Governor Rick Scott has signed a bill creating Florida Polytechnic, giving the former USF Poly independence from the University of South Florida system.
With the signing, Florida Polytechnic becomes a standalone, new university in Polk County. Scott approved Senate Bill 1994 on Friday afternoon, technically creating the new school.
If he had vetoed the bill, USF Poly would have remained in the USF system, according to The Lakeland Ledger. If no action was taken by Saturday, the bill would have matriculated into law.
Florida Poly will be the state of Florida's 12th public university. Florida Poly will be officially established July 1.
The move was expected as Scott left $33 million budgeted for a new Florida Poly in the budget he approved Monday, The Ledger reported.
USF president Genshaft responds to Poly split
Immediately following the announcement of governor's signing the bill, USF President Dr. Judy Genshaft held a press conference in downtown Tampa to address the split. Genshaft said USF now has the direction in which it can move:
"We now have a decision and there is great relief in knowing the direction that we can all move. The University of South Florida is relieved and we are very grateful that our students, our faculty and our staff are going to be taken care of under this bill."
Florida Democratic Party condemns Scott's signing bill
Florida Democratic Party spokeswoman Brannon Jordan issued the following statement condemning Scott for "signing a bill to create a Polytechnic University in Lakeland" and called it "a pet project of Lake Wales State Sen. JD Alexander:
“This move is nothing more than an appalling and wasteful power play by the Republicans in Tallahassee. The people of Florida didn’t ask for this university, they don’t need it and can’t afford it.”
Tampa Rep. Castor responds to Gov. signing bill
In a statement released Friday night, Tampa U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor said she urged Scott last week to veto the planned split:
"Governor Scott's decision will harm existing Florida universities and students. The governor's costly decision follows the GOP-controlled legislature's extreme cuts to higher education and will result in more crowded classrooms and possible damage to Florida's reputation. Great universities are built over time with student, faculty and community support. Unfortunately, Governor Scott turned a blind eye to the best interests of our great state."
Students, faculty awaited Scott's decision
Faculty, staff and students of USF Polytechnic were waiting nervously as Gov. Rick Scott decided if he would sign the bill that would drastically change their campus.
Watching and waiting - that's all USF Poly students could do Thursday and Friday.
"We [were] just holding our breath, wondering which way the coin is going to fall," Student Government President Damon Dennis said. "Really we feel it is 50-50."
Industrial engineering student Brad Hopson had mixed feelings about the bill.
"I think the new school would be a good idea, but starting it suddenly wouldn't be such a great idea," he said. The new school would cause him some logistical problems, he added. "I've got a full-time job, and I live 50 miles south of here, and if I had to go to Tampa, that would pretty much be undoable."
Faculty and staff are still left wondering about what all this means for their jobs.