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A Times Editorial

A horror flick in the making at USF Poly

Lights! Camera! Hubris!

In a world gone mad with political ego trips, the renegade leaders of Lakeland's University of South Florida Polytechnic want to spend $500,000 in public money on a video series promoting a new-age campus. But not to worry. The boosters expect the DVD to be a hot seller.

This could be the Heaven's Gate of higher education. It is nothing more than an obscenely expensive cinematic tribute to the collective narcissism of USF Poly's impresarios. In the real world, beyond the insolence of USF Poly's Sugar Daddy, powerful state Sen. J.D. Alexander, this self-indulgent promotion should bomb with the taxpayers.

The plan to squander half a million dollars on a three-video ode to the wonders of USF Poly is dubbed "The Calatrava Project" after Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. He is designing a new campus off Interstate 4 in Lakeland. It comes in the wake of a dreamy $140,000, two-minute, 51-second 3D video Calatrava produced for USF Poly that's now on YouTube and looks more like an outtake from Lord of the Rings. By contrast, USF's main campus in Tampa only spent $200,000 on branding efforts in the past year. Or put another way, USF Poly is spending more to hype itself than the $400,000 used to produce Napoleon Dynamite.

USF Poly's cavalier approach in indulging itself with grossly inflated costs to create unnecessary videos is a cautionary tale about all that is wrong with its quest to spin off as Florida's 12th state university. If USF Poly's spendthrift patrons, regional chancellor Marshall Goodman and Alexander, can't keep expenses in check to produce three short videos, what does it say about their ability to exercise prudent stewardship in overseeing the design and construction of the campus?

The dubious plot of "The Calatrava Project" isn't about advancing higher education in Florida and making the most of the state's modest financial resources. This is a monument to the ballooning egocentrism of the institution's primary rainmakers, Goodman and Alexander, who are the real stars of this academic horror story.

A horror flick in the making at USF Poly 10/19/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 5:46pm]
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