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Universities board begins daunting task of creating new university

Posted May 23, 2012 by Lindsay Peterson

Updated May 23, 2012 at 01:01 PM

State Sen. Evelyn Lynn made a statement when she proposed the bill this year that closes the USF Poly campus and takes its budget to create a new university from scratch in Lakeland.

All it does is put a state Board of Governors plan into law, she said.

Everyone knew it wasn’t quite that simple. And that became harshly clear today at a meeting of the board committee monitoring creation of the new university.

The board voted in November to make USF Poly an independent university after it had met several benchmarks, including achieving academic accreditation for the campus and constructing the first campus building on its new location on Interstate 4.

It put USF in charge of the transition.

But the Legislature had a different idea. Pushed by state Sen. JD Alexander, it voted to establish the independent university immediately.

The board respects that, university system Chancellor Frank Brogan said this morning, but it’s important “to make certain people understand that the new route that we will be following is complex….

“We had a course that was charted, we were following that chart….We now are taking a different approach to that end, but it’s not as simple as shifting into another gear.”

Nearly every day, the people working to set up this new university are finding new complexities, he said.

For instance, USF’s connection to the new university officially ends on June 30. After that, who’s in charge?

Theoretically a new board of trustees would take over, but the committee also got the news today that the Board of Governors has five positions to fill on this new board and it’s received only four applications.

The governor has six spots to fill and his office has received five applications. Two of those people also applied to the Board of Governors, so only seven people have applied to fill 11 spots.

If this were any other Florida university, the board would have 40 comers by now and probably be looking for more, said Mori Hosseini, chairman of the Board of Governors’ new university committee.

Picking a new board is a crucial job and “unbelievably time consuming,” Hosseini said.

It could take one week, two weeks, five weeks or more, he said.

So who runs the new Poly if June 30 comes and goes with no board in place?

Who hires the faculty? Who sets up the first programs, so crucial to attracting top student? Who manages the ongoing construction on I-4?

Or will the first few applicants get the nod, just to meet the demand that this university get up and running fast?

The board is trying to work out some of these complexities at its meeting today with USF and UF, which has been given a role in the new university.

Pass the Tums.

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