Poly faculty integration to begin
Published: Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 02:05
By June 30, all faculty members at USF’s closed Polytechnic campus will be placed in a department within the USF System.
The state bill that brought about the closing of the Lakeland branch campus and the formation of Florida’s 12th public university, Florida Polytechnic University, provides USF with a minimum of a $10 million, five-year teach-out plan by which USF can ensure that all existing students at the branch campus are able to complete their degrees from Lakeland. But USF administrators expect the process to take less than five years.
“We’re operating under a three-year timeline,” Senior Vice Provost Dwayne Smith said. “It’s possible it will take (more than that), but it is not likely.” According to USF InfoMart, as of Fall 2011, the Lakeland campus hosted 84 faculty and 1,326 graduate and undergraduate students across 13 departments. Of the students, 43 were non-degree seeking, 185 were graduate students, and the rest were undergraduates — 703 seniors, 381 juniors, three sophomores and five freshmen.
As the students graduate, USF Tampa faculty could start seeing the integration of Lakeland faculty as early as next semester.
“The way it will work is that we’re committed to doing onsite courses as well as Internet courses, and the Lakeland faculty will be largely responsible for that, but we could have some integration where Tampa faculty could be teaching at Lakeland if that works for them and we could have Lakeland faculty teaching courses here in Tampa,” Smith said. “That’s going to be a gradual process. This first year will be full of challenges, but we hope to have things fully laid out and in place by this time next year.”
Smith said USF is operating under the assumption that the $10 million in teach-out money will eventually become a recurring part of USF’s base budget to sustain the newly integrated faculty, but USF doesn’t expect all Lakeland faculty to stay with the university.
“We’re fairly candid,” he said. “We feel that some people from Lakeland may not stay here. A lot of them were drawn to the former Polytechnic specifically because of its vision and being a part of the Tampa campus was not what they had in mind as a part of their careers. I think others will welcome the opportunity.”
Elizabeth Bird, Faculty Advisory Council representative on the Board of Trustees, said most faculty members were receptive to the idea.
“However people feel about the whole Lakeland fiasco, as far as individuals and colleagues, I think there’s a lot of empathy for the Lakeland faculty,” she said. “I think people really feel for them and are happy to ease the transition.”
The one concern some faculty had, she said, was whether the integration of Lakeland faculty would affect departments’ abilities to hire new faculty from outside USF.
“There’s not a lot of hiring with all the budget cuts, so when you do get a chance, if you do get a chance to bring in new faculty, departments want full autonomy to hire them,” she said.
Smith said USF hopes to respect the departments plans for hiring new faculty.
“Right now, the way we’re treating it is that this is a significant infusion of resources,” he said. “But those departments still have hiring plans for themselves, and we want to stick to those plans to the extent possible. But some of those plans could be altered just by the fact that they’re having new faculty come in.”
But the majority of the 2,074 faculty on the Tampa campus will be largely unaffected by the changes, and even those who are will likely be affected minimally, Bird said.
“Each department that is receiving people won’t receive very many — most likely around one or two,” she said. “For the majority of faculty, it’s probably not going to make any difference.”