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Education

Weatherford: FL Poly Could Be Satellite, But Not With USF

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While Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford says Florida Polytechnic University is "a disaster" that could use an outside ally, he's looking for an entity more like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and not USF -- the university Florida Poly was spun off from.

Speaking to the Tampa Tribune editorial board, the Wesley Chapel Republican presented what he admits is "a crazy idea... go talk to MIT or CalTech or Stanford and see if they want to have a satellite campus in Florida."

"We have an unbranded, unaccredited university that we're spending … general appropriations of $30 million a year," currently with no students, he said. "Just to let it linger in the desert for seven years doesn't make a lot of sense," he said, referring to the time it will take to achieve accreditation. "We should figure out a way to give a sense of direction and have a game plan here relatively quickly."

Weatherford also called it "a half-baked, shoot-from-the-hip idea" that would "really tick some people off," but he says, "We should be thinking outside the box, whether it's bringing somebody in to house it or linking it back up with a university in Florida."

However, that doesn't include reversing the Florida Legislature's decision last year to split Florida Poly off from USF and create an independent university.

"Construction is started," he said. "We've got a $100 million building being built. We've got to make the best lemonade we can."

Florida Polytechnic's board of trustees recently voted to ask the state for another $25 million in funds on top of the $108 million it was already receiving. They'll vote next week on a proposal to drop that request, in part because of the criticism that decision generated.

Weatherford even called the additional funding request "not a smart thing at this time."

"They asked for more money. We all laughed, so I hear they've rescinded that," he said.

For its part, Florida Poly is equally dismissive of Weatherford's collaborative deal.

The Tampa Tribune quotes Ava Parker, chief operating officer of Florida Poly, as saying, "It's not developing it in a format in which it needs a partner," but "a plan where it can stand alone and be of benefit within our state."

"As time goes on we hope the speaker and legislative leadership will be excited by our vision for Florida Poly," she said.