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USF Polytechnic’s new campus plans are unrealistic

Published: Sunday, October 16, 2011

Updated: Monday, October 17, 2011 00:10

On top of pursuing its already dubious decision to separate from the USF System, the USF Polytechnic campus is also going ahead with its plans to build a new multimillion dollar new campus.

Should the split be finalized, the school's accreditation may be jeopardized and future Polytechnic graduates will no longer receive a USF degree or the brand recognition that goes with it. But, they will have the honor of attending one of the strangest campuses in the country.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, the new campus was designed by world-famous architect Santiago Calatrava and is estimated to cost $90 million to $100 million in its initial stages. The project is unrealistic, and even if Poly succeeds in severing ties with USF, it should be reconsidered.

Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) and New College both successfully split with USF in the past, but under more favorable circumstances, and even they could not have afforded such a grandiose undertaking. After New College split from USF, its 2001-02 budget was only $11.1 million, and FGCU had a 1997-98 budget of $45.6 million after emerging from USF Fort Myers, according to an Oct. 11 Oracle article.

USF Polytechnic has enough money to build the first building, but not to complete the campus infrastructure, according to the Times.

Calatrava's services don't come cheap, either. His fees run at $7.44 million, according to the Times, and the campus paid $140,000 for a three-minute YouTube video giving a virtual tour of the new campus.

When the plans were officially announced in 2009, Calatrava said, "I see this university as a city, a science city where people go not only to learn, but also to work, to create new technologies, new techniques."

The YouTube video shows futuristic silver buildings surrounding a large lake. The flowing shapes look more like spaceships than an institute of higher education and one end of the campus is dominated by a huge golden spire. The centerpiece of the campus will be the Science and Technology building, which could be two football fields long and feature retractable ceilings, according to the Times.

The Board of Governors will decide at their Nov. 9-10 meeting whether to approve the separation. At this point, it may be a bad idea to make the Polytechnic campus stay, when they so clearly want to split with the USF System.

Yet with only about 1,300 students, the split would do little to help the small campus meet its lofty architectural plans. Even if Poly won't reconsider the split, they should think twice about Calatrava's "science city."

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