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Plans to create 12th state university could be in trouble

A few wrenches have been thrown into the plan to create Florida’s 12th state university. For example, not enough people are applying to be members of Florida Polytechnic University’s Board of Trustees and the cost of constructing the standalone university is over budget.

The plan is to convert the Lakeland campus of the University of South Florida into Florida Polytechnic University.

A few days after Governor Rick Scott signed a bill into law that would create the new university, he cited a few reasons as to why it's a good idea.

“I believe that there’s a big need and a big opportunity to continue to grow, and it basically follows what the Board of Governors already approved,” said Scott.

The Board of Governors had approved a plan to transition Polytech into a new university, but that plan would have taken years. Senate Budget Chief JD Alexander later lobbied the Governor to sign the bill on the basis that the university would churn out graduates with Science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM degrees. Now under the law, a new public university will be created at the beginning of July.

The date, which is about a month away, doesn’t give a select committee of the Board of Governors much time to get things done, now that there’s an expedited timeline for what some say is “unchartered territory.”

“We’ve never been here before in this exact circumstance,” said Frank Brogan, the Chancellor of the Florida Board of Governors.

He took part in a meeting Wednesday where a special committee got an update on how things are going for Polytech.

“There are serious disadvantages to the position we find ourselves in that we have no President, No staff, no students, no accreditation, and as of yet, no standalone on-site facilities. Having said that, one of the great advantages that we enjoy is that we have no President, No staff, no students, no accreditation, no standalone on-site facilities. The opportunities here, are right now, totally endless,” Brogan said.

Those opportunities might be endless, if the new school had aBoard of Trustees----which Polytech doesn’t have right now. The deadline to apply for that board is the end of May. Some are chosen by the Board of Governors and some by the Governor. But, with only a week to go, the Board of Governors General Counsel Vikki Shirley told the panel that very few people had applied.

“The deadline for the applications is May 31st. I repeat the deadline for the applications is May 31st, and we don’t have enough applicants to fill our vacancies,” said Shirley

The law requires eleven people on the Trustees board, but with time running out, special panel chair Mori Hosseini says more time may be needed.

“So, we have to interview the people that apply individually, then we need to get together again, to get our board, this is going to take time. This is going to take time for us to get the best,” said Hosseini.

Another potential snag in the plan is the construction for the initial phase of building the new university. University of South Florida’s Chief Operating officer and Senior Vice President John Long told the panel that the money needed to complete the first part of the construction project is not all there.

“Right now, we can account for, we have 99 million in hand. Total shortfall right now is anywhere between 11 and 14 million. I still need to refine some numbers,” said Long.

Some ideas the committee is looking into to make up the shortfall is fundraising throughout the community. The panel also intends to rely on the University of Florida for its expertise as an advisor throughout the process.

The full Board of Governors is expected to hold a special meeting sometime soon to discuss updates from the panel as well as the panel’s recommendations. Polytech is expected to become a university July 1st.


As of 4:30 p.m. 5/25/12, The List of Board of Trustees Applicants: Board of Governors

           Bach, Tim  J.                              (Apopka, FL)                        

           Brown, Joshua Keith**           (Auburndale, FL)               

           Cloud, Thomas Alexander      (Orlando, FL)

           English,  Robert   F.                 (Lakeland, FL)                 

           Hallion, Jr Richard Paul         (Shalimar, FL)           

           Scaringe, Robert Peter            (Rockledge, FL)         

           Shaheen, Richard Labib**      (Jupiter, FL)        

As of 11:30 a.m. 5/23/12, The List of Board of Trustees Applicants: Governor's                     

          Cloud, Thomas Alexander***    (Orlando, FL)     

          Henne, Bob                                   (Lakeland, FL)                   

          Nitschke, Dennis                         (Lakeland, FL)               

          Scaringe, Robert Peter***         (Rockledge, FL)            

          Overstreet, Don                           (Mulberry, FL)


**new applicants since May 23rd meeting 

***applied for Board of Trustees positions through both Governor's office and Board of Governors


Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.