- Associated Press - Thursday, February 21, 2019

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - The board of the University of Central Florida accepted the resignation of the school’s president Thursday, two days after he offered to step down to appease state lawmakers upset about the school using operating funds to pay for construction.

UCF President Dale Whittaker will leave the school immediately and the acceptance of the resignation is subject to reaching a settlement agreement in the next few weeks, university officials said.

A university vice president, Thad Seymour, was named interim head of the school while a search for a new president is conducted.

The university had come under heavy criticism from lawmakers and state education officials in recent months after the disclosure that it had spent tens of millions of dollars meant for operating expenses on construction, a violation of state rules.

The revelation infuriated state lawmakers, and last week a top Florida lawmaker suggested - somewhat tongue in cheek - shutting down UCF for five to 10 years over the misused money.

Whittaker has said he didn’t know leftover operating funds couldn’t be used on new buildings. Four high-ranking administrators were fired in the wake of the scandal and the board’s former chairman, Marcos Marchena, resigned from the body last week.

In his resignation letter, Whittaker concluded that a change of leadership was needed to restore confidence in UCF, especially among state education and legislative leaders.

“Our loss will be some other institution’s great gain,” Robert Garvy, chairman of the board of trustees, said after Thursday’s emergency meeting. “Dale Whittaker has demonstrated great courage and sacrifice for the students, faculty and administration at UCF.”

Whittaker was named president of one of the nation’s largest universities only last year.

Students at Thursday’s emergency board meeting held signs in support of Whittaker. Several students, university staff and Whittaker’s family members urged trustees not to accept the resignation.

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