Fiu Says It Is Interested In Running Northsouth Center
By Leslie Kraft
Florida International University would be interested in taking over the Dante B. Fascell North-South Center if the University of Miami were to offer it, FIU officials say.
UM officials said last week they were re-structuring the Western Hemisphere think tank and laying off 12 of its 13 staff by Dec. 31, raising questions about the future of the prestigious public policy and research center created in 1984.
Sources close to both schools said FIU has already expressed an interest in taking over the center to UM but was rebuffed. UM officials Tuesday declined interviews regarding the North-South Center.
"We are always looking for opportunities," said Maydell Santana-Bravo, a spokeswoman for FIU. "If the University of Miami approached us regarding the North-South Center we would be interested."
UM Provost Luis Glaser, who has said the restructuring did not signal the end of the center, blamed the decision to change it and axe staff on a significant reduction in federal support for several years. In 2003, the center applied for $2 million but received just $500,000 from the government. This compares with 1991, when the center received $10 million. For 2004, the center aimed for $1.025 million.
Federal funding for the center is to be decided this month, said Ambler Moss, center director, who has tenure and is to continue with the organization.
"I was not consulted in the decision the university has made about the center. It seemed unnecessary to kill the organization before we even knew what money was available for it for the coming year. We have been able to achieve a lot with relatively little funding," Mr. Moss said of the center, which is involved in programs associated with November’s Free Trade Area of the Americas ministerial meeting in Miami. North-South officials have said the center would maintain its commitment to previously planned programs.
Mr. Moss said that because the North-South Center operates under an act of federal legislation, it does not need to be affiliated with the University of Miami.
"The University of Miami also does not own the name" of the center, said Mr. Moss, who is a lawyer and a former US ambassador to Panama. But "it would be difficult to set up the center independent of an institution, as it would have several million dollars of start-up costs."
The North-South Center, which is considered part of UM but not affiliated with a specific department at the university, analyzes global and regional issues affecting the Western Hemisphere – such as trade, economics, the environment, migration and security. It sponsors conferences and provides experts who serve on educational forums and panels and provide commentary on the region.