How much is the captain’s chair from the USS Enterprise worth? How about a life-size statue of Darth Vader?
For the University of South Florida Polytechnic in Lakeland, Fla., all of that and more from the heyday of television and movie science-fiction is worth $10,000.
The good news? Money came from the school’s foundation to help decorate an incubator program, and likely wasn’t paid for with taxpayer money.
USF Polytechnic is a campus of Tampa’s University of South Florida. Established in 1988, it currently serves about 4,500 students in the city located almost equal distant between Tampa and Orlando, just off Interstate 4.
Capt. Kirk’s chair, along with the other items, are “museum-quality” replicas, according to The Tampa Tribune, and were appraised through a $950 grant to determine their value. Kirk’s chair, by the way, comes with Kirk himself. Or at least a replica of him, since William Shatner is probably a little busy these days.
Those in charge of USF are a little unhappy about the expenditures, and not because they’re not science-fiction fans.
The purchases — which include E.T., a Star Wars Storm Trooper (who is missing a hand) as well as a replica of Darth Vader — will likely be a part of the overall investigation launched by two Florida senators. Longtime legislator Mike Fasano and one-time gubernatorial candidate Paula Dockery have called for an investigation on how USF Polytechnic is spending money, mostly after it was revealed the school paid $500,000 for a promotional video of the campus.
Marshall Goodman, who has been the regional chancellor for the school since 2006, says the payments are justified, especially if USF Polytechnic is going to create a business incubator that would rival that of Google’s headquarters in California. By adding the pop culture icons, interest will be stimulated on the college campus, allowing it to not only grow, but to also eventually split from the main Tampa campus of the school.
Yet, that independence could be threatened by Darth Vader and Goodman’s own spending habits. Outside of the reported $500,000 for a promotional video, Goodman also reportedly traveled around the world to promote the campus. That included stops to the South of France, New Delhi, Las Vegas, New York, San Diego, and his hometown of Chicago, according to the St. Petersburg Times.
“This is not a witch hunt,” Fasano said, according to the Times. “We just want to make sure tax dollars were spent appropriately. We are struggling in this state now, economically.”
The sci-fi replicas were designed to “encourage the application of creative thought and ideas in ways that are not restrained by conventional expectation,” according to a memo from the school obtained by the Tribune.
The items were sold by a Lakeland resident, Geraldine Rothman-Serot. Rothman-Serot is a former St. Louis County Councilwoman, according to Airlock Alpha research. Known as Geri Rothman-Serot, she was once married to former Missouri Lt. Gov. Ken Rothman, and herself ran as the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate, losing to Kit Bond in 1992. It’s not clear when Rothman-Serot moved to Florida.
USF is the eighth largest university in the nation, and the third largest in Florida. It is a “space-grant college” with more than 47,000 students.