From Wed Oct 17 04:44:24 2001
Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2001 13:38:36 -0500 (CDT)
From: Eric Jackson <>
Subject: FW: trouble at Florida State University—Panama
Article: 128389
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Florida State endangered by R. M. Koster

By Lawrence Abele, [15 October 2001]

I say that, in an exchange of personal barbs, compare credentials. What have Lawrence Abele and Jeremy Brown published, compared to what Richard Koster and Miguel Antonio Bernal have? What contributions have Abele and Brown made to Panama's civic life, or that of any other country's, compared to those made by Koster and Bernal? What risks have the parties to this argument made for the cause of freedom? (I could go on and on, and I don't want to imply that I have no political disagreement with Koster or with Bernal. The issue is that neither of these men are cavalierly dismissed other than by jerks.)

Eric Jackson

Florida State University has operated on Panamanian territory since 1957. For most of this time the university has been a good institution and a good guest. Florida State alumni have reached the top in government, in business, in the professions, and in the Panama Canal. Florida State was the first U.S. organization in the former Canal Zone to make a Panamanian its director. Of late, however, the university administration has been dismantling the faculty structure that insured its educational quality. Moreover, in the manner of its actions, it is insulting our hosts.

In 1957, Florida State University established a program of undergraduate courses for transfer credit in Panama, under contract to the U.S. armed forces but open to Panamanians and with Panamanians on its faculty and staff. In 1968, this program was converted into a degree-granting branch of the university in accord with standards established by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

The most important of these standards, designed to insure that instruction offered in Panama was equal in quality to that offered on the main campus in Tallahassee, Florida, concerned the faculty. The branch was obliged to have one half of its courses taught by members of a permanent faculty with academic rank at the parent institution-an obvious requirement if degrees were to be conferred.

In 1974, 1984, and 1994 SACS examiners visited the Panama branch as part of its general review of whole university. They certified that the standards were being adhered to and reaffirmed the branch's accreditation. This accreditation became the basis a few years later of the university's successful petition to operate in Panama after 1999 as part of the City of Knowledge. It was also the basis on which the university, with the support of the U.S. Embassy in Panama and the American Chamber of Commerce, lobbied successfully for use of facilities at La Boca that formerly belonged to Panama Canal College.

As a dependency of the State of Florida, the university cannot acquire assets outside the state.

In order to continue operations in Panama after the withdrawal of U.S. forces the university dissolved the branch and created a Panamanian entity called FSU-Panama that the university contracts to teach courses. In June, 2000, members of the permanent Panama faculty ceased to be employees of Florida State University and became employees of FSU-Panama.

They found their situation utterly changed. The same professors with the same qualifications were teaching the same courses to the same students, but the structure that governed their relations with the university had disappeared. No system of academic rank exists at FSU-Panama. The rector, Dr. Jeremy Brown, refuses to establish any. No method exists for faculty members to earn promotion-a vital necessity when it comes to retaining and recruiting good instructors. No rules or guidelines govern the performance of faculty members. The contract between Florida State University and FSU-Panama states that where possible FSU-Panama will follow procedures current at the main campus in Tallahassee. In practice, however, the rector, Dr. Brown, cites campus practices when he feels like doing so and ignores them when he feels otherwise, making procedures up as he goes along. On August 27, 2001, for example, he abolished the distinction between FSU-Panama's permanent and adjunct faculties.

Many if not most universities employ adjunct professors who make their services available when they wish and are paid according to the courses they teach.

However, no university worth the name could function with adjuncts alone. Even the original FSU program of courses for transfer-credit, which I joined in 1964, had a permanent faculty, albeit we were only three members. We received annual salaries and taught a set number of courses per year. If one of our courses had to be cancelled, we took over a course that had been assigned to an adjunct professor. If no such course was available, we taught an extra course the following term. This policy continued after the program achieved branch status and the permanent faculty expanded accordingly. It continued when FSU-Panama replaced the branch. Dr. Jeremy Brown invoked it on two occasions during the past academic year (August, 2000 to May, 2001) when American professors had classes cancelled. On August 27, however, Dr. Brown cancelled one of two courses assigned to Dr. Miguel Antonio Bernal, a member of the permanent faculty, and advised Dr. Bernal that he would receive only half his salary.

This action had nothing to do with Dr. Bernal's fitness to teach. Dr. Bernal joined the permanent faculty of the Florida State University Panama Canal Branch in 1992. His academic credentials are impeccable. He held the rank of assistant professor at Florida State University for seven years. He taught previously in the United States at Davidson College and at Lehigh University. Lehigh gave him an honorary degree. Recently the French republic awarded him its highest academic honor. He is, besides, a person of great moral character and integrity, as even his political adversaries will acknowledge. When Dr.

