Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Friday, January 21, 2005

FSU control over planned chiropractic school gets tense

Nov. 19, 2004

FSU control over planned chiropractic school gets tense

By Melanie Yeager

In case Florida State University officials didn't get it the first time, the Board of Governors took another vote Thursday, demanding they bring their plans for a chiropractic school before the statewide panel for approval before proceeding.

"I want to make sure there's no ambiguity," said John Dasburg, vice chairman of the board. The board voted on a similar measure at its May meeting.

The board's insistence on approving FSU's plans continues despite the fact that the Legislature approved a chiropractic school in March and gave the school an annual cash flow of $9million to use as it sees fit until the new school is in operation.

Education officials continue to wrestle over who has the power to make decisions regarding everything from academic programs to tuition. Is it the local university board of trustees, the Board of Governors overseeing Florida's 11 universities, the State Board of Education supervising the state's K-20 education or the Legislature that holds the purse strings?

Case in point: Board Chairwoman Carolyn Roberts said Thursday that the statewide panel governing universities has the constitutional right to set tuition and fees.

But tuition has traditionally been a decision made by Florida lawmakers.

The governors' lawyers said Thursday that after reviewing the law, recent court cases and the constitutional amendment creating the statewide board in 2003, the board has the authority to set tuition.

"To this point, we have not not chosen to take this authority," Roberts said. She expects things will change after this legislative session as the governors figure out the proper way to exercise this authority. After all, she said, even if her statewide board has the power, lawmakers still control the money.

The Board of Governors has been working to change the structure of tuition and fees, approving a sweeping overhaul of the system at its October meeting in Sarasota. Those changes delegate tuition decisions to universities, letting them raise undergraduate tuition and fees as long as they stay below a set ceiling. They also permit schools to determine tuition rates for graduate students and out-of-state students at any level.

So far, though, the Board of Governors plans to continue approving university operating budgets. Last month, Roberts noted that the board's budget approval was not an endorsement of FSU's chiropractic school.

The comment prompted FSU President T.K. Wetherell to write a letter last month to Senate President Jim King and House Speaker Johnnie Byrd before their terms ended. It appears that the Board of Governors is saying FSU cannot proceed with the chiropractic school without its approval - despite the Legislature's actions, Wetherell wrote. He asked legislative leaders to clarify the intent of the chiropractic legislation.

"Until we hear differently from any higher source, we're moving ahead," said John Thrasher, FSU board chairman, at a Nov. 4 meeting of the university's board of trustees.

Whether FSU has received a reply was not immediately known Thursday. Wetherell could not be reached for comment after the meeting.

Roberts said Wetherell had told her he could proceed without board approval. But "upon reflection," she said Wetherell changed his mind. FSU has asked that its chiropractic school be on the governors' January agenda.

Steve Uhlfelder, a member of the Board of Governors, again questioned Thursday whether the state board wanted to fight with the Legislature over a chiropractic school it clearly wants.

"Do we want to get in a minor skirmish before we deal with tuition?" Uhlfelder asked, pointing to a potentially bigger battle next year over who controls how much students spend to attend college. He received no response.

After the meeting, Provost Larry Abele said FSU officials have been proceeding for months with plans to make a presentation on the chiropractic school to the governors. He says he's aware that the board signs off on professional and doctoral programs.

But the truce of sorts between FSU and the governors may be entirely about something else. Miguel De Grandy, a board member, said he didn't want to see the board get dragged into litigation on the chiropractic issue.

Former Chancellor E.T. York of Gainesville and a team of lawyers are soon expected to bring suit on behalf of Floridians for Constitutional Integrity against the state Board of Education and the Board of Governors for letting the chiropractic school get by without the boards' approval. They want to make sure the Board of Governors, created by a 2002 constitutional amendment, is carrying out its intended duties in deciding the state's new professional and doctoral programs.

Clearly that's no longer needed, De Grandy said, since FSU seems to be submitting to the governors' constitutional authority.