North-South Center fails to get federal funding
By Susan Stabley
Federal funds for the Dante B. Fascell North-South Center have been scrapped, but the University of Miami and the RAND Corp. say they are committed to continuing the think tank.
After the US House of Representatives nixed $2 million for the center, a congressional aide said the cut might have come from "confusion" over the center's status.
UM Provost Luis Glaser said he was told that the loss of funds might be due to misinformation that the university was closing the center - "which we are not," he said Tuesday.
North-South Center staff left their offices last week. They were scheduled to be fired Dec. 31.
In August, the university reported plans to overhaul the center and said its director is to remain. Last month, UM announced it would partner with RAND Corp. to restructure the center.
RAND Executive Vice President Michael Rich was unavailable for an interview this week but released this statement: "RAND is moving forward in partnership with the University of Miami to restructure the North-South Center. The congressional action was disappointing, but we are committed to developing a sound concept for an exciting partnership."
Mr. Glaser said, "Obviously, we hope there is some way of correcting this. We are absolutely committed to keeping this partnership going."
Adding the center to UM's budget is possible, he said. The center has tapped into grants, including more than $400,000 in 2001 from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Ambler Moss, director of the North-South Center, could not be reached this week.
The prestigious public-policy and research center was created in 1984 to analyze global and regional issues affecting the Western Hemisphere.
In August, UM said the decision to reorganize the center and cut staff was made because of a reduction in federal support. Last year, the center applied for $2 million but received only $500,000 from the government. In 1991, the center received $10 million.
The center led a forum during last month's Free Trade Area of the Americas meetings that culminated with representatives from civil societies such as labor, environmental and human-rights groups making recommendations on the proposed treaty. Trade ministers from 34 nations endorsed the dialogue and recommended having the talks at future meetings.
As FTAA talks were under way, UM and the RAND Corp. announced their partnership. It is to be the first foray into Florida for the Santa Monica, CA-based research center. RAND and the university are private, not-for-profit entities.
After North-South Center staffers vacated their Coral Gables offices, a spokeswoman for Baptist Health South Florida confirmed that it had leased 12,000 square feet. Baptist plans to use the former North-South Center offices at 1500 Monza Ave. for administration.
Mr. Glaser said UM plans to put the new North-South Center's offices with RAND on campus.
RAND and UM have agreed to a February deadline to hammer out details for the center. Mr. Glaser and Mr. Rich, the second-in-command at RAND, will work together to reopen the center.
The revamped think tank may not include the publishing arm of the North-South Center. New books may not be published, said Mr. Glaser, but its current catalog would be maintained.