WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Sources close to the partnership between the failed Digital Domain Media Group and the Florida State University Animation and Digital Arts program tell WPTV NewsChannel 5 the expected decision by the State University System of Florida Board of Governors to move the program to Tallahassee is being driven by politics.
The sources, who spoke with WPTV NewsChannel 5 on the condition of anonymity, said the board may be using a multi-million dollar grant as leverage to force FSU to move the West Palm Beach-based program to its main campus.
The sources also said Florida Atlantic University may not have wanted to compete with FSU in Palm Beach County.
"I see an opportunity for everybody here," West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio told WPTV NewsChannel 5. "If FSU were to stay here and we were able to attract new aerospace [and] were able to attract defense, FAU students in those industries would have opportunities to intern with those places as well.
Last week, Muoio and representatives from FSU lobbied the Board of Governors to keep the program in West Palm Beach.
"Moving to Tallahassee presents a lot of challenges because we just can't pick up and move," said Jasper Tatem, a student in the program.
Tatem and 23 other students sent Frank Brogan, the chancellor of the Board of Governors, a letter asking him to consider their input before the board makes a final decision.
In a written reply to the students, Brogan, a former FAU president, said the state made "a bad bet" on the partnership and called the $20 million investment "one of the worst economic disasters this state has ever seen."
"The uncertainty surrounding this film program, as it exists today, makes it impossible for us to guarantee to you and future students a return for which you have paid. And, that is simply unacceptable," Brogan said. "As you work hard toward achieving your dreams, goals and aspirations, we must hold up our end of the bargain, too.
It may be difficult at this point to absorb, but trust that a tremendous amount of time, energy and research went into this decision."
In a telephone conversation with WPTV NewsChannel 5, FAU president Mary Jane Saunders said the decision to move the program to Tallahassee was made exclusively by the Board of Governors.
Saunders said it was a "sensible" decision.
The board is expected to formally recommend the program move to Tallahassee as early as next week.