Tag Archive | "Judy Bense"

Gore fails Bar, terminated as university counsel

The University of West Florida terminated Lee Gore from the position of general counsel on Oct. 31 for failing to meet contractual stipulations.

Gore was hired by UWF in October 2011 after serving as the as university counsel at the University of Southern Mississippi. Although Gore was an active member of the Mississippi Bar at the time he accepted the position at UWF, he was not licensed to practice law within the state of Florida.

Gore’s contract with UWF stipulated that he must become a member of the Florida Bar within one year of employment. President Judy Bense granted Gore an extension in October of 2012 so that he may sit for the Florida Bar exam that was conducted in February of 2013.

Public Relations Director Megan Gonzalez said that as part of the university’s employment agreement, his position within the Office of General Counsel was terminated for “failure to become a member of the Florida Bar.”

“As part of the University’s employment agreement with Lee Gore, a requirement was mandated that he must be admitted as a member of the Florida Bar by Oct. 31, 2013,” Gonzalez said. “Lee Gore completed and passed the Florida Bar exam in February. However, the Florida Bar is in the process of reviewing his application for admission. “

The Florida Bar opened an investigation of Gore in June of 2013 after allegations surfaced that he had been practicing law in Florida without a license. The primary responsibility of the General Counsel is to oversee all legal matters for the University of West Florida and their Board of Trustees.

Gore’s position title was changed by President Bense on July 7, 2013 from General Counsel to Special Assistant to the President. Gonzalez said that Gore’s assignment stayed the same after the title change, with Gore continuing legal work in the Office of the General Counsel until his termination from the position.

Monica Armster Rainge, branch counsel for the Unlicensed Practice of Law Division of the Florida Bar said in a telephone interview that the investigation against Gore has concluded.

“Mr. Gore was not licensed or authorized to practice law within the state of Florida,” Rainge said. “His removal from the position of General Counsel at the University of West Florida ended our investigation.”

Gore is still an active member of the UWF staff, and has been placed within a different division of the university. Gore accepted the position of assistant to the Provost within the Division of Academic Affairs on Nov. 1.

Gore had worked with Provost Martha Saunders when Saunders was president of the University of Southern Mississippi. Saunders said that their prior working experience will come as a benefit as Gore transitions into his new position.

“A prior working relationship reduces the learning curve that usually has to be addressed,” Saunders said. “We communicate well.”

Gore’s new position as assistant to the Provost will provide support and assistance to Saunders. Gore will be tasked with assisting the Academic Affairs department in reviewing all existing policies and developing new policies that are related to what is required by both the Board of Governors and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

“The Division of Academic Affairs is the largest division within the University, is highly complex, and there are always tasks that need the attention from someone with Mr. Gore’s training, experiences, and skills,” Saunders said. “Apart from policy development and review, Mr. Gore may be tasked with the coordination of projects related to academic programs, review of current business and approval processes within Academic Affairs, and the development and documentation of new business processes within the division.”

Former UWF General Counsel and current Associate General Counsel Pat Lott is serving as the interim general counsel.

Gonzalez said that the university is yet to begin searching for Gore’s replacement.

“There are no timelines, and as of now we haven’t started the search,” Gonzalez said. “There’s a lot of work that goes into finding the right candidate for this position.”

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SGA Meeting discusses diversity and Future Argo Referral

By Morganne Lennig



The SGA Senate meeting on Friday, Oct. 18 at 2:30 p.m. included guest speakers President Judy Bense and Chief Diversity Officer Kim LeDuff presented University news and plans, members were sworn into higher positions and a debate on the Service  ensued.

Bense spoke to SGA members and assured them that all is well with the president and the University.

“We don’t have any crises, we don’t have any storms, we don’t have any guns shooting off by campus,” Bense said.

She also spoke about the Future Argonaut Referral and additions to its current design.

The new focus will be for ninth grade students in high school that would be a good fit for UWF. Students would stay in the program for the duration of their high school career with an academic adviser to keep them on track.

Providing that students in FAR program perform well in high school, their application fee for UWF would be waved.

The Freshmen Committee suggested to Bense that the FAR program for ninth grade high school students include student mentors from UWF. Bense said that it would be beneficial for high school students to interact with college mentors. Bense also said that when prospective students look at college students, they see an older brother or sister.

