The Change.org petition created by Sarah Frost, titled "Keep Dale Whittaker as UCF President," quickly gained support from the community. As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, it had more than 800 signatures, as well as dozens of comments showing support for the cause.
Whittaker resigned Tuesday amid controversy over the institution's misuse of funds. He posted a letter on the school's website detailing his belief that stepping down would be in the best interest of students and the university.
Frost said most of the responses she has received from the petition are from frustrated people who believe Whittaker made a positive impact on UCF and deserves to continue his role.
"We just don't want to see him go down for something that truly wasn't his fault," Frost said. "The disappointment comes when we think about how UCF let this happen and is perfectly OK with letting him take the fall. Even though he has been here a short time, the impact he has made on all of us has been tremendous."
She said there has been some opposition to the petition, but she has mostly seen support from the community. UCF punter Mac Loudermilk retweeted Frost's post on Twitter with the link to the petition to show support after she reached out to him.
Frost said she created the petition alongside fellow co-workers at her on-campus job with a goal of 10 signatures. Now, they plan to take the petition to the board of trustees in a week with at least 1,000 signatures but hope for more. Frost also wants to encourage students to come to the hearing in solidarity.
"Whittaker brought this energy to UCF that personally I hadn't seen before," Frost said. "He's very active about participating in clubs and activities students have going on."
Although she's not sure how the board will respond, she hopes it takes the petition seriously and reconsiders the positive impact Whittaker has made on the university.
Frost said she started the petition as something that was spur of the moment and didn't imagine the amount of support it would receive. Even though she and her co-workers have been sharing the petition as a collective effort, she is still surprised how fast the word got out.
Commenters have flocked to the petition to show their disapproval of Whittaker's resignation and hope for him staying as president.
"The good he has done and will do for UCF shouldn’t be lost on the bad deeds of the previous administration," Michael Doty said in a petition comment.
Several other commenters said they don't believe Whittaker should take "the fall" for actions of other administration members.
"As the President himself made clear, leadership is about making choices. The choice he has made to offer his resignation speaks volumes about his character and love for the UCF community. Despite all that’s happened, he is exactly the leader UCF needs moving forward. I hope and urge the board of trustee to reject his letter of resignation and offer President Whittaker the opportunity to continue to serve Knight Nation in his full capacity," Manny Orozco said in a comment.
Commenter Kristy Lewis wrote "#StandWithWhittaker" on the petition and has gone to Twitter to encourage the use of the hashtag, which has gained traction.
State Rep. Randy Fine said Wednesday that the University of Central Florida should shut down over its misuse of $38 million, although he later said he wasn't speaking literally. One day later, the former chairman of UCF Marcos Marchena resigned from the school's board of trustees.