent for such a move, as he vetoed the 1980 state higher education budget while he was governor.

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