“I think that’s a great idea,” Bense said.

LeDuff was the second guest speaker and she discussed her plans for increasing diversity at UWF and in the surrounding community.

“We want to make sure that we have a campus that is friendly, inviting and inclusive,” LeDuff said. “You guys are doing a great job of that and we just want to make sure we’re continuing to improve.

One of LeDuff’s focuses is defining diversity and she said she hopes to do this with qualitative surveys. LeDuff also encourages students, faculty and staff to speak with her about concerns and ideas.

“I’m amazed at the information I get from you guys,” LeDuff said.

LeDuff’s office is in building 71, room 115 and said to “feel free to come on by.”

LeDuff is working on a diversity plan that will be finalized in January 2014 and rolling out the following month. The diversity plan will be effective until 2017.

Taja Harris was sworn into the position of freshmen committee chair, a position she said is “exactly the place for me.”

Freshman Forrest Brandt was also sworn in as the assistant director of governmental affairs.

Both students were unanimously voted into their positions by the Senate

The Student Outreach Committee Chair Kate Singletary reported that 89.66 percent of students that attended the homecoming tailgate liked it with the most popular part being the free food.

The SGA, Campus Activities Board and the UWF Alumni Association are planning a tailgate for Wednesday, Nov. 20, before the UWF Men’s Basketball game against Georgia Southwestern.

Budget and Allocations Chair Christopher Thrasher’s changes made to the eight page Activity and Service Fee Bill caused a debate over the terminology used in order to make it easier to understand.

The bill describes how money is allocated to student clubs and organizations.

Senator Peter Goldsberry had concerns over the manual updates to the terminology in the bill and supported the motion to table the bill until the next Senate meeting.

“Tabling the bill will be beneficial to everyone and hurt no one,” Goldsberry said.

The Senate unanimously voted to cease debate on whether or not to table the bill and then voted on the motion to table the bill.

The motion passed 11 to 9.

Senator Brittany Denny announced that Alpha Gamma Delta will be holding a charity fashion show to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation on Nov. 9 at 5 p.m. in the Great Hall in the University Commons.

There are still six open senate positions available. Students can pick up an application at the SGA office located in the University Commons, room 227.

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UWF President Bense says college as “not been perfect”

By Erin Timmons

Bense speaks on UWF data errors.

Bense speaks on UWF data errors.

As administrators work to transform the University of West Florida’s reputation from a commuter school to a major player in the State University System, mistakes from previous academic years are being addressed in order to prevent them from being repeated.

“There is no doubt that we have not been perfect,” Bense said. “Students can rest assured that the administration is rectifying the problems and continuing to move this university forward.”

Despite articles in the Pensacola News Journal and The Voyager that demonstrated a decline in academic qualifications of incoming freshmen, Bense has confidence in the credibility of the university.

During the 2006-2007 academic year, 38 percent of incoming freshman had a GPA of 3.75 or higher, with 3.55 being the average. The average GPA of the 2011-2012 freshman class declined to 3.23, and only 13.9 percent had a GPA of 3.75 or higher.

Questions were raised due to 2012-2013 Common Data Set, an annual report of the demographic and academic composition of the student body, when the GPA of incoming freshman increased from an average of 3.22 during the 2011-2012 academic year.

The average GPA of incoming freshmen was reported as 3.40 for the 2012-2013 incoming freshman class, with 23.76 percent having a GPA of 3.75 or higher.

“The numbers weren’t inflated,” Bense said. “There were bad practices that were passed along, but we’re darn serious about addressing them and halting them immediately.”

Enrollment changes

President Bense points to the Great Recession as the trigger for attention focused on the makeup of the student body. This includes enrollment statistics, graduation statistics and demographical information.

“During every recession or depression, the entities that fund higher education, meaning the legislature and the students, want to know, ’What have you done for us lately?’ ”Bense said. “During times of economic prosperity, the legislature acts as if you should let anyone into the university.”

With pressure to increase enrollment prior to the recession, administrators stopped following general admissions procedures, such as not admitting a student who would be required to take two remedial courses.

“We have now stopped that, which reduced the amount of freshmen we admitted and enrolled,” Bense said. “But the freshmen we have in the 2013-2014 academic class are far more prepared to succeed.”

