Friday, January 19, 2018
Education

New USF St. Petersburg leader hears whispers of independence

ST. PETERSBURG — Though barely moved into his new office, the interim leader of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg knows there's a touchy subject simmering on campus: independence.

Should USF St. Petersburg follow USF Polytechnic's recent move and split off from the Tampa campus?

"That's something I've heard from some," Bill Hogarth said this week, his first on the job. "Should we have our own identity and not be the Bulls?"

It's a hotter topic than ever, now that USF's campus in Lakeland has broken away to become the state's 12th university. The idea that USF St. Petersburg should go its own way has been discussed behind the scenes for years, said Hogarth, who previously was dean of USF's College of Marine Science, which is based in St. Petersburg.

But "Polytechnic probably got more people talking about it," he said.

Some people want more of a unique identity, while others want more direct control of the school's destiny, Hogarth said. Some complain about money, while others seem frustrated with admissions.

He's still trying to figure out which grievances, if any, have merit.

"We need to look at the underlying issues," he said.

It's not a huge group of people who feel that way, Hogarth said. But it's enough to prompt him to ponder ways to smooth out the sometimes-confusing relationship among the USF campuses.

USF St. Petersburg, like USF Sarasota-Manatee, has its own accreditation. Though the regional campuses share many central services with the main USF campus in Tampa — including legal services, marketing and human resources — they are autonomous in budgeting and governance. They hire their own staff, recruit and admit their own students and hold their own graduations.

Despite that freedom, some people apparently feel jilted. Clearly, Hogarth said, there are some snags in communication.

"They're 30 miles away," Hogarth said of USF Tampa. "How do we bridge this issue?"

He said he plans to talk to USF president Judy Genshaft about it soon.

For the record, Hogarth doesn't think splitting off is a good idea. He thinks even pondering the idea creates a distraction from the school's core mission of educating students.

Student leaders don't like it either. USFSP student body president Mark Lombardi-Nelson said he's heard the independence rumblings, but doesn't take them seriously.

"We enjoy being part of this system, we enjoy going to football games, and we enjoy being a 'small' school with 'big' school opportunities," said the entrepreneurship and finance junior.

USF Sarasota-Manatee chancellor Arthur Guilford agrees.

"In St. Pete, I have heard that," Guilford said of separation. "In Sarasota? No. … My people are perfectly content and happy to be a part of the USF system. We think the branding we get, in and of itself, from USF is worth everything."

That's got to be music to USF Tampa's ears.

USF spokeswoman Lara Wade-Martinez put it this way: "USF Tampa, USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee are a good team and form a good partnership ­— good for the students and good for our communities."

Even state Sen. Jack Latvala, who during the Polytechnic independence fervor last session said he would be open to exploring the idea at USF St. Petersburg, has softened.

"I do not think it is a good idea at present," Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, wrote in an email. "But I will always continue to monitor how the St. Pete campus fares within the USF system."

Hogarth didn't say who is pushing for independence at St. Petersburg, only that it's mostly people in administration — not students.

Whatever happens, Hogarth said he hopes it's "thought through very carefully."

"It may be easier to get a politician to (legislate the creation of a new university) than to implement it," he said. "With the budget going down every year, you add another university, and that dilutes the money even more. So you've got to raise the funds, but giving is not what it used to be. … Are you going to get more students if you're independent? I think for a while you may not."

At the same time, USF St. Petersburg should have an identity that's distinctive, he said. Students want traditions of their own.

One idea he's heard: a new mascot — perhaps the Bull Sharks, a nod to USF St. Petersburg's waterfront campus.

And he thinks it would be a good idea to have more involvement between students at the different campuses — like friendly fundraising competitions, for instance.

For now, Hogarth said students shouldn't worry about anything but their classes. Even if the powers-that-be decide USF St. Petersburg would do better on its own, he figures it would be years away from actually happening.

"You have to know it's out there," Hogarth said, "but you just keep moving."

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

Comments

More than 400 apply to Pasco technical high school

School choice for 2018-19 is in full swing, and district officials said they’ve been pleased with the interest they’ve seen so far.The window for applying to the district’s magnet schools closed Jan. 12, except for applications for the new Wendell Kr...
Published: 01/18/18
Read the report on the fatal FSU frat party: ‘The most intoxicated’ they had ever been

Read the report on the fatal FSU frat party: ‘The most intoxicated’ they had ever been

"On Nov. 3, 2017, the Tallahassee Police Department responded to 1012 Buena Vista Drive … in reference to a death investigation."So begins a charging document in the case of Andrew Coffey, the 20-year-old Florida State University student who was foun...
Published: 01/18/18
In St. Petersburg, skeptics sneer at plan to concentrate USF power in Tampa

In St. Petersburg, skeptics sneer at plan to concentrate USF power in Tampa

In the state capitol on Wednesday, lawmakers breezed through the bullet points of a higher education bill. They skimmed past a hot-button proposal to consolidate the University of South Florida System into a single university without a peep of pushba...
Published: 01/18/18
Five things to know about teacher pay negotiations in Hillsborough

Five things to know about teacher pay negotiations in Hillsborough

TAMPA — They were hoping to receive between $15 million and $17 million in scheduled pay raises. But the Hillsborough County school district says it can’t afford to give its teachers anywhere near that much, while the teachers say they deserve nothin...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Young Pasco teacher faces cancer with support of students

Young Pasco teacher faces cancer with support of students

NEW PORT RICHEY — At age 28, things were really shaping up for Joel Santos-Gonzalez. Fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a teacher, he had just completed his third year at Gulf Middle School."I always liked to talk to people on an intellectual ...
Published: 01/17/18
Updated: 01/18/18
In Pinellas and beyond, deadlines for school choice are closing in

In Pinellas and beyond, deadlines for school choice are closing in

It’s decision time in Pinellas County and other local school districts as several school choice deadlines are upon us.For Pinellas families who want to apply for a magnet, fundamental or high school career program for the 2018-19 school year, the dea...
Published: 01/17/18
Updated: 01/18/18
For FSU fraternity, a wild night turned tragic

For FSU fraternity, a wild night turned tragic

The night of initiation was the most that the brothers of Florida State University’s Pi Kappa Phi chapter said they had ever seen their pledge class drink.That was the plan, court records said: Pledges would arrive at the fraternity house Nov. 2 and ...
Published: 01/18/18
9 face hazing charges in death of Florida State fraternity pledge

9 face hazing charges in death of Florida State fraternity pledge

TALLAHASSEE — The death of a fraternity pledge from alcohol poisoning has led to hazing charges against nine Florida State University students.State attorney Jack Campbell filed charges on Wednesday in Leon County Court.All nine will be charged with ...
Published: 01/17/18
From the archive: USF St. Petersburg’s long journey to autonomy

From the archive: USF St. Petersburg’s long journey to autonomy

As the Florida Legislature considers undoing the current governance of the University of South Florida by folding the three branches of its system into one entity, here is a look at some Times coverage of the long-running struggle for independence at...
Published: 01/17/18
How a small campus grew into an independent USF St. Petersburg

How a small campus grew into an independent USF St. Petersburg

Just a satellite campus many decades ago, the University of South Florida St. Petersburg has managed to carve out considerable autonomy within the arms of the USF System. But a bill moving through the state House of Representatives could undo its sep...
Published: 01/17/18