USF St. Petersburg regional chancellor resigns

Failure to execute Irma preparations leads to the resignation of USFSP regional chancellor.

Regional Chancellor of the USF St. Petersburg campus, Sophia Wisniewska resigned on Monday after System President Judy Genshaft was highly critical of her handling of campus evacuations before Hurricane Irma.

The point of contention stems from a series of emails between Genshaft and Wisniewska leading up to Hurricane Irma’s arrival to the St. Pete area. It was in the email chain that Wisniewska alluded to being on campus and overseeing hurricane preparations. But in reality, she was hundreds of miles away in Atlanta.

“As I walked around the USFSP campus, I heard more birds chirping than students talking," Wisniewska said in an email to Genshaft. "All quiet before the storm."

Genshaft called her absence “an intolerable safety risk” in a draft termination letter. As a result of the resignation agreement, the letter of termination was never officially filed and fault was not placed on either party.

Wisniewska stood by her comments and said her actions did not support grounds for termination.

"I strongly reject any question of my leadership during Irma and my leadership during my tenure at USFSP," Wisniewska said via text message with a Tampa Bay Times reporter Monday night. "Certainly, I did nothing to warrant firing…I resigned this evening without hard feelings and with optimism for the future. My only regret is that I was unable to achieve all of our goals for USFSP."

Genshaft said the reason for the dismissal of Wisniewska was primarily a competency issue.

"I expect a competent regional chancellor to be able to process this weather information and respond to the evolving emergency,” Genshaft said in the draft termination letter on Monday. "The issue here is not legal authority; it is leadership competence in an emergency situation."

Lara Wade, a university spokeswoman, said the university would not comment further on personnel issues.