Susan McKinnon, former associate vice president for enrollment affairs, encouraged the university to use a recruiting company, Royall & Co., that would contact potential students and provide a faster application process.

Through the use of this company in 2011, UWF saw the 2011-2012 academic year begin with record breaking enrollment numbers, with 12,823 students attending the university.

McKinnon resigned in November 2012 amidst concerns from the university that her work as an advisor to Royall & Co. was a conflict of interest.

When asked if McKinnon, former associate vice president for enrollment affairs, who resigned in November 2012, played a role in these bad practices becoming a part of the administrative culture, Bense said, “She did play a part in that.”

McKinnon could not be reached for comment.

Calculations and confusion

The Common Data Set is an annual report compiled by the Institutional Research office, which organizes and analyzes data on the student body of the university. The Common Data Set for the 2012-2013 academic year was reviewed multiple times.

Dottie Minear, senior associate vice president for Academic Affairs, said that the review was necessary to “clarify data definitions.”

“Many of the data elements used for reporting both federal and state data differ in how the elements are defined,” Minear said in an email.

“For example, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System counts only those students who are taking courses for credit whereas the State University System utilizes all students enrolled,” Minear said. “IPEDS, but not SUS, excludes those students who are auditing courses or those who are dual enrolled (high school students taking college courses while still in high school).”

Prior to the 2013-2014 academic year, UWF calculated the high school GPAs of first-time incoming freshmen using a different method that did not align with the State University System.

“The way we calculated the GPA was through using a set of courses – English, math, foreign language, history, science – basic studies courses that are more serious,” Bense said. “The Board of Governors uses the district GPA. They take every course and every grade into consideration. A freshman could have a 3.8 high school GPA, but that would be reflective of all the easier and activity courses as well.”

Beginning summer 2014, UWF will begin using the District GPA method of calculating GPAs to align with the requirements set forth by the Board of Governors and the State University System of Florida.

“The District GPA is the weighted GPA found on all Florida Public School transcripts. It is calculated using all grades received in academic core and elective courses,” Minear said. “The District GPA will be pulled from all Florida Public High School transcripts and will be used for the ‘Admission GPA’ and the ‘Final GPA’ recorded in the student information system.”

Cleaning up data

Provost Martha Saunders credits antiquated data collection and storage methods with preventing administrators of having a clear view of campus statistics.

“We had data stored all over the campus, but the various departments couldn’t view each other’s,” Saunders said. “We’re going to be working with our institutional support department, ASPIRE, to implement Banner, a new data-gathering system. It will enable us to capture data and to allow one side of the campus to view what the other is doing far easier than before.”

As the university prepares for itsaccreditation visit from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Saunders said handling enrollment changes and implementing new data systems meant that data needed to be reviewed multiple times.

“It’s really simple. This was not an intentional snarl,” Saunders said. “It’s what happens when you’re changing procedures and attempting to clean up and make sure you have pristine data. We want to ensure that when we give a report that it is always consistent, no matter what time of day you happen to look at it.”

 Focus on freshmen

President Bense said the university’s renewed focus on the academic performance of freshmen during their first semester of the 2012-2013 academic year caused the retention rates of those freshmen to their sophomore year to improve.

“Freshmen are the most vulnerable during their first semester,” Bense said. “If you can monitor their academic work and behavior a little better, you are more likely to get them to be able to succeed.”

Prior to the 2012-2013 academic year, the early warning system only looked at freshmen that were in academic trouble at the middle of the semester, around midterms. If a student was performing poorly at this point in the semester, their chances of improving their grades were slim.

Administrators have changed the early warning system to now look at freshmen during the fourth week of the semester, around the time most professors give their first exam.

According to Bense, the number of freshmen who passed their courses increased from the academic year prior to the change.

“We focused on freshmen in the fall and ramped up the support we had in place for them,” Bense said. The increase in the amount of freshmen students continuing to their sophomore year proves to me that we can improve our retention rates overall, and we are.”

Moving Forward

Amid continuous change and the occasional bad press coverage, university administrators say they are working to implement changes that will benefit the growth of the university and the quality of life for its students.

