Dockery and Fasano pick apart BOG chairwoman's criticism of Genshaft's new hire
The two state senators who vocally opposed the push to make USF Polytechnic an independent institution are now chastising the former chairwoman of the Florida Board of Governors for her finger-wagging at USF President Judy Genshaft's decision to replace the school's embattled leader.
Sens. Paula Dockery and Mike Fasano sent a letter to Ava Parker on Wednesday in response to Parker's letter to the editor of the Tampa Bay Times last week, accusing her of a "kneejerk reaction" to political pressure and picking apart her critique.
Parker's letter, in which she wrote that Genshaft's appointment of Lakeland accountant David Touchton created "unnecessary friction that could have been avoided through collaboration and cooperation," was published after members of the board admonished Genshaft for the way she replaced Marshall Goodman. Though Genshaft called all the members to tell them of her plans, she should have been more forthcoming about his replacement, they told her. Touchton, a USF alum, lead a group of 200 Polk County citizens in a call to slow the USF Poly split down.
Dockery and Fasano went line by line, pointing out what they saw as comments by Parker that "should be corrected." It echoes, and amplifies, concerns raised by another Board of Governors member last week.
The senators' full letter is attached below. Here are a few experts:
First of all, we question why you, in your role as chairwoman, would write a letter to the editor, particularly without a full vote of the BOG or unanimous consent to do so. Secondly, the BOG was established to “operate, regulate, control and be responsible for the management of the whole State University System” with independence from political pressures and implications. It seems your actions are a kneejerk reaction to those political pressures.
You stated: The Board of Governors of the State University System of Florida takes great interest in USF Polytechnic and sees promise in this campus and its approach to research, education and ob creation. After careful deliberation, the board established a process for Polytechnic, now h campus, to become an independent institution
Our response: Your use of “careful deliberation” refers to a period of two months (September 14 to November 9) to decide to make a twelfth university specializing in a polytechnic curriculum out of a branch campus of USF with roughly 1300 students who are not pursuing a polytechnic curriculum. Furthermore the proposed campus is currently undeveloped pastureland, programs had not been developed, polytechnic faculty had not been hired, poly students had not been recruited and an audit of finances under the six‐year tenure of Chancellor Marshall Goodman had not been performed. It could easily be argued that a decision of that magnitude would need much more time and fact finding before it could be correctly referred to as “careful deliberation.”
Perhaps the most egregious statement of all was that somehow President Genshaft was responsible for creating “tensions between the higher education community and political leaders – unnecessary friction that could have been avoided through collaboration and cooperation.” You show absolutely zero understanding of the community, the students and the faculty regarding the actions that have transpired unexpectedly and detrimentally to their interests. The Polk County Community was united in its support of a USF Polytechnic until the issue of independence came up. You and the BOG based your actions on a letter started by a legislator, circulated by a lobbyist and supported by a small group of 29 citizens, some of whom had financial interests in the development of the new campus. Additionally, some of that small group later said that they were expressing support of the polytechnic, not the independence of the polytechnic, and expressed the desire to remove their support. Make no mistake, the “friction” was caused by that small group that forced the issue of independence, and President Genshaft has been left to clean up that mess. Shifting the blame to anyone other than those instigating the action and those making the decision to go along does all of us a great disservice.