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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

BOG member speaks up for Genshaft, warns of 'undue political pressure'



John Temple, the Florida Board of Governors member who spoke out against the push to make USF Polytechnic an independent university, is letting his voice be heard again: this time chastising some of his fellow board members for the way they beat up on USF President Judy Genshaft in a conference call last month.

"I don't understand why this call was initiated in the first place, as we have never and should not involve our Board of Governors in the selection of a branch campus chancellor," Temple wrote to State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan on Tuesday. "We don't even have a veto over the selection of university presidents."

The board's task force charged with overseeing USF Poly's independence transition admonished Genshaft after she removed embattled USF Poly leader Marshall Goodman and replaced him in the interim with David Touchton, a Lakeland accountant who had urged caution on a campus split. Though Genshaft alerted all the board members before yanking Goodman, the members were annoyed that she didn't volunteer who would be his replacement, accusing her of "lack of collaboration."

If any of the members would have asked, Genshaft said, she would have told them. But she apologized nonetheless.

Since that time, the Tampa Bay Times published a letter to the editor from Board of Governors then-chairwoman Ava Parker backing up the board's finger-wagging. 

"Genshaft's selection of an interim leader once viewed as hostile to Polytechnic's independence created tensions between the higher education community and political leaders — unnecessary friction that could have been avoided through collaboration and cooperation," Parker wrote.

Baloney, according to Temple.

"After reading the comments and criticisms that appeared in the press," Temple wrote, "I am even more horrified as to what some of my fellow Governors said in the way of criticism regarding President Genshaft's actions.

"I get the strong feeling and have since our last Board of Governors meeting that undue pressure is being put on Board of Governors members by at least one member of the legislature," he continued. "I think it is critical that any governor who has been unduly influenced by a state elected official and/or has a conflict should disclose that conflict and recuse themselves.

"With all due respect, calling a telephone conference call for the Board Selection Committee regarding this issue makes us look foolish and disorganized."

That political pressure was also highlighted by Sen. Mike Fasano in his reaction to the hastily arranged conference call last month. "This so-called special meeting was called only because of political pressure by a certain state senator," Fasano said. He later clarified who he was talking about -- JD Alexander, chair of the senate budget committee and one of the loudest cheerleaders for making USF Poly its own institution.

Alexander has not returned multiple requests from the Times for comment.

[Last modified: Thursday, January 5, 2012 8:59pm]


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