“While our goals are what the university should have, we’re in a real serious transition period going from a commuter school to a real traditional university,” Bense said. “We’re on a good path, and it is a much different institution than it was 10 years ago, but we can’t expect perfection. “

Associate Professor William Belko is chief negotiator for United Faculty of Florida at UWF, and said the university’s image has taken a hit after scrutiny and speculation has surrounded admissions and enrollment.

“President Bense’s admissions fiasco certainly hurt the university,” Belko said. “Especially when considering that the president’s office actually appeared to blame the faculty for the retention problem.”

“I am certain, however, that the new Provost has remedied the situation, and we can look forward to some good years ahead, with steady admissions of qualified and deserving students,” Belko said. “I and a great many of my fellow colleagues are all looking forward to teaching the incoming classes and seeing that they receive the best higher education possible.”

Bense said that her administrative team is prepared to handle the challenges that will come their way as they look to improve enrollment and student life without decreasing the value of education.

“Academic standards of this university are not going to be lowered, and we’re going to accept students into this university that are increasingly college-ready,” Bense said. “We’re going to do our dead-level best to put our arms around them and give them a good education and some fun along the way.“

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Breakfast with Bense brings talks of diversity

By Erin Timmons

President Judy Bense’s pursuit of greater cultural diversity at the University of West Florida is extending beyond the perimeters of campus and into the community of Pensacola.

Bense shared breakfast with a crowd of about 50 African-American activists and educators at the Greater Little Rock Baptist Church on Aug. 30 and discussed the outlook of the university and its leaders’ desire for a more multicultural student body.

“It’s high time we were here, and it’s high time we come back,” Bense said in a presentation to the group. “UWF has grown so increasingly diverse in the last few years, and it’s time we share that with the community.”

Utilizing development plans that highlight structural changes on campus, re-energizing the staff, and increasing the efforts towards visibility of the university outside the area of Northwest Florida, Bense and other faculty members encouraged the audience to get involved and invested.

“Our student body is now almost 30 percent diverse, and we want to be a better reflection of our community,” Bense said. “If you don’t think big, you won’t get big.”

Interim Vice President for University Advancement Brendan Kelly echoed the call for outreach between the university and the community in which it resides and serves.

“UWF is known for its community engagement,” Kelly said. “There are 19 million people in Florida, and only one million of them are in this area. UWF is an economic engine that we want this community to be a part of.”

The increase in minority enrollment on campus has been encouraged by university administrators who are taking initiatives to prepare the faculty and staff for the increase in diversity and the necessity for awareness and tolerance.

Vice President of Student Affairs Kevin Bailey introduced multiple initiatives the university is taking in order to ensure that campus life is an enjoyable experience for all who attend UWF.

These initiatives included mandatory training for all employees that involves “education on multicultural competence for student affairs,” Bailey said. “Bias response protocol is also being generated to allow for reporting of incidences of bias and discrimination to be handled in the best practice possible.”

Kasha Brown attended the event as a member of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women of Pensacola and said she was inspired by the changes that UWF has made and are looking to make in  the future.

“I had always assumed that the university had a negative environment for people of color,” Brown said. “So after I graduated from Pensacola State College, I thought about moving elsewhere to get my degree. But now I think I want to stay and go to UWF.”

Bense said, “If we can make more of those moments happen, where people consider UWF. Then we won’t have anything holding us back from achieving our goals.”

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Bense addresses budget cuts at meeting

University of West Florida President Judy Bense held a town-hall meeting in the Commons Auditorium on
March 29 to discuss the non-recurring budget cut to the University of $11.9 million for the 2012/2013 fiscal year, passed by the Florida Legislature.

Bense said, “I will tell you that the 11 presidents of the State University System are going to do what we can in the legislature next year to make sure that the legislators keep their word that this is a one-time non-recurring cut.”

The cut comes as part of a $300 million reduction in state funding for Florida’s State University System. UWF received the eighth largest cut out of the 11 universities.

The legislature used a formula for determining the cuts based on how much state funds each university had in its reserves.

Bense said, “They decided that they were going to force the universities to spend their carry forward.”

Bense announced that the University will be exploring ways to make up for the budget cut and outlined three possible models for dealing with the reduction in funds.

The first was to use the approximate $30 million UWF has in leftover state funds, known as carry-forward funds, to fill in the budget holes.

