USF President Judy Genshaft and state Sens. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, and Evelyn Lynn, R-Daytona Beach, held a “productive” meetingMonday evening concerning budget cuts, but revealed little about what progress was made.
Both Genshaft and Alexander gave little information to the press about the meeting, which was closed to the public, though the senate issued a notice before it began that it was open.
“Genshaft never agreed to an open meeting,” Brian Lamb, Board of Trustees member and chair of the USF Polytechnic Oversight Committee told The Oracle. Getting the media and students involved in the decision may have made the meeting much like Wednesday’s Florida Senate Budget Committee meeting, and a private meeting avoids the fanfare produced by bringing in impassioned students and media attention.
Yet even though the meeting was closed, that does not mean information about it should be held from the public – especially because it left out affected parties.
To prevent the meeting from becoming public, two senators for whom the budget proposal hit close to home, Sens. Jim Norman, R-Tampa, and Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, were intentionally left out, according to Channel 10 News. The Florida Sunshine Law, which establishes a basic right to most governmental meetings, limits the number of senators allowed to attend private meetings to two.
While the decision to not hold the discussion in an open forum may give Alexander and Genshaft the opportunity to hash out the issues without facing a backdrop of angry students and media, however well-intentioned they may be, media and students alike would have liked to know what was going on in the meeting, and a private meeting does not mean that the discussion must be kept secret.
Most importantly, the discussion was shielded from those who could be most affected: USF students and faculty. While students had the opportunity to voice their opinions at last week’s budget committee meeting, many of them want to hear what is going on now. And while some speculate that Alexander is relenting toward the devastating budget cuts, the amount of compromise that was made yesterday, if any, is unclear.
Alexander told 10 News that he would not speak on whether he anticipated any changes that would give USF Polytechnic immediate independence and also wouldn’t say if there were any changes to be made in the budget.
Both sides indicated the budget cuts may be amended before the consideration this week, but USF is in need of a lot more than a small change. The public is waiting for the budget cut to take a more serious turn in the direction of fairness, and now they will have to wait longer.
The scant details released to the media do not satisfy the interests of state citizens who are concerned with the issue and want to know what is going on. This violates the very idea of the Sunshine Law and makes it difficult for the USF population to feel comfort in knowing that progress was made.