USF won another small victory in its battle with the Senate’s proposed budget Thursday, turning legislators’ focus back to the USF Polytechnic split.
As chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, should have celebrated the compromise. Instead, he provided a lesson in sore losing.
USF President Judy Genshaft told the Tampa Bay Times, “a lot of positive progress has been made.” USF’s budget is now expected to be cut by $45 million instead of $79 million, tightening the budget gap with the other 11 universities.
Instead of an unfair cut of $6 million for adopting Polytechnic’s pharmacy program, USF will receive $3 million. Additionally, USF will be given $10 million for costs related to absorbing Polytechnic faculty, with Polytechnic paying for any costs over the allocation.
However, after the budget issue was put to rest, the focus of Thursday’s senate meeting quickly turned not to Poly, but to Alexander and his antics. After fervently pushing for Polytechnic’s independence, many have questioned whether USF’s unequal cuts were Alexander’s way of spiting the University. His continued railing against USF even as he appears to have gotten his way with the branch campus doesn’t bode well for Alexander’s innocence against such claims.
According to the Times, after Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, showed a picture of USF Poly’s new campus in its present state – a dirt field in Lakeland – and asked what the legislators should do about the current students at Polytechnic who hang in limbo, Alexander slammed his fist on the desk and began listing reasons why USF “couldn’t be trusted” to transition Polytechnic into its own accredited university.
Ironically, Alexander called for USF to supervise the split, placing unrealistic deadlines on the University and keeping Genshaft and others uninformed of the process. According to the Times, Alexander recently said that The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools could award accreditation to Poly as early as July. Yet, Genshaft said she couldn’t find any information that would lead him to believe accreditation was possible in a few months when it typically takes three to five years.
Alexander continued his ranting Thursday by calling students at his alma mater, Georgia Tech, “a bunch of nerds” and saying that the current Lakeland students are like a bunch of “University of Florida wannabes.” He even wrapped up this statement by cheering “Go Gators.” If Alexander is trying to create a Polytechnic university in his own image, it certainly does not benefit him to insult the students who might go there.
As if Alexander’s behavior was not already inappropriate for a senator, Thursday’s meeting was only the icing on the cake. When asked if he believes the budget is going to pass through the House and Gov. Rick Scott, who have both expressed disapproval of high and disproportionate cuts, Alexander smugly replied, “I’ve got a pretty good batting record. So, we’ll see.”
If Alexander has any hope of passing the budget bill, he would be wise to keep quiet. Since Alexander has recently said he is open to compromise, there is no reason for him to be carrying on in such an unprofessional way. Poly is soon to be accredited and the budget issue is resolved, so Alexander has gotten his way, after all.