State senator accompanies Poly student to disciplinary meeting

A Polytechnic student whose academic career is in possible danger brought a guest to his Monday disciplinary meeting: state Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland.

Michael Nacrelli, a senior majoring in psychology and a member of Student Government (SG) group Poly 5, which was created to gauge student opinion on the Polytechnic split, contacted Dockery after receiving a letter from Dean of Students Jan Lloyd that stated his student status was in question. The letter came after Nacrelli sent emails to other SG members criticizing the actions of Polytechnic administrators and SG officials in proposals to separate from the USF System.

Nacrelli said Lloyd, at first tried to prevent Dockery, who has been a vocal skeptic of the Polytechnic split, from entering the meeting but upon realizing Nacrelli had invited her, did not stop her. However, he said Lloyd did not allow Dockery to speak directly to her or ask her any questions.

Lloyd said to The Oracle she could not comment on the case due to student privacy laws.

Though she wasn’t allowed to speak directly, Nacrelli said he was grateful for Dockery’s presence.

“The way things happen on this campus recently is anything could be said to discredit anybody and being alone is dangerous right now,” he said. “I was concerned (the administration) would try to spin my words and run me out of school by next semester, but they’re not going to be able to do that with (Dockery) as a witness. She’d just tap me on the shoulder and give me guidance to ask for more information so I could defend myself.”

Nacrelli said Lloyd asked him multiple times during the hourlong meeting if he could provide names to defend himself, but Nacrelli said until he knew what exactly he was being accused of, he couldn’t adequately respond.

He still isn’t clear on what he has been charged with.

“(Sen. Dockery pointed out that) in order to defend myself, I needed more information of what they were accusing me of, which they weren’t willing to provide,” he said. “No specific names or specific incidents or times or dates or places were mentioned.”

Nacrelli currently faces “failure to follow instructions” and “disruptive conduct” violations of the student conduct code. Lloyd’s letter said Nacrelli had made several SG members “very uncomfortable” with emails he sent about the possible Polytechnic split, calling the engaged SG president and vice president “lovers” with the potential to act in ways that could “cloud professional judgment,” and criticizing university leaders for purchasing “action figures” and “feeding misinformation to students.”

The letter also said Nacrelli accused USF leaders and SG members of “breaking laws” and was warned by SG Adviser Mark Flynn not to copy other senators on “personal communication.”

Yet, shortly before being summoned to meet with Lloyd, Nacrelli said SG senators were given the opportunity to vote on whether he could remain in SG after missing three meetings. “At that point, the senators could have voted me off legally and quickly if they wanted me off,” he said. “But they didn’t, so who could possibly be accusing me if they voted to keep me on the (Poly 5) Board?”

Nacrelli said Lloyd referred to Flynn, who wrote Nacrelli’s referral to meet with Lloyd, as one who would know the specifics of the case, but he was not present for the meeting.

Flynn, who has worked for Polytechnic for the past five months, said to The Oracle he could not comment on the specifics of the case due to student privacy laws.

Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, who has also questioned the Poly split initiative, said in an interview to The Oracle that the ability to speak on the issue is of utmost importance.

“Students should have every right to speak out – pro or con – on this major policy decision that is being talked about,” he said. “When you have USF students going to Polytech, they should not be told halfway through their tenure, ‘Oh, now we’re going to separate.’ For that reason alone, students have the right to speak out whether they support the direction that Sen. (JD) Alexander and the Chancellor (Goodman) want to take Polytech.”

For now, the disciplinary investigation will continue, but holds on Nacrelli’s student records have been removed.

“It’s a really confusing issue on our campus about what the purpose of us even being there anymore is,” he said. “We’re students who are supposed to be learning, but instead we’re fighting for our lives, credibility and reputations.”

Dockery was unavailable for comment.