Community weighs in on possible Poly split

When Grant Von Leue entered the USF Polytechnic campus as a freshman in 2007, he planned to graduate as a Bull.

Yet, pending the outcome of a September meeting of the Board of Governors (BOG), the Lakeland branch of the USF system may become a separate entity – something Von Leue, a senior majoring in biomedical sciences, said he hopes will not affect his final year of college.

“That’s good that they would have that independent ability, but I kind of fear that maybe it would lose that big state name and the funding that they’ve had before and that reputation of being USF,” he said. “If this were to happen before I leave Polytechnic, I imagine I would probably go to the (Tampa campus).”

Von Leue is not the only one who would be affected by the potential split.

According to the school’s website, students and employees would not be able to participate in USF athletic programs or events, use USF resources, join USF organizations or take classes on the other three USF campuses – located in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee. The school would also have to restructure its tuition system and find new sources of income for its budget.

“I have a bunch of friends who go to USF (Tampa),” Von Leue said. “I enjoy going to all of the games. I’m here in Lakeland, but I still do a lot of stuff over in Tampa. It’s my school.”

Jesse Jackson, superintendent of the Lake Wales Charter School System, said community leaders met in July to discuss education initiatives in the area, giving birth to discussions of separating Polytechnic from USF.

A letter signed by 30 Polk County leaders, including Jackson, was sent to BOG chairwoman Ava Parker outlining the benefits of a split. The BOG will meet Sept. 14-15 at Florida International University to address the initiative with USF President Judy Genshaft and Polytechnic Chancellor Marshall Goodman.

Jackson said he doesn’t know if students who attend the college were surveyed about the split. However, a Polytechnic employee who wished to remain anonymous said a meeting was held in early July to inform employees of the letter.

According to a notice, the USF Polytechnic Campus Board has scheduled a public meeting to discuss the ramifications of a split at 12:30 p.m. Thursday in Lakeland Technology Building Room 2117 on the Polytechnic campus. Board members are elected by the Board of Trustees.

Jackson said he can’t speak for the Polytechnic campus, but from a community perspective, the split would help stimulate the economy.

“Obviously, we are selfish in our pursuits because we’re looking at initiatives that are going to build our community and make our community a great community,” he said. “We certainly know that education is sort of a very critical piece in that. We were talking about a lot of possibilities for this local community and the importance of education in that … especially in the STEM areas (which Polytechnic specializes in).”