Polytechnic committee moves forward with independence

After the initial sting from a flurry of angry letterssubsided, USF and Board of Governors (BOG) leadersdiscussed the steps necessaryto move forward with creatingan independent Polytechnic campus.

The BOG selectcommittee on USF Polytechnic met Thursday in Orlando to discuss accreditation and the search for a new regionalchancellor. USF President JudyGenshaft, who remainedrelatively quiet during the meeting, came under harsh criticism earlier this month after she decided to demote former Regional Chancellor Marshall Goodman to teaching faculty.

Former BOG chairwomanAva Parker wrote a publicletter to the Tampa Bay Times on Jan. 4, sayingGenshaft’smove left BOG members “in the dark” and created”tension” and “unnecessary friction.”

A day before the meeting, two state senators came toGenshaft’sdefense.

Sens. MikeFasano(R-New Port Richey) and Paula Dockery (R-Lakeland), who called for a financial audit of Polytechnic last year, sent a letter to Parker calling her letter in the Times a”kneejerkreaction” to political pressures and requesting she correct her statements. Parker has yet to respond.

Thursday’s meeting tooka somber tone as allattendees pledged theircommitment to Polytechnic’sfuture independence.

“Our purpose here is a very narrow mandate by the Board of Governors,”chairman MoriHosseinisaid. “The mandate is for us to commit tocollaboration between the USF Board and itsadministration, and at the endof the day, assuming that allof the criteria are met, that we have a12th university. That is the mandate that has been given to us and we are very serious about this mandate.”

State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan echoedHosseini’ssentiments of solidarity.

“The people surrounding this table are going to put their best effort forward to make surethe motion that waspassed by the Board of Governors some weeks ago becomes a reality,” he said. “Today is an importantstatement that we are going to do this together.”

The committee will meet quarterly to govern theprogress of the benchmarks to secede set by the BOG in November.

Polytechnic Vice Chancellor JudithPonticellsaid theuniversity was on track to receive separate Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) accreditation, as stipulated by the BOG. The process is expected to take three years, she said, and “only SACS knows” what it will be looking for.

Genshaftsaid the search for a new regionalchancellor was underway, and the new position would offer a salary between $250,000 and $300,000.

The decision should be made within the next four to six months, she said.

DavidTouchton,Polytechnic’s interimchancellor, said Polytechnic would continue tocooperate with the BOG in working towardindependence.

“I look at you all aspartners, and I look at USF as apartner,” he said. “We aregoing to be inclusive. We’re looking at today and tomorrow. We have tocontinue educating ourstudents, but we’ve got these benchmarks to meet.”

USF Board of Trusteesmember Brian Lambsaid a priority of thecommittee, which will next meet in April, will be to ensure that politics subside.

“We need to eliminate any perception that there isnot collaboration,” he said.