Brown saw fit to treat Dr. Bernal as an adjunct professor, he in effect dissolved the permanent faculty and made all its members de facto adjuncts.

Dr. Brown gave no prior notice that this was on his mind. He consulted no one in Panama but says he has the support of administrators in Florida.

If so, I doubt he reported to them fully enough for them to comprehend the depth of his irresponsibility.

To begin with, there is not the slightest chance that SACS will continue to accredit FSU-Panama once the current situation of faculty there is known.

Furthermore, it is quite likely that FSU-Panama's practices toward its faculty, which are entirely out of line with SACS standards, will jeopardize the accreditation of Florida State University itself. It is, after all, a Florida State degree that is being awarded here.

Then there is the insult to Dr. Bernal, the insult to FSU-Panama's students, for Dr. Bernal has been a respected professor, and the insult to Panama, for Dr. Bernal is a public figure. Dr. Brown's action would have been repugnant irrespective of its immediate victim, but it would be less disturbing if he had picked on an American. Instead he chose the most prominent Panamanian associated with Florida State, one who played a key part in obtaining permission for the university to continue in Panama and to have use of the La Boca facilities. American professors were allowed to make up the hours lost when their classes were cancelled, but their Panamanian colleague must have his salary reduced. How ashamed I am as an American of Dr. Brown! How, I wonder, does he pretend to justify his nostalgia for the days of gold and silver rolls?

With the de facto abolishment of the permanent faculty no structure now remains to protect the quality of FSU-Panama's product. Unless this lack is remedied at once, the quality of education at FSU-Panama will suffer quick and permanent decline. Dr. Bernal, quite properly, refuses to teach after the insult and injury dealt him. If I am unable, by this article and other actions, to help FSU-Panama back onto the path of decency and excellence, I shall leave also. No professor with any self-respect will teach at a school where the administrative director shows contempt for faculty members and contempt for what I would call institutional sobriety. Serious institutions are not run the way Dr. Brown is running FSU-Panama. And professors who stay longer than they must at a place where their livelihoods are at the whim of a petty despot haven't the brains to be of much use to students.

Some years ago I was a member of a delegation of Democratic Party leaders that visited an Asian rim country as guests of the government. At one meeting an admiral gave us all Rolex watches. Not real Rolexes, though. They had Rolex on the face and Rolex-like cases, but the insides were phony. The one I got stopped running in a few months. That's where FSU-Panama is headed. The product is still worth the price charged for it, but if Dr. Brown is allowed to proceed in his current direction, FSU-Panama will become the academic equivalent of that phony Rolex.

I am now in my thirty-eighth year as a Florida State teacher. I'm proud of what our university has done in Panama. I hope FSU-Panama can soon get back to being a good school and a good guest.

FSU y el desarrollo nacional: La Florida State University en Panama tiene un compromiso: invertir en la gente y su futuro

Para Florida State University fue un gran privilegio poder brindar sus servicios educativos a las fuerzas armadas de Estados Unidos en Panama y a los ciudadanos panameqos entre 1957 y 1999. Porque valoramos nuestra relacisn con este pams, decidimos quedarnos aqum despuis de que se implementaron los Tratados del Canal de Panama. Es un honor para el nuevo Florida State University Panama Campus, poder seguir brindando a los ciudadanos de Panama y de varios otros pamses, nuestra tradicisn de excelencia educativa a travis de nuestra afiliacisn con la Ciudad del Saber.

Nuestra misisn primordial es servir a nuestros estudiantes, dandoles una educacisn que contribuya a su bienestar intelectual y econsmico. Nuestro campus tambiin atrae a estudiantes y profesores de Florida State University en Tallahassee, Florida, quienes lo visitan para avanzar en sus propios estudios. Nuestro mayor anhelo es crear una universidad que atraiga y capte a estudiantes de todo el mundo, trayindolos a Panama para cumplir asm con la misisn y filosofma de la Ciudad del Saber.

Crear un campus universitario que haga realidad esta visisn, exige que los involucrados en las aspiraciones educativas de este gran pams le dediquemos tiempo completo a la tarea de alcanzarlas. En general, el docente esta llamado a ser consejero y guma del estudiante. Por eso, esperamos que el profesorado esti presente y disponible durante el dma en el campus para servir al estudiante. Esto tambiin forma parte de nuestra estrategia para retener a nuestros estudiantes. Solo a travis de este compromiso a tiempo completo podemos crear y mantener un centro de enseqanza atractivo para los estudiantes panameqos y del mundo.

