Make us your home page

Claire McNeill, Times Staff Writer

Claire McNeill

Claire McNeill covers higher education for the Tampa Bay Times. She joined the paper in 2014 and covered general assignment news in Pasco and Pinellas counties.

She grew up in a one-square-mile town in South Jersey and graduated from the University of North Carolina, where she studied journalism and political science. She has worked for The Boston Globe and The Charlotte Observer. She lives in St. Petersburg.

Phone: (727) 893-8321


Twitter: @clairemcneill

  1. Kiran and Pallavi Patel commit $200 million for Clearwater medical school

    Real Estate

    CLEARWATER — Tampa Bay philanthropists Dr. Kiran Patel and his wife, Dr. Pallavi Patel are spending $200 million to create and promote a Tampa Bay regional campus for the private Nova Southeastern University.

    Their commitment to the Fort Lauderdale-based university — $50 million in a cash donation and $150 million toward real estate the Patels would continue to control — would rank among the largest individual commitments to a college or university....

    Drs. Kiran and Pallavi Patel, prolific Tampa Bay philanthropists, are putting up $200 million to create and run a new medical school under Nova Southeastern University. Here is a rendering of the proposed campus [Courtesy of Nova Southestern University}
  2. USF to rename sports management program for Vinik family


    The University of South Florida will name a business program for the Vinik family at a Tuesday event.

    Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, along with his wife Penny and the team, helped launch USF’s dual-degree, sports-centric graduate program in 2012.

    It will now be called the Vinik Sport and Entertainment Management program.

    USF officials said the renaming comes amid Jeff and Penny Vinik’s generous and ongoing support....

    Tampa Bay Lightning owner and chairman Jeff Vinik and his wife, Penny, in 2010.
  3. Betsy DeVos rescinds Obama-era rules on campus sexual assault


    Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has said over and over again that sexual assault on campus is an issue she wants to get right.

    On Friday, her department rolled back Obama-era guidance and released new steps that will “treat all students fairly,” DeVos said, as schools investigate and adjudicate thorny cases of sexual misconduct on campus....

    Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
  4. USF boasts a diverse, record-breaking class of new students


    TAMPA – Another year, another record-breaking freshman class for the University of South Florida.

    Its incoming students boast the strongest academics and most diversity in school history, officials said Tuesday.

    It's also the biggest group of students the USF System has ever seen, numbering more than 50,000 enrollments between the main campus in Tampa and regional institutions USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee....

    Student Nick Russin talks to incoming students during a tour of the Marshall Student Center on USF’s Tampa campus.
  5. USF St. Petersburg leader responds to criticism of hurricane decisions


    ST. PETERSBURG — The former leader of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, who resigned Monday amid internal criticism of her handling of Hurricane Irma, is defending her decisions during the storm.

    "I strongly reject any question of my leadership during Irma and my leadership during my tenure at USFSP," former regional chancellor Sophia Wisniewska wrote in a text message to a Tampa Bay Times reporter Monday night. "Certainly, I did nothing to warrant firing for cause. However, I do realize that President Genshaft has the right to choose another Chancellor, and she did."...

    Former USFSP regional chancellor Sophia Wisniewska in 2013
  6. USF St. Petersburg leader forced out for botching Irma evacuation


    ST. PETERSBURG — While students at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg awaited a lashing from Hurricane Irma, the school's leader fled the state for Atlanta and insinuated in an email to her boss that she remained on campus — going so far as to say things were quiet and that she heard birds chirping.

    After the storm, USF officials moved to fire USFSP regional chancellor Sophia Wisniewska for incompetence and "lack of leadership," criticizing her departure and alleging that she had hesitated to evacuate students as Irma grew more dangerous....

    Anthony Loffler, a senior at USF St. Petersburg walks Jennings, the dog he works with as a puppy raiser on the USF St. Petersburg campus in St. Petersburg on Tuesday, March 7, 2017. Loffler began working with Jennings in early December and is a member of the USF St. Petersburg Puppy Raising Club.
  7. Staring at the cost of college, some ask the internet to help pay the bills


    TAMPA — Jenn Flansburg found an old journal recently. She had written so hard that the pencil broke.

    "Anger, hatred, jealousy," she recalled. "It consumed me."

    Finding peace took time. It took a lot of visits with her mental health counselor. It took humility, especially the day Flansburg returned to her third-graders at Carrollwood Day School and felt all eyes on her.

    Flansburg got help then. Now she's asking for a different kind of aid....

