76% of New College students bash absentee professor/congressional candidate Keith Fitzgerald

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A survey of more than 700 students at New College has revealed overwhelming dissatisfaction with political science professor Keith Fitzgerald, with many citing his frequent absences due to non-stop campaigning.

Because Fitzgerald is paid with taxpayer money at the state-funded school, his incompetence in the classroom is becoming a campaign issue in the 2012 congressional election.  One member of the New College Board of Trustees said Fitzgerald should have taken a leave of absence instead of demanding to be paid as he campaigns full time for congress.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune this week quoted Fitzgerald boasting that his reason for skipping this week’s Democratic National Convention was because “I need to teach my class.” 

That might come as news to many of his students.

In the 713 evaluations of Fitzgerald by his students from 1995-2011, Fitzgerald was cited for being “inaccessible,” “negligent,” “disorganized,” and “always late for class.”  The negative reviews only intensified when Fitzgerald started running for public office, saying he was “too busy with other things to really be accessible” or “I got the feeling that this class was not the priority of Professor Fitzgerald.”  In all 75.5% of the 713 evaluations included critical comments.

On this Tuesday, the second week of college, Fitzgerald was late for class yet again.

“It’s sad when someone who is responsible for teaching our youth lets them down, but it’s even worse when that teacher rips off taxpayers as he campaigns full-time while collecting a check from the state-funded school,” said Republican Party of Sarasota Chairman Joe Gruters. “Isn’t it ironic that Fitzgerald refuses to take a leave of absence from teaching when in the eyes of his students he already has?”

In an Aug. 23 letter to the editor that ran in the Bradenton Herald, New College Trustee John Saputo called on Fitzgerald to take an unpaid leave while campaigning for Congress.  “To run for political office, especially the U.S. Congress, is a full-time job,” said Saputo. “We do not want students shortchanged. It is my job as a trustee to make sure our college is run like a business and that our professors give our students their undivided attention and best efforts.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.