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More pulls in JD Alexander's tug-of-war over USF's polytechnic dispute

The St. Petersburg Times' Kim Wilmath continues to chronicle the growing tensions between Sen JD Alexander and University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft over the simmering dispute about whether to separate Alexander's legacy project, a polytechnic university in his hometown, from USF. Time is running out for Alexander to use his position as Senate budget chief as leverage against the university -- he's term limited out of office next year.

In a story today, Genshaft said she isn't rattled by Alexander's pressures or the tug-of-war emerging as UF president Bernie Machen joined in to side with Alexander.

Earlier this month, the Florida Board of Governors voted to require the University of South Florida Polytechnic to meet strict benchmarks before gaining independence, a move that freezes the Lakeland school's efforts to break away from the USF system. The vote came at the end of a four-hour debate, with impassioned arguments coming from power players on both sides.

A week later, Alexander stood to the side of the room as Genshaft spoke to faculty at her embattled Lakeland campus. Just a day earlier, Alexander had publicly lashed out at Genshaft's leadership in a scathing letter to the Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the state university system. Now he was making a surprise visit to a meeting Genshaft called with USF Polytechnic faculty.

Those there said Alexander remained silent the whole time — his presence speaking volumes.

It further evidenced the simmering tension between the two sides in the USF Poly-split debate: Genshaft, who says she's working toward benchmarks laid out by state higher education leaders for the campus' eventual independence; and Alexander, who has hinted that if USF doesn't play ball, he'll find another institution to sponsor the Lakeland school's separation. Full story here.