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USF Poly interim leader is stepping down



David Touchton, the Lakeland CPA who was tapped to lead the University of South Florida Polytechnic campus after the removal of the embattled former chancellor, is stepping down.

The move comes as USF is preparing to relinquish its control of the campus and begin a "teach-out" for the students who remain there -- as soon as a Board of Trustees is appointed to run the new independent Florida Polytechnic University.

In a memo sent to Touchton Monday, USF President Judy Genshaft thanked him for his "extraordinary work in guiding USF's campus in Lakeland through the past six months."

Touchton's last day, Genshaft wrote, will be Saturday. Taking his place in overseeing the academic transition will be Kathleen Moore, USF's associate vice president in charge of strategic initiatives, including accreditation.

"I personally want to thank you for a difficult job well done," Genshaft wrote to Touchton.

Difficult, indeed. 

Touchton took the reigns of USF Poly at the most heated period in the campus's history. Genshaft had just demoted Marshall Goodman, sparking a firestorm of criticism from members of the Board of Governors who chastised her for a "lack of collaboration" with them. The move also struck a nerve with Senate budget chairman JD Alexander, who had made splitting off the campus into the 12th university a personal priority.

More than Goodman's removal, it was the choosing of Touchton that particularly annoyed Alexander, he would later say. When USF Poly's future still hung in the balance late last year, Touchton penned a letter signed by hundreds of Polk County residents urging state leaders to exercise caution on the decision and not rush independence before the campus was ready. 

After the decision was made to go ahead and split the campus off, Touchton promised to work toward that end. In the process, he identified about $1 million in wasteful spending at the campus. That included a handful of little-used business incubators for which USF was paying thousands of dollars each month in rent. 

[Last modified: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 4:12pm]


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