Polytechnic jobs uncertain as budget slashed
Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 24, 2012 00:04
USF President Judy Genshaft was forced to be the bearer of bad news Monday, when she visited USF Polytechnic after a bill signed by Gov. Rick Scott Friday effectively shut down the branch campus.
“We will not be able to hire every single person,” Genshaft said to a group of faculty and staff, according to the Lakeland Ledger. “There is no longer a University of South Florida Lakeland campus budget.”
In February, Genshaft had assuaged faculty, staff and student concerns about the security of their institution, but she said Monday that many questions still remain as to what the coming days will bring. USF is required to transfer all assets to the newest university in the state system, the four-day-old Florida Polytechnic University that currently has no students, faculty or staff, but appropriated $33 million in state funds as of July 1.
During the past year, USF Polytechnic operated on an $18 million budget. The Legislature granted USF a recurring $10 million for a teach out program that would allow all students to be instructed at the existing facility by USF professors until they graduate.
“Faculty are fine ... They are now USF faculty and will continue to teach those students,” USF spokesman Michael Hoad said in an email to The Oracle. “The students will be able to get a USF degree, fully accredited. We’ll work with staff individually over time to find the best solutions, though nothing is guaranteed. Many may transition to the new Florida Polytechnic University. The Legislature didn’t give us enough money to keep the campus running at full speed, because the intent was that it would be phased out.”
USF’s United Faculty of Florida Faculty (UFF) union spokesman Greg McColm said the threat of insecurity is a good reminder of the importance of contracts.
“The United Faculty of Florida is very concerned about the situation and watching it carefully.” he said. “However, statements and even promises made publicly are typically not legally binding. That is why the United Faculty of Florida bargains and enforces a contract: When something like this happens, the UFF can see that the contract is abided by, and if it is violated, the UFF can take appropriate legal action.”
McColm said despite the budget cuts that came as a “massive amputation with trauma of a major unit of the USF system.” USF Polytechnic employees deserve to be protected and guaranteed job security.
“For USF Poly employees, the USF System should use all means available to place them, and for those employees in the UFF USF bargaining unit, the United Faculty of Florida insists that their contractual rights be respected,” he said. “And for all of us, we should assist our USF Poly colleagues.”
Though it was too early to predict whether USF would maintain any presence in Lakeland after the teach out, Hoad said what remained clear and final was the governor’s verdict last week.
“USF Polytechnic no longer exists,” he said. “It’s now USF in Lakeland until the students are complete.”