A student-led effort to express support for Florida Polytechnic University and opposition to a proposed merger with the University of Florida transformed the serene Oak Grove into a setting of boisterous unity on Tuesday, Feb. 25.
“We are making a stand today to show that Florida Poly is unique and has a great education system with hands-on, project-based learning and we should stay independent,” said Student Government Association President Ryan Perez, a senior mechanical engineering major from Miami, Florida.
The SGA organized the Stand Up with Florida Poly event and has urged students to contact Florida legislators to express their support for Florida Poly remaining an independent institution. About 150 students, faculty, and staff donned purple “I Support Florida Poly” T-shirts and formed a line that snaked from the Student Development Center down the walkway toward the residence hall parking lot.
The event was timed to coincide with the meeting of the University’s Board of Trustees taking place at the Student Development Center. The group of students and other supporters cheered and engaged with Trustees as they made their way to the meeting. They were urged to join in the opposition to House Bill 7087, which also proposes merging New College with UF.
“I want to send a message that I do care about this school,” said electrical engineering sophomore Paul Loyd, of Jacksonville, Florida. “I got accepted into every school I applied to, but I chose to come here. I very well would have made it in if I had applied, but I didn’t go to UF for a reason.
“I didn’t want a big-school mentality. I wanted something different, something new.”
Samantha Gossett, a junior majoring in computer science, was also dismayed to learn the independence of her number-one educational choice was in jeopardy.
“Florida Poly has worked so hard to get where we are and it would be a huge mistake to throw away everything we’ve worked for,” said Gossett, from Orlando, Florida. “I don’t think anyone here approves of the merger, so it’s extremely important to be heard as students – even a visual representation of how many of us oppose it should be enough to make a decision.”
Perez said many students are against the proposal because it would lead to a loss of the University’s strong identity and reputation, while degrading the distinction that accompanies existing degrees from Florida Poly.
In addition to the Stand Up for Florida Poly event, several students traveled to Tallahassee, Florida, on Feb. 25 to speak to legislators one-on-one about their opposition to the bill, which was before the House Appropriations Committee.
“We’re letting students know their voices have meaning – they mean everything,” Perez said. “And today is just the beginning.”
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