The Florida Board of Governors (BOG), which oversees the 11 Florida public universities, will decide today whether to make USF Polytechnic the 12th or delay their decision.
Students from each USF System campus are expected to attend the meeting, which will take place at Florida Atlantic University, to oppose the split.
USF Tampa student body president Matt Diaz announced his initiative to provide transportation to the BOG meeting during the Oct. 24 Student Government (SG) Senate meeting. He said there will be student representation from all four USF campuses opposing the possible separation.
Student Government Association President of USF Polytechnic Kathryn Bevilacqua could not immediately be reached for comment.
“It was time for the students to have a voice, and there was no way I can just let Kathryn be the only one out there bearing the burden,” Diaz said. “As student body president, it was imperative for me to step up and really rally the entire system.”
SG Director of Governmental Affairs Lindsay Lewis, a senior majoring in political science, said in an email to The Oracle that 42 students from the Tampa and St. Petersburg campuses were planning to travel from the Tampa campus as of Tuesday evening.
“(Katherine) should be getting speaking rights,” Diaz said. “I know my own opinions articulated to the board by our student Board of Governors representative Michael Long from New College, but more so, our students will be there in a passive silent role showing that we are united.”
Student body president of the Sarasota-Manatee campus Rebecca Gutherz said she will be the only student from her campus attending the BOG meeting. After the campus received its separate accreditation over the summer, she said, Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, suggested in August the Sarasota-Manatee campus separate and there was confusion among students.
“We just got separate accreditation, which means we can now hire our own faculty and staff and they don’t have to be hired through Tampa anymore and we can also choose our own programs,” she said. “However, we have no intention of separating and some people have gotten that confused. (Bennett) thought it sounded like a good idea, but there is no talk about it becoming separated and he actually said later on that he was mistaken when saying that, because we love being a part of the USF System.”
Student body president Courtney Parish of St. Petersburg could not immediately be reached for comment.
Former Winter Haven Mayor Jeffrey Potter, who was one of the signees of the letter initially recommending the split, said in an interview with The Oracle he still supports the split.
“I think in order for the total success, the independence at this point and time is a positive move that the university system should seriously consider,” he said.
Potter said recent reports on Polytechnic’s spending – including $10,000 on sci-fi character sculptures and $500,000 on a three-part documentary based on the construction of its campus – shouldn’t be deciding factors for the BOG.
“To me, this is a more effective use of that type of money to bring an atmosphere, if you will, so that high-tech individuals and companies, that when they do relax they, relax in their own manner,” he said. “I have faith that they are going to make a decision that’s based on the best needs and the requirements at this time that the Board of Governors think is adequate.”
Victor Story, President of citrus management entities Story Companies was also one of the signees, and said in an interview with The Oracle he too remains a supporter of the split.
“My oldest daughter went to the University of Central Florida when it was relatively new,” he said. “There was very little infrastructure around it at that time. The growth projected (for) Polytechnic is about the same as what did occur at UCF. I did talk with some of the Board of Governors – they were very gracious. They said that we would have a fair hearing … I believe there will be a lot of questions answered and a lot of questions asked. It’s my hope and prayer that we will have a 12th university.”