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UF president expresses support for independent Poly

Another Florida university stepped into USF Polytechnic conversations Monday afternoon.

State Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said last week he was ready to propose legislation that would move USF Polytechnic from the USF System to the University of Florida (UF) umbrella, because he felt USF System leaders showed a “lack of cooperation” in allowing Polytechnic to split.

UF President Bernie Machen said Monday in an email that he would be willing to support Polytechnic’s quest for independence because he does “not endorse the branch-campus model of research universities,” according to an article in The Lakeland Ledger.

Though USF does not support the proposal, University spokesman Michael Hoad said it may have no say in the matter.

“Clearly, we think that’s a bad idea,” he said. “But it wouldn’t be our decision (to make). That would be somebody else’s decision – much like the other decisions made along the line. It would be up to the Florida Legislature.”

During the last fiscal year, USF Polytechnic was the only Florida campus to receive capital funds from the state. Gov. Rick Scott approved $35 million for the Phase I stage of their growth proposed by the Higher Education Appropriations Committee, which is overseen by the Senate Budget Committee chaired by Alexander.

Hoad said at this point the situation is too hypothetical to know whether the Polytechnic campus would owe anything to the USF System.

“This is sort of a discussion in the air where J.D. says one thing and the UF president is reacting to something in the air,” he said. “Until you see it on paper, you don’t know what it means and what UF is actually willing to do when they say they’re willing to help.”

Hoad said it does not surprise him that Machen said he’s willing to help.

“The problem is Bernie Machen said he would help, but he doesn’t say specifically what it is he would agree to do,” he said. “Since there’s no legislation that has been written, he’s not looking at a piece of legislation.”

Earlier last week, Alexander sent a letter to the Board of Governors (BOG) accusing USF System leaders of unfairly misleading the BOG against an independent Polytechnic and requested the BOG investigate the actions and expenditures of USF leaders.

BOG spokeswoman Kelly Layman said the BOG is still reviewing the letter and will be in contact with USF President Judy Genshaft, who has denied the claims.

Alexander and Machen could not be reached for comment.

-Reporting by Divya Kumar