TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida State University must move its digital film program from West Palm Beach to the school’s main campus in Tallahassee, the Board of Governors decided Thursday.

The board, which oversees the Florida’s 12 public universities, also approved an online learning plan that includes designating a single school to take the lead for the entire State University System.

Florida State and local officials in West Palm Beach had pushed to keep the digital film program there after a private company that had been partnering with the university filed for Chapter 11 federal bankruptcy protection. The firm, Digital Domain, pulled out of the partnership and closed its new animation studio in nearby Port St. Lucie.

Students also have written letters to the board urging it to let the program stay in South Florida, but only one member, University of Central Florida Associate Professor of Civil Engineering Manoj B. Chopra, opposed the move during Thursday’s conference call meeting.

Chopra, the board’s faculty representative, said the digital film major wasn’t reliant on Digital Domain and had its own identity and success based on curriculum and quality instructors with industry experience as well as its South Florida location. Faculty members have told university officials they will not move to Tallahassee.

“I strongly believe this identity will be lost when it’s absorbed into the well-established film program on the main campus,” Chopra said. “It appears to me that an educational entity has been penalized for the failure of a business enterprise.”

Morteza “Mori” Hosseini, a Daytona Beach businessman, chaired a three-member committee that recommended the move after holding a meeting in West Palm Beach with faculty and local officials. The meeting focused heavily on whether the program could attract digital film businesses to the area.

“We did not have any concrete plan from anybody other than ‘Well, we’re interested, maybe,'” Hosseini said. “There is no way we should risk the future of our students and their parents’ money on would-a, could-a, or maybe.”

The board approved a two-pronged approach toward online learning.

One element will be the designation of a university to create a separate arm of high-quality online programs. The school will be chosen based on pre-eminence metrics passed by the Legislature last year, when it appropriated funds for an outside consultant to study online education.

The other part is the formation of a statewide working group to continue looking into ways to better coordinate online offerings by all the universities.


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