Thursday, January 18, 2018
Education

Nearly 40 apply to help oversee new university

The nationwide search for trustees for the new Florida Polytechnic University wraps up today, with almost 40 Floridians applying — most from Polk County or nearby.

The applicants, which include leaders of various businesses, lawyers, retirees, an instructor from the campus formerly known as University of South Florida Polytechnic and a Polk County commissioner, are vying for 11 slots.

They'll be chosen by the Florida Board of Governors and Gov. Rick Scott.

If Polk's support wasn't clear enough, a new nonprofit debuting today in Lakeland leaves little doubt.

Florida Poly Vision Inc., according to a news release, already has 60 members, with the aim of giving Florida Polytechnic "a much needed voice" from community and business leaders in Polk County.

The group, which is introducing itself at a news conference this morning, will help drum up fundraising the way booster or alumni associations at established universities do, said Sarah Bascom, who is handling the group's public relations.

It will also be available "to serve as hosts to visitors, a positive voice of support in the media, host round table community discussions and help spread the word that Polk County is excited and ready to help Polytechnic reach its needed benchmarks," Bascom said in an e-mail.

Perhaps coincidentally, Bascom's firm formerly represented Sen. JD Alexander.

Alexander, who just wrapped up his final term in the Senate, used the last session to bring the independent Florida Polytechnic to life.

Scott signed off on the idea last month.

It was a move mired in controversy, as it shortcut a plan laid out by the Florida Board of Governors to create FPU out of the USF Polytechnic campus, and was opposed by students, faculty and USF officials.

Speaking of USF officials, they're still trying to make sense of the logistics of setting the Lakeland campus free.

In a conference call Wednesday, USF president Judy Genshaft, members of the USF Board of Trustees and top staff members reviewed a lively meeting last week of a Board of Governors's task force charged with overseeing Florida Poly's creation.

The main takeaway? It won't be easy.

Many obstacles remain, and nearly all of them hinge on the creation of that new board of trustees.

As of Wednesday, the Board of Governors, which is in charge of five of the 11 slots, received 24 applications.

Scott, who has six appointments, had received 23 applications, including eight who also applied with the Board of Governors.

Until that new board is set up, USF must continue paying the leases of several unused business incubators set up by USF Poly's former chancellor.

It also must move forward with construction of the new Florida Polytechnic campus, which is already millions over budget.

USF was instructed to do those things under the assumption that it would be repaid by the new university.

That, said interim USF Poly chancellor David Touchton, "bothers me quite a bit."

Kim Wilmath can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3337.

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