The next option announced was for each university division to come up with its own ways to cover the reduction. The third option was a hybrid of the first two.

A “listening team” has also been appointed to seek other ways to deal with the cuts.

The listening team consists of: Susan Stephenson, UWF’s chief budget officer; Colleen Asmus, UWF’s controller; Betsy Bowers, UWF’s auditor; Associate Provost George Ellenberg; and John Todorovich and Richard Hough to represent the faculty chairs and Faculty Senate respectively.

Kim Brown, Bense’s chief of staff, said in an email to The Voyager, “The listening team’s job is to seek other models and hear what people think about the models.”

Stephenson said in an email to The Voyager, “All of us, the president, faculty, and staff, remain committed to finding the best way to handle this reduction from the legislature while continuing to provide high-quality education for our students and services for our region.”

Bense also announced a 15 percent rise in differential tuition costs to be approved by the Board of Governors and the Board of Trustees and a 2 percent salary raise for UWF faculty and staff members.

“We need to reduce our reliance on carry forward,” Bense said. “What we really need to do is continue our purposeful growth and develop new sources of revenue. That is going to be our formula for success.”

Besides the proposed hotel and conference center, Bense announced other new sources of revenue such as displaying advertisements by constructing a large digital billboard near UWF’s east entrance and installing flat-screen TVs to be placed across campus in high-traffic areas.

“I believe in is listening to other people’s ideas,” Bense said. “If you have ideas or suggestions please give them to us.”

Ideas and suggestions can be sent via email to budgetsuggestions@uwf.edu.

W. Paul Smith
Opinons Editor 

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Faculty members challenge Bense’s raise

In a meeting held last September, the University of West Florida Board of Trustees voted unanimously to award President Judy Bense a $41,000 bonus on top of her $275,000 salary, pursuant to the terms of her contract, citing her success in reaching goals the board laid out the previous year, such as student enrollment and the expansion of academic programs.

The award has become a flash point of contention among many faculty members who, through the UWF chapter of the United Florida Faculty union, are in the throes of negotiating with the University for pay increases.

The UFF negotiators point to the $20-million ending balance of the University’s Education and General fund and low pay relative to other Florida public universities as justification for more substantial salary compensation. UWF overall faculty salaries rank ninth in the 11-school state’s public university system.

The bonus for Bense came from the UWF Foundation, a non-profit fundraising arm of the University that already pays $75,000 per year of her salary, since state salaries are capped at $200,000. The money never could have been given to the faculty, but Steve Belko, associate professor of history and chief negotiator for the UWF faculty union, said that’s not the point, and that Bense’s accepting the bonus was a “slap in the face” to faculty members.

“I think she should have rejected it,” Belko said. “Ideally, we would all get the appropriate raise. We’re under-appreciated, and it really has a chilling effect on us.”

The underlying issue, Belko said, is salary compression. Compression is when junior faculty, those most recently hired, are paid at or near the same rate as senior faculty. It occurs when a university can’t attract new faculty at the same rate they pay those already on staff.

“I’ve been in the department for 14 years, and I make a little over $54,000 a year,” Belko said. “We just hired a new guy at the same price.”

In the most recent round of negotiations, the faculty union was offered $300,000 to deal with compression. That money would go to increase the salaries of longer-serving faculty members, only. The faculty union, however, refused the offer and is asking for $500,000 to deal with compression and a recurring annual $500 bonus for each faculty member.

Bense could not be reached for comment on this report, but in an interview with the “Pensacola News Journal” published Feb. 9, she said that faculty members have “received some form of a pay increase for five out of the last six years, either through base salary raise or a one-time raise.”

However, in a newsletter he sent to faculty titled “The Facts,” Belko called the president’s comment “erroneous and misleading.” Faculty did receive a 1.7 percent pay raise in 2010 and a 5 percent increase spread out over 2006 and 2007, as well as a $1,250 bonus in 2009, Belko says,  but because Bense didn’t take office until 2008, and because a 2011 legislative mandate forced faculty to contribute 3 percent of their salaries to retirement, faculty members have actually seen a 1.3 percent decrease in pay since she became president.

Kimberly Brown, Bense’s chief of staff and assistant corporate secretary to the Board of Trustees, says that, because of budget cuts, the administration’s hands are tied.

