Sunday, December 17, 2017
News Roundup

Florida Polytechnic University trustees hold first meeting

ORLANDO — Florida Polytechnic University is still a long way from opening its doors, but a loose framework for the new school is beginning to take shape.

No tenure, no general education courses and guaranteed local jobs for Florida Poly graduates — those were among the ideas tossed around Wednesday at the first meeting of Florida Poly's Board of Trustees.

Though nothing has been decided, the board members seemed to be in consensus that no idea for Florida's 12th university — which was created during the last legislative session following a months-long political battle — would be off the table.

The meeting, facilitated by the Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the state's 12 public universities, served mostly as an introduction for the new trustees.

They were given history lessons on the governance structure of the state university system and on the evolution of what was once the University of South Florida Polytechnic. They learned about Florida's public record laws and the way Florida's universities are funded.

In their only official action, the trustees chose a chairman and a vice chairman: Robert Gidel, a Windermere resident and member of the University of Florida Foundation board; and Mark Bostick, president of Comcar Industries in Lake Wales and one of the original signers of a letter that started the push for the new university a little over a year ago. Both were appointed to the Poly board by Gov. Rick Scott.

"We have a lot to do in a very short period of time," Gidel said.

The work begins with several logistical hurdles.

The University of South Florida, from which the new university is spinning off, must transfer all resources, contracts and properties once belonging to the USF Polytechnic campus to the new independent university.

Then there's the new campus in Lakeland, where construction has just begun.

Some of the conversation Wednesday involved ideas for different kinds of classrooms — perhaps having more modular, movable rooms, for instance. But whether the construction plan can accommodate those kinds of changes remains to be seen. The project is scheduled to be completed in about two years.

The trustees' main order of business will be to hire a university president. From there, they'll have to hire faculty, build programs, attract students and work toward accreditation.

In other words, it could be a while.

"I stayed up late one night last week worrying," said Poly board member Sandra Featherman, former president of the University of New England, "about how we're going to get accredited, … thinking about the blank slate, thinking about how fast we're going to have to find leadership."

Still, like the others, she characterized that challenge as an opportunity. "I'm excited," she said.

The board plans to meet again within the next few weeks.

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