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Dockery wants Scott to visit USF Poly before making decision on split bill

We told you about the hundreds of people lobbying Gov. Rick Scott on the bill to split USF Poly off into the state's 12th university -- with two-thirds against it. Add to that list Republican Sen. Paula Dockery, a longtime critic of the split idea whose district includes the Lakeland campus. 

Dockery sent a letter to Scott's office this week asking him to visit the campus USF Poly currently shares with Polk State College before making a decision on whether it's ready to split. Dockery has pointed to the branch campus's 1,300 students -- the majority of which are not enrolled in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) that the new university is supposed to specialize in -- as evidence that the school isn't ready for independence.

"These students and faculty members are the ones who will be directly affected," Dockery wrote. "They, like the overwhelming majority of constituents who have contacted my office, are hoping you veto this legislation, and move more cautiously toward independence.

"As the senator who represents the Lakeland community, I can assure you that most of my constituents support a Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics program and a Polytechnic, but they do not support immediate independence and losing the USF presence that Polk County has enjoyed for the past 23 years. There are a few individuals, with financial interests, who are pushing this irresponsible plan to rush the process of creating the 12th university but they are certainly in the minority."

The idea to turn USF Polytechnic into Florida Polytechnic was championed by Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales. The Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the state university system, voted in November to allow the campus to split off -- but only after meeting certain benchmarks, including increased enrollment in STEM fields and separate accreditation from USF.

SB 1994 would bypass that plan and split the school off right away. 

Scott has not yet received the bill, nor has he made up his mind about whether to sign or veto it, he says.