Best Of 2008

MOST MISPLACED PRIORITIES: USF’s new Lakeland campus

The University of South Florida, Tampa Bay’s largest college and a supposed economic engine, cut 450 jobs from its payroll this year, including some professors. That’s part of a $35.6 million budget cut in which some academic programs were combined and perhaps irreparably harmed. So what better time for USF President Judy Genshaft, along with a wealthy out-of-state developer and powerful politicians in Polk County, to consummate their scheme of diverting needed state resources to create a USF Lakeland campus? Charlie Crist signed off on the first $15 million this year; another $20 is scheduled to flow to the newly dubbed USF Polytechnic over the following two years. And for what? A projected enrollment of 1,522 students by the 2014-15 school year, according to media reports. For the developer, the university would be a lure for its planned 2,500-acre project that will include — say it with us! — shopping centers, upscale houses and the requisite golf course. For Genshaft, the project puts a few more politicians in her corner and expands her turf at the expense of research and education at the main campus. For taxpayers, it just plain stinks.