Live from the big BOG meeting, USF Poly's future hangs in the balance
One of the first people here, State Sen. J.D. Alexander took a front-row seat for the meeting of the Florida Board of Governors, which begins at 11 a.m. today at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.
Alexander, the senate budget chairman, has been the loudest supporter of splitting off the University of South Florida's branch campus in Lakeland to create the state's 12th university. It's a decision that's now in the hands of the board that oversees the state university system. They're scheduled to take it up at 2 p.m. We're all set up here in the meeting room in FAU's stadium and will be updating you periodically, but you can also watch the fireworks live at the Board's web site.
Check out a list of FAQs about the decision in today's Times story.
The meeting is expected to be heated, with strong feelings on both sides of the politically charged debate. Those for independence say starting a new university in Polk County would be good for the state as a whole. They say the Lakeland branch campus can't thrive under USF's thumb, and by splitting USF Poly off, the school would garner international acclaim.
Those on the other side say the school benefits from the USF brand, and that the low cost and high growth estimates are seriously optimistic.
Others stand somewhere in the middle, thinking that whatever the decision, it shouldn't be made right now. The idea to split USF Poly off was made public just three months ago, with a letter from about 30 Polk County residents sent to the Board of Governors and Alexander quickly jumping to support it.
Alexander said he thinks the meeting will "go well." Asked whether he would continue to fight for an independent USF Polytechnic in the legislature if the board turns it down, he deflected, saying, "Florida needs a polytechnic."