Town meeting helps task force

More than two months since the public announcement of a USF task force for institutional planning for the university, the members and others from all over the Tampa Bay area met Friday to reflect the drafted plan of the values, vision, mission and goals for USF.

The values, vision, mission and goals give the administration some guidelines to live by for the future. The planning document also gives the university and students a better perception for the outside community to see.

In the draft, the task force lists the different planning procedures for USF. The mission statement, for example, serves the purpose of all the five universities. “Their special strengths contribute to an integrated, diversified and comprehensive university dedicated to educational quality and leadership,” it states. The vision statement lists the reasons why “USF is committed to being a university of first choice for those seeking a nationally recognized learning community.”

Friday’s town hall meeting was the last one the task force held. It will meet today to finalize the university’s institutional plan before it is submitted to the Board of Trustees for consideration.The town meeting served as a stepping stone to collect information. They are gathering themes that may be missing from the draft.

“Some suggestions in the other town meetings were about creative expression and culture,” President Judy Genshaft said. For the past few months, the task force has been gathering and attending retreats to refine USF’s existing planning document. The 34-member task force is made up of faculty, administration and students.

Ralph Wilcox, who is an American Counsel on Education fellow working in Genshaft’s office, is helping the university develop the task force and the new planning document. Wilcox is at the university for only one year as an “outsider.” He brings no agenda with him except aiding in the process.

At the meeting, attendees were allowed to share their ideas on the draft document.

Joann McCarthy, Dean of International Affairs, said the task force should take another look at the draft.

“Give it some life, some power, some distinction,” McCarthy said. “It’s too generic. Our vision, values, mission and goals can catapult us above other universities.”

James Strange, a religious studies professor, said that the document should be more creative and should be made up of shorter sentences because they are easier for people to remember.

Eric Eisenberg, a professor for communications, said he was glad the task force was holding these town meetings.

“It is a very healthy process to go over this,” Eisenberg said. “But for our vision statement to be effective we need two things: aspiration and to be distinctive. Capture the hearts and minds of the students.”

During the meeting, Genshaft and members of the force made points on the different suggestions being brought up.

They clarified questions and went on to explain how they came up with the statements drafted.

James Heck, director for radio and television stations at USF, said the statements need to reach everyone.

“We are the best-kept secret because we don’t tell our story,” Heck said. “We need to tell our story not just to the community but to the nation and international countries, and that is difficult to do without having an idea.”

Genshaft said the task force needs to strive to be more specific.

“Telling our story, we haven’t really done that,” Genshaft said.Mel Jurado, president of the USF Athletic Association, said everyone needs to work together.

“As we go forward, this document needs to be strong,” Jurado said. “Everyone needs to know what is going on campus-wide in order to tell the story.”

Nicole Wittlin, a senior majoring in musical performance, said the students need to be heard.

“I don’t think students feel that they have a voice,” Wittlin said.

“Make this a statement that an 18-year-old freshman can understand, and close the gap between the administration and students.”

Genshaft ended the meeting by identifying the problems the task force has had with drafting the plan.

“We will go back and re-work it,” she said.

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