Genshaft, McKeel pledge Poly job security
Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 06:05
A week made all the difference as USF President Judy Genshaft and Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, announced Monday that Polytechnic employee layoffs will not be imminent.
Ten million dollars were allocated for a teach-out program, which will allow existing Poly students to continue to be taught by USF faculty at the Lakeland campus, in a bill Gov. Rick Scott signed April 20. The bill dissolves USF Polytechnic and creates the state’s 12th public university — Florida Polytechnic University (FPU). The following Monday, a somber Genshaft announced that not all Polytechnic employees could be retained.
But Monday, both Genshaft and McKeel, who helped in crafting the bill that created the new Polytechnic, said employment would be ensured until at least July 1, 2013.
McKeel said the funds needed to cover costs beyond $10 million are already provided for in the language of the bill, and will be covered by FPU.
“I would not have been comfortable supporting a bill that said that 30 days after we passed it, people were going to be laid off,” he said.
USF Polytechnic employs 82 faculty, 140 staff and 135 other employees on Other Personal Service contracts, interim Regional Chancellor David Touchton said.
Genshaft said her misunderstanding of FPU’s role in covering additional costs of the teach-out and an estimated budget of $18 million for full-time employees for next year — the same budget Polytechnic operated on this year — led to her previous announcement.
“I am very pleased that I’ve had discussions with McKeel, and I’ve come to a better understanding,” she said.
Faculty members were informed of their year-long job security in a meeting with Genshaft prior to her public statement and greeted the news with applause, Genshaft said.
McKeel and Genshaft also said construction on the new FPU campus located on Interstate 4 will continue without interruption during the transition. USF and the new FPU Board of Trustees will negotiate exact terms of additional teach out compensation and transition oversight for the new campus’s construction once the new university’s Board of Trustees is chosen.
McKeel said he believes FPU trustee appointments will be made by July 1 — that day USF Polytechnic will cease to exist and fall under the banner of USF Lakeland until the end of the teach out. But those decisions, he said, are ultimately up to Scott and the Board of Governors (BOG), which governs the state’s public universities.
The BOG must appoint five trustees and Scott must appoint six. Two remaining trustee positions are reserved for FPU’s future student body president and its future faculty senate chair.
Genshaft said if trustees are not named by July 1, USF will continue to oversee the construction of FPU’s new campus.
“We’re moving forward in a very positive way,” she said. “We want to be good neighbors with the university, the Florida Polytechnic University.”
In addition to the $33 million in state allocations for fiscal year 2012-13, FPU will assume ownership of USF Polytechnic’s property, facilities and financial holdings.
Genshaft said during the transition, USF will work with Lakeland employees on an individual basis and may begin transitioning in employees to the Tampa campus before July 1, 2013. She said if employees choose to apply for work at FPU, the university will support them, but all employees will otherwise be “welcome at USF.”