    Jenn Flansburg, a 45-year-old teacher and single mother, has created a GoFundMe page with the goal of raising $17,000 to help cover the cost of a master's degree in mental health counseling. "I figure I've got nothing to lose," she says. "If people want to help out, amazing. I'll appreciate it and put it to good use." [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times]
  8. USF St. Petersburg leader abruptly ousted


    ST. PETERSBURG — The leader of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg has been ousted.

    University officials did not provide an immediate reason on Friday for the departure of Sophia Wisniewska, USFSP's regional chancellor of four years.

    Wisniewska said she is leaving her post with pride and gratitude.

    "One of the great joys of my career has been my years as regional chancellor at USFSP," Wisniewska wrote in a text message to the Tampa Bay Times late Friday. "In the life of any institution, there are natural times for leadership change. This is one of them."...

    Sophia Wisniewska, the regional chancellor of University of South Florida St. Petersburg, seen in 2013. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  9. Hot, sweaty and still powerless, Tampa Bay leans on each other


    The power trucks massed in the morning.

    They rolled out into quiet streets across Tampa Bay, where residents shared extension cords and bags of ice and precious air-conditioned real estate. When they had nothing else to give, people offered patience.

    COMPLETE COVERAGE: Find all our coverage about Hurricane Irma here...

    Pastor Roger Stroman cooked for those left without power by outside Abundant Life Ministries at 2051 9th Ninth Ave S in St. Petersburg. [ZACHARY T. SAMPSON  |  Times]
  10. UF cracks list of top 10 public universities, a victory years in the making


    The state of Florida now boasts a top 10 public university.

    The University of Florida has long aimed to crack the top 10. Today, the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges rankings put UF in the No. 9 spot, a leap from last year at No. 14.

    President Kent Fuchs called the victory “the result of many years of focused work and a keen sense of purpose.”...

    The University of Florida
  11. After a graze from Hurricane Irma, Tampa Bay will remember the emotional toll


    It was called one of the most powerful storms in recorded history. It was bigger than Andrew, bigger than the state.

    First it aimed for Miami, then Naples. Twenty four hours before landfall, it set its sights on Tampa Bay.

    Fleeing cars packed highways. Homeowners hammered plywood onto windows and anchored garages with sandbags, with scenes of a water-logged Houston fresh in mind.

    "Stay safe," they told their neighbors....

    Charlotte Glaze hugs Donna Lamb on Monday as she removes belongings in floodwaters from the Ortega River in Jacksonville. “This neighborhood has not flooded in at least 51 years,” Lamb said.
  12. Irma spares Tampa Bay, other parts of the state not as lucky


    Monday's blustery daybreak brought relief — albeit cautious relief — across the Tampa Bay area.

    Hurricane Irma downed trees and power lines and knocked the canopies off some gas stations, but seemingly spared the region the catastrophic damage that had been predicted.

    "A glancing blow," said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who had previously warned Irma would "punch us in the face."...

    Marlene Sassaman, 68, left, and Ron Ouellette, 68, take in the scope of flooding Monday on Collier Avenue in downtown Everglades City.
  13. A day of dread in Tampa Bay as Hurricane Irma battered the state


    Patrons at Ferg's Downtown split their attention between Irma updates and football ahead of Hurricane Irma in St. Petersburg on Sunday. (WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times)
  14. With Hurricane Irma on track for Tampa Bay, here's what you can expect


    Hurricane Irma began a dreaded march north late Saturday, erasing any hope the Tampa Bay region and Florida's Gulf Coast would be spared its devastation.

    At shelters where thousands waited for the storm to arrive, and in living rooms where families gathered around their TVs, a community wondered just how bad it would be.

    "I'm terrified," said Nicole Manuel, 37, who huddled with family at her mother's house in Clearwater. "I keep on hearing different things, different changes. How fast is it coming? When is it even coming? It's different every time I see the TV."...

     Erik Charles evacuates his parakeets from his family's ahead of Hurricane Irma in the Palmetto Beach neighborhood in Tampa on Saturday. (OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times)
  15. Making another attempt to speak at UF, Richard Spencer asks for Oct. 19


    As the University of Florida battens down the hatches in advance of Hurricane Irma, white nationalist Richard Spencer has made another request to speak at UF.

    The potential date is Thursday, Oct. 19. Spencer has requested that the event be held from 2:30-4:30 p.m. at the university's Phillips Center.

    He and his National Policy Institute initially tried to rent space for Sept. 12. UF denied that request in the days after Charlottesville, citing the potential for violence. After Spencer threatened an immiment lawsuit, the university said the denial was never intended to be a permanent ban, and that the school would welcome another request for a later date....

    The University of Florida