“Faculty salaries come from recurring state dollars,” she said in an email interview. “The state limits how we use our funds, we don’t have the ability to direct (state funds and student fees) to other purposes. Our state recurring funds have been cut 30 percent or $21.8-million in the past five years. This year the legislature is currently proposing a $5-million reduction on the House side (recurring) and a $10-millon reduction on the Senate side (non-recurring) for UWF.”

The next bargaining meeting is scheduled for March 9.

A full list of faculty and administration salaries can be found at http://www.floridahasarighttoknow.com/search_state_payroll.html.

Will Isern
Contributing Writer

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Bense outlines goals in University Address

Purposeful enrollment growth was the main theme of President Judy Bense’s State of the University Address on Sept. 27 in the University Commons Auditorium.

“We reached 12,000 students a year early,” she said. “That is a sign we are doing something right.”

Bense began her speech by discussing her goals in the 2008-2012 strategic plan.

She said state funding for the University has been cut by 30 percent since the plan was designed, but enrollment is currently up by 20 percent.

“That 20 percent enrollment has helped us pay the bills,” she said. “It has helped us compensate for the 30 percent lost in our state revenues. It has been painful to make these cuts, but we have been successful.”

Bense also talked about the fifth year interim report for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

George Ellenberg, vice provost, said every five years there is a mid-term review that focuses to a large degree on the academic components of the University, student support services and other related areas.

“A large UWF team from many areas across the University develop the drafts and identify supporting documents,” Ellenberg said. “Thus, it takes an enormous amount of work to make sure the students receive the best academic and support services that can be provided. SACS accreditation is one means of maintaining that quality by virtue of continuous improvement.”

Pat Wentz, director of research and advanced studies, said she was chosen to assist in the review as well.

“I was one of many that were involved in preparation for the SACS fifth year review,” she said. “George Ellenberg was our leader.”

The majority of the address consisted of Bense announcing enrollment statistics and what they mean to the University. She also discussed retention rates, transfer rates and diversity statistics.

“Thirty-four percent of students are ethnically diverse,” she said. “Our freshman students are more ethnically diverse and feel more comfortable coming to  UWF.”

Bense presented the statistics for graduation rates, and although she said the rates were equivalent to the national average, she expressed her desire for improvement.

“Our four-year graduation rate is 22 percent,” she said. “I don’t think that’s great.”

Faculty improvements were also on the forefront of discussion.

Since August 2010, there has been a 1.7 percent salary increase, 30 new faculty hired or retained, six faculty sabbaticals, 11 faculty recognition awards and 20 staff professional excellence awards, Bense said.

Bense also talked about the addition of a dean of general studies, Tom Westcott, and the possibility of implementing more spring break activities, as well as expanding Argo Camp, which is an orientation program for freshman students.

She mentioned the University’s rank of 490th out of 650 schools on “Forbes” Top Colleges List, and the honor it received by being named “Best Southeast College” by “The Princeton Review.

Bense also praised the National Science Foundation for awarding UWF a $600,000 grant to be used for research on ways to support women faculty and students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

“The purpose of the NSF grant is to encourage and find ways to get girls interested in the STEM disciplines,” she said.

She also talked about a new program called “NWF2UWF.” According to the program’s website, beginning fall 2011 UWF has partnered with Northwest Florida State College to offer a program that guarantees University admission to any student who completes an associate of arts degree.

The agreement benefits students by reducing the total cost of higher education by encouraging students to complete an associate of arts degree at Northwest Florida State College, she said.

After she briefed her audience on these topics, Bense gave an overview of a new master plan and the University’s goals for upcoming years.

Referencing a huge projection screen displaying a map with blueprints of a proposed football stadium and surrounding areas, Bense discussed building the athletic plan.

Bense was certainly clear about her view toward a new football team.

“We just need a financing plan that works,” she said.

Shaun Schreiner, a graduate business major, thinks a football team is a good idea.

“A football team would bring exposure to our school as long as we stayed within our means,” he said. “If we go into it expecting as much support as a larger school, it would be foolhearted.”

Bense said it might even be three or four years before the football program is implemented.

“You have to want to do it,” she said. “And yes, I’m talking football.”

Shelby Smithey
Staff Writer

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