Actualmente, llevamos a cabo una enirgica campaqa para inscribir nuevos estudiantes que nos ha llevado a diez pamses y a mas de 180 escuelas en la regisn latinoamericana.

Aunque nos sentimos orgullosos de tener docentes como el Sr. Richard Koster, un reconocido autor de novelas de ficcisn, y el Dr. Miguel Antonio Bernal, distinguido constitucionalista y experto en relaciones internacionales, ninguno de ellos dos esta disponible para dedicarle tiempo completo a nuestros estudiantes.

El Sr. Koster se jubils como profesor permanente y ahora enseqa a tiempo parcial. El Dr. Bernal, por su parte, tiene una catedra a tiempo completo en nuestra institucisn hermana, la Universidad de Panama, aunque ha accedido a enseqar a tiempo parcial con nosotros.

Florida State University ha hecho inversiones importantes en nuestro nuevo campus en La Boca. Entre otras entidades, la Ciudad del Saber jugs un papel instrumental para obtener el uso de esas instalaciones. Ademas, hemos invertido grandes sumas para mejorar el area, agrandando sus laboratorios de csmputo y su conexisn de alta velocidad a internet, mejorando los edificios y facilidades fmsicas, y creando un ambiente sptimo para el aprendizaje, al servicio del estudiantado y del profesorado.

Con la adquisicisn y eventual compra de ese campus, esperamos seguir invirtiendo en Panama y en su futuro, tema que estamos discutiendo con la Autoridad de la Regisn Interoceanica (ARI) en estos momentos.

Nuestras inversiones a la fecha son prueba fehaciente de que las universidades son poderosos motores econsmicos dentro de sus comunidades. Generan ingresos sustanciales y directos a la economma local a travis de salarios, gastos en planta fmsica y gastos del estudiantado que ingresa en sus aulas. Muchos estudios tambiin han demostrado que los graduados de una institucisn de prestigio como la nuestra, tienden a incrementar su potencial de ingresos de por vida.

Florida State University espera continuar contribuyendo al desarrollo de Panama y de su gente con inversiones a largo plazo y apoyadas en cursos debidamente acreditados, con un profesorado y personal administrativo comprometido a tiempo completo.

Florida State University (incluyendo su campus en Panama) ostenta la acreditacisn del Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), el Departamento Federal de Educacisn y numerosas otras entidades. La acreditacisn de SACS ocurre en ciclos de 10 aqos y nuestra institucisn sera nuevamente revisada por esa entidad en el aqo 2004. En la actualidad, en nuestro campus se ofrecen cursos y programas que son parte del sistema de Florida State University, de manera que todas las certificaciones y tmtulos conferidos estan debidamente acreditados.

El campus de Florida State University Panama fue constituido como tal en 1999, por lo que no ha estado en existencia el tiempo suficiente para poder otorgarle permanencia a profesor alguno. Sin embargo, la Junta Directiva Binacional que gobierna la Universidad esta estudiando actualmente los sistemas de administracisn y rango acadimico que estaran contenidos en un primer Manual del Profesorado, que contendra todos los reglamentos aplicables al sistema de rango y evaluacisn de rendimiento del profesorado.

Las discusiones sobre estos reglamentos fueron iniciadas por nuestro Rector, el Dr. Jeremy Brown, quien con nuestro apoyo y total confianza ha estado y continuara estando al frente de estos esfuerzos.

Si bien es cierto que el campus de Panama es parte importante del sistema de Florida State University, su futuro claramente esta en manos de los docentes, estudiantes y personal de apoyo que laboran en il. Al edificar una comunidad intelectual pujante en Panama, podremos continuar captando estudiantes y manteniendo nuestra viabilidad financiera. Sin embargo, la efervescencia de esta comunidad debe mantenerse y renovarse constantemente. Vemos nuestro papel en este pams con especial importancia porque creamos acceso y oportunidades para ciudadanos que, de otra manera, quizas no podrman beneficiarse de una experiencia universitaria estadounidense. Los beneficios que redundan en nuestros egresados, incluyen la promesa de mayores ingresos y oportunidades profesionales, una mejor calidad de vida, y quizas lo mas importante, una mayor probabilidad de que sus hijos tambiin gocen de una educacisn universitaria.

Todos los que laboramos incansablemente hacia el logro de estos objetivos, confiamos en que estamos de manera muy concreta ayudando a construir un mejor mundo desde Panama.