Paula Dockery to USF-Poly Grads: Your Fight to Save the School 'a Noble Cause'
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In her commencement speech Monday night -- final one for a University of South Florida-Polytechnic graduating class -- Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, commended the class for its herculean efforts to halt the forced USF “divorce.”
The name of Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, who could be considered the father of the new independent Florida Polytechnic University that will come into life July 1, was not included in Dockery’s speech -- a speech that touched heavily on character and leadership.
But Dockery slipped in a swipe at Gov. Rick Scott, mentioning only his title, for not having “even the courtesy” of meeting with students before signing the bill.
“What I witnessed from both the students and the faculty was a heartfelt desire to fight to protect their school from disappearing ... a noble cause,” Dockery told the class of 2012, according to remarks released in advance of the senator's 7 p.m. address at Lakeland Center's Youkey Theatre.
Scott signed the bill on April 20 to speed the split of the USF branch campus in Polk County into a stand-alone science, technology, engineering and math focused university.
The signing came despite objections from some legislators, such as Dockery, along with students and a number of officials in the Lakeland area questioning the future expenses of growing a campus at a time when the state cut $300 million from university reserves.
Scott's spokesman Lane Wright responded in an email that the governor provided ample time over several weeks for people to contact him and express concerns.
"He met and heard from several people on both sides of this issue," Wright wrote. "He signed that bill because he believes having an institution focused on STEM will be vital to our economy for years to come, helping meet workforce needs and increasing our state’s competitiveness."
Alexander did not return requests for comments after his office was contacted Monday.
Dockery commended the students, now alumni, who were able to juggle their studies while holding down jobs and devoting time to the “political drama” without their grades suffering.
“I wish I could say that in the end, truth wins out or that hard work and doing your homework always pays off. Unfortunately in this political climate and perhaps business climate as well, that is not the case.”
Dockery, who will leave office in the fall due to the state term limits law, added that she is committed to ensuring that the state will fulfill its pledge that USF-Poly students will be able to complete their USF studies at the Lakeland campus.
Read the whole of Dockery's commencement address on this Home page.
Reach Jim Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 215-9889.