Florida Poly trustees meet for first time; start state's first STEM university

9:50 PM, Aug 1, 2012   |    comments
  • Share
  • Print
  • - A A A +

ORLANDO, Florida -- The state's 12th university has no students, no faculty, and no campus yet, but the future STEM institution in Lakeland is a step closer to having its first president.  But starting with a clean slate may be harder than first thought.

The Board of Trustees (BOT) for Florida Polytechnic University met for the first time Wednesday morning at the Hyatt Regency at Orlando International Airport.  The eight trustees - half of whom were selected by Gov. Rick Scott, and the other half by the BOG - will be tasked with starting the new university from the ground-up.

TIMELINE: 10 News' Florida Poly coverage

However, among the handful of people in the audience was Cindy Alexander, the wife of controversial State Sen. JD Alexander.  She was joined by ousted USF-Poly administrator Alice Murray.  In June, 10 News broke the story of how the two women were trying to influence decisions at the new university.

When 10 News approached Cindy Alexander Wednesday, she turned around and walked away without saying a word.  When Murray saw the camera, she made sure to exit out another door.

Chancellor Frank Brogan said it may take some time, but it's important for everyone to move past the conflicts and get behind the new school - and the law that created it.

Florida's Board of Governors (BOG) chairman, Dean Colson, and BOG member Mori Hosseini greeted the new Florida Poly trustees with suggestions to "think outside the box."  They also reiterated Gov. Scott's enthusiasm for the new STEM-focused institution.

Hosseini also briefly acknowledged that creating a 12th state university wasn't the most popular decision, but that a law was passed to create the school and both the BOG and Poly trustees needed to make the most of the opportunity.

"We need 100% of the community behind this," Hosseini said during a break in the meeting.  "It will be an economic bonanza (for Polk County)."

Fellow BOG member Norm Tripp reminded Poly trustees to keep state legislators on their side.

"It's the 'Golden Rule,'" Tripp said of the habits of lawmakers.  "They have the gold; and they do rule."

The trustees, many of whom had never met, introduced themselves to each other and the present members of the BOG.  Trustee Sandra Featherman, the former president of New England College, admitted the task of seeking accreditation for Poly in "just" 18 months was a daunting task.  But she was also one of many who expressed her excitement for the possibilities.

"This is unprecedented," added Brogan.  "The unbelievable and dynamic charge is to create something from absolutely nothing...and do it in a way we thought it ought to be done (and) a way that's never been done before. There's not a corporation in the state of Florida that boasts a board as good as this one."

While Gov. Scott still has two more trustees to appoint and the BOG has one (all trustees need to be confirmed by the Legislature in 2013), no more appointments are expected anytime soon. 

The eight trustees named so far will begin the task of starting Florida Polytechnic.  They voted trustee Robert Gidel their chair and Polk County's Mark Bostick their vice chair.  The board indicated it would re-convene later this month.

Once Florida Poly opens, possibly as soon as the fall of 2013, a faculty representative and a student representative will also join the Board of Trustees, bringing the total number of members to 13.  However, most trustees seemed skeptical of the 2013 goal.

Also discussed Wednesday were the possibility of not offering tenure, whether to offer free tuition to the first students on-campus, and if the university will offer four years worth of education at first or just two (either Freshman/Sophomore or Junior/Senior).

TIMELINE: 10 News' Florida Poly coverage

Find 10 News Investigator Noah Pransky on Facebook or follow his updates on Twitter. Send your story tips to noah@wtsp.com.

Most Watched Videos