BOG votes to study logistics of USF Poly split
The much-anticipated USF Polytechnic presentation did not disappoint, with Sen. J.D. Alexander and several of his colleagues in the legislature taking the podium to urge the Florida Board of Governors to set the Lakeland campus free. In the end, the board voted to continue the discussion at its November meeting, giving the USF Poly and board staff time to study the details of how a transition might take place.
Alexander, who championed the $35 million in funding for the new campus during the last legislative session, said he would remain committed to Lakeland campus through the duration of his legislative service and beyond. He said the polytechnic mission of the school, which extols applied learning over the traditional liberal-arts heavy models of other institutions, is crucial for the state of Florida.
And he offered this promise: "The costs will be very minimal compared to the return for the people of Florida." He didn't say how.
Unsurprisingly, money was the focus the board's concerns. It's a concern in every discussion, after all. "Our legislators beat the dickens out of us," noted board member Mori Hosseini. "We can't blame them, just look at their coffers."
Board member Gus Stavros said he wanted to make sure the existing 11 universities wouldn't get short-changed. "I've not heard that yet, how do we get more funding for our 11, now (possibly) 12 universities if that's been a problem," Stavros said. "I've not heard a solution."
There were other issues raised, too.
State university system Chancellor Frank Brogan said the board needs to consider that the many other branch campuses throughout the state might get the idea that all they need to gain independence is a presentation before the Board of Governors and the support of a few legislators and community members.
"At the end of the day, it's a lot more fun to be an independent university than part of a system," Brogan said, "But with this particular request, we've got to make sure it is held to such a standard that we are not unintentionally paving the way for what could be an Oklahoma land rush for people coming to say 'Me too.' "
Board member Michael Long, the only student on the board, who's from New College, presented the results of a student survey from USF Poly: only 15 percent of students responded, but of those, 85 percent did not want to separate from the USF system. They said the USF brand was a main reason why they chose that institution.
Board member John Temple seemed frankly overwhelmed with the whole thing, saying he wanted to hear more about the history of how this independence call came about. "I've got to tell you, I'm scratching my head," he said. "Somehow I'm waking up now, and if I missed it I apologize, I don't think it's ever been communicated."
Still, for the most part the board seemed open to the idea, with several board members praising the "STEM" virtues that USF Poly's chancellor, Marshall Goodman, highlighted in his presentation. Supporting programs in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Medicine has been a key mission for the board's strategic plan.
Goodman, Alexander and other speakers, including Mark Kaylor, who spoke out in support of separation even though he's part of USF Poly's board, which previously took a neutral stance on the split, said it's that unique vision that necessitates USF Poly's independence.
Kaylor compared it to "lighting in a bottle."
"Do your due diligence, and tell us you're going to unscrew the cap to let this lightning out," he said.