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USF Lakeland loses its chief as campus prepares for closure, student “teach-out”
Posted Jun 27, 2012 by Lindsay Peterson
Updated Jun 27, 2012 at 06:36 PM
USF Lakeland interim executive David Touchton says his greatest skill is knowing when to leave. And now seems to be the time.
He had a chat with USF President Judy Genshaft this week about his future and the two decided that as the campus moves into its “teach-out” phase, it’s time for new leadership, according to a letter from Genshaft to Touchton.
Kathleen Moore, USF associate vice president, has been named to work directly with the faculty and administrators who will help the remaining Lakeland students finish up their studies.
Touchton, a USF alumni, said on Wednesday that he was proud of what he accomplished and content to leave. The task at hand calls for an academic expert, he said.
He’s sad, however, that Lakeland is losing its ties to USF, he said.
Controversy has roiled the campus since state Sen. JD Alexander, a Lakeland Republican, began pushing to make it an independent university.
In November, the state Board of Governors voted to grant independence after the campus, then called USF Polytechnic, achieved accreditation and met several other benchmarks.
The next month Genshaft dismissed then-Chancellor Marshall Goodman, who’d joined the independence push and was under scrutiny for several of his spending decisions. She put Touchton, a certified public accountant, in charge.
The decision irked Alexander because Touchton had led an effort to put the brakes on any drive toward splitting Poly from USF.
Touchton then laid off several people, the first of many steps that cut about $4 million from the campus budget. Soon Alexander began pushing a bill to close the Lakeland campus and immediately start a new university in Lakeland. Alexander led the Senate Budget Committee.
With the USF Lakeland budget going to the new university, the bill that passed included provisions for the roughly 1,100 USF Lakeland students to finish up their studies in Lakeland or another USF campus.
The “teach-out” plan will cost the state up to $18 million a year.
“There couldn’t be a more perfect person than Dr. Kathleen Moore” to handle the transition, Touchton said.
He said he was ready to focus on the local companies he runs and called his time at USF “a very big chapter in my diary.”