UPDATE after the bump (10:35 AM central – Saturday)
USF Poly Tech is in Senator Paula Dockery’s home town. From the start, Dockery knew that JD Alexander’s desire for an independent Poly Tech was a bad idea. But Dockery must be appalled by the crony capitalism that delivered Alexander his little fiefdom, and Rick Scott’s role in the unseemly episode is looking more unseemly as events unfold. Dockery writes about an ongoing conversation she had with a UF student on Facebook in a Florida Voices column:
It arrived a week before Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill separating USF Poly into a separate 12th university, without ever giving its 1,300 students and 100 faculty members the courtesy of a meeting.
Despite overwhelming opposition, the governor said he signed the bill because “the primary mission of educating students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) will be vital to our economy in the years to come.”
My young Facebook friend, who’s pursuing a degree in mathematics and biomedical engineering at UF, had a different take on the state’s investment in science and technology education: “I’m watching Dean (Cammy) Abernathy getting annihilated in a student town hall meeting about budget cuts to UF College of Engineering. She is looking bad. Also a lot of the information discussed about the state Legislature is unclear.”
I explained the cuts are the result of the legislature’s poor decision to cut $300 million from our existing 11 universities. Considering the state’s new emphasis on STEM education, it’s a shortsighted move to cut the budget for UF’s College of Engineering.
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He responded with a link to an online petition sent to Abernathy, signed by 8,105 people. It said the dean had proposed eliminating all graduate and research activity from UF’s Computer and Information Science and Engineering department. The department has more than 600 bachelor students, 400 masters students, 130 PhD students and 32 tenure-track faculty.
How ironic that the governor who wants to stress STEM education is putting at risk Florida’s most established, accredited, research university — with more than 1,000 students in CISE — by approving a $300 million cut to state universities, while defending the creation of a 12th university that has no accreditation or students.
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After the governor signed the bill creating Florida Polytech, my young Facebook friend sent another message: “After all of the USF Poly and CISE nonsense, I feel as if money is a much greater factor in decision making at the top than logic or the general welfare of the people. My solution = Get very wealthy one day and support the logical and genuine political candidates.”
Out of the mouths of babes. Governor, you got some ‘splaining to do.
At the very least, this Scott-Alexander stunt has become a demonstrable example of how potential STEM grads lost their opportunity to establish another school. The numbers in the UF example are staggering – especially when measured against the zero that Alexander’s new school will produce in the beginning. Among Scott’s cuts, too, were start-up costs for FAMU’s new pharmacy school in Crestview.
Scott’s gutless choice not to even meet with the students and faculty who opposed the change was despicable enough. He’ll probably use another lame “I wasn’t aware of opposition” excuse. Scott’s decision to meet Alexander’s group that included disgraced former USF PolyTech chancellor Marshall Goodman, lowered the status of the office to that of a 1940’s Mafia Don granting favors on the day of his daughter’s wedding.
UPDATE: Looks like the Tampa Bay Times agrees.