Trustees learn responsibilities, president’s mission

One of the reasons Judy Genshaft wanted to become president at USF was because it?s a Research I university ? one of three in Florida.

During a recent meeting with USF?s Board of Trustees, Genshaft asked the board to help her get the same recognition and funding for USF as its peers, Florida State University and the University of Florida.

?We?re the ones who write books for other universities,? she told the trustees during an orientation meeting Aug. 17. ?At a research university, what we need to be the best costs more.?

Genshaft said USF is probably ranked No. 9 of Florida?s 11 universities in terms of the amount of money it receives per student. That has to change, she said.

?We need to be sure we are treated in the way we deserve to be treated,? she said.

Genshaft wants the 13-member board to be more than cheerleaders for USF but advocates for its vision of becoming a nationally recognized research institution.

The board spent three hours earlier this month learning how they can do just that.

Developer Dick Beard and Tampa lawyer Rhea Law were elected chairman and vice chairwoman for the board. Each will have the position for two years then become eligible to serve for one additional consecutive term.

With leadership in place, the board immediately agreed Genshaft should remain president.

Once the formalities were completed, the BOT focused on the nuances of being responsible for the second largest university in Florida.

Consultant John Kudless was at the Aug. 17 meeting with advice. Don?t get distracted. Always be on the same page. Choose three or four priorities to work with. And focus on this university, he said. (Some trustees questioned whether they could serve simultaneously on another university?s board.)

?There are only so many hours in a day,? Kudless said.

The bulk of his advice may have seemed elementary. But with heavy hitters on the board who have connections across Tampa Bay and throughout Florida, such as former U.S. Sen. Connie Mack, Tampa Electric Co. President John Ramil, former chief of state at Tampa General Hospital Dr. Margarita Cancio and Outback Steakhouse Chairman Chris Sullivan, every detail was important.

So important, that board members suggested having workshops to spend more time reviewing certain procedures and understanding the university?s budget.

USF attorney R.B. Freidlander?s presentation on the Sunshine law and ethics raised several questions from board members who are having to adjust from operating in the private business sector to making decisions in the open for a public university.

Simply put, Friedlander told the board that anytime two trustees are together discussing anything that could come before the board, it?s an open meeting. And all meetings must be announced seven days before it is scheduled. Advice that Beard echoed should be taken seriously.

?As a board, we need to follow the law,? he said.

The first official board meeting will be Sept. 21 in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center. Contact Kevin Graham