The first four years of Judy Genshaft’s tenure as USF president have been anything but routine. From dealing with USF’s regional campuses, a racial discrimination lawsuit and the highly controversial Sami Al-Arian affair, Genshaft has had to find her feet in her first presidency under intense media scrutiny.
But now Genshaft said she has been able to step up and really try to help and enhance the university during the past year.
Understandably, Genshaft said she is looking forward to a “normal year with normal issues a university has to deal with.”
However, with the tight budget the Florida Legislature sent down to the 11 public universities and with USF moving into a bigger athletic arena, Genshaft will still have her hands full.
Genshaft sat down and explained her priorities for the 2003-04 school year and weighed in the issues that USF will be facing.
Question: With such a tight budget, how will USF summer classes be affected?
Genshaft: This year we offered the same amount of summer school classes as we did last year, and we are hoping that we can do that again (next) year and not see any of the reduction that we have seen in the past. But what certain colleges do is up to the deans in those departments to decide, and they need to start planning for the summer now. They know now what they are going to have for the rest of the year. So they need to make provisions so there is money provided for summer school now.
Q: How will general classes in the fall and spring be affected?
G: We should be holding pretty well to what we have been doing. We are hoping to not have too much of the instructional component cut. We always try to take the least amount of cuts out of academic affairs as we can.
Q: Is it at all possible to waive or get rid of the mandatory nine credit hours needed at a state university over the summer?
G: That is something that is a very good stance for Student Government and the Florida Student Association because all the universities are in the same boat. So, if you are going to require it, you are going to have to give us the resources we need to go with it. But it is hard for planning purposes and trying to graduate pending on that summer class.
Q: What would you say to students who wonder why so much construction is going on and classes are limited?
G: Construction funds are completely separate from instructional funds. So if the construction funds did not come to our campus, the money would go to another campus. It’s not like we can take that money and give it to professors, courses or students. There is a certain amount of money that the state puts aside for building/renovations, and you cannot take a dollar from that and move it over to academics. If some students look around and wonder why the money wasn’t put in courses, we couldn’t (do that). The state gives you so much money for your instruction and that is it. And the building of residence halls is completely separate from everything because the money is bonded, and the residents pay it back with the rent.
Q: So, with all the added construction, are there any plans to stop holding classes at the University Mall and build more lecture halls and classrooms?
G: We are building a new Environmental Science building which will have classrooms in it, but there are no other classrooms in the works. But we still need the University Mall.
Q: With all the changes to the logo and finding a university slogan, some may think that USF is trying to forget the bad national press it received last year. What would you say to that?
G: The change was in the works long before that. When I was first recruited from New York, I would show people our logo and they couldn’t figure out what it was. They didn’t know it was a bull. We kept talking about this from day one; how did we get it, is this really what we want to have for a long time? This has nothing to do with the politics. It’s nice because it goes with us moving in Conference USA.
Q: Any updates on USF athletics and moving into the Big East?
G: Not right now. Everything is quiet right now, and we haven’t heard anything yet.
Q: How does it feel being able to actually do the traditional duties of a university president?
G: I am really excited about this year. I am looking forward to a normal year, where you have all the issues a normal university has and really focus on internal needs and building the relationships with the community and working on our research park. I have some particular issues in academic and campus enrichment that I want to look at, and I really want to follow up on the strategic plan.
Q: If the tight budget continues, will it be harder to follow USF’s strategic plan?
G: The whole plan wouldn’t be affected. There are items in here in which we (Board of Trustees) have projected out for five years in a time of consistent resource base is coming in. But if there is a terrible tightening up, then, say, the number of students we planned to bring in may change or the number of degree certificates couldn’t expand if we don’t have the budget for it. But it should not affect most of the strategic plan in the sense that federal contracts or grant awards are independent of that. Strategic plans are always dynamic documents and you always have to update them, but we are following this pretty closely.
Q: If the tight budget remains, will there be a fallback plan or an amendment to the strategic plan?
G: We will have to review it and really go through the plan. (We’ll) see what we have achieved and we haven’t achieved and make adjustments. The plan was adopted last fall, and this coming fall we are going be putting out a brochure that is an accountability brochure. And we are going to keep a record on how we did, a report card, that comes out each year.
Q: Is there a possibility that USF will be soon capping its enrollment because of the budget crisis?
G: The State University Presidents Association get together on a regular basis to see if there are issues that cross all campuses, like we did last year. One of the issues we have coming up this year is funding for new enrollment. We have over 3,000 students that aren’t being paid for, and you can’t keep admitting students if our resources are not there. We need to be able to hire the professors and have the labs in order to continue taking students. I think it would hurt the regional campuses more than the Tampa campus because without any more resources we are maxed out here at the Tampa campus.
Q: What advice would you give to a student who is trying to cope with all the construction and issues that are going on campus?
G: I would like them to sit down with me and someone else and talk about the issues and sort these things out. In terms with the classes and being confused, that is why you need someone to have you walk through to make the experience positive. I want students to have people they can be referred to, and that was the whole idea of the President’s Academy of Advisors, where there are 40 new people who will advise undeclared major students. The other pieces of advice I would give students is, one, to get involved in some student activities because it makes such a big difference in making you happy at a university. The other is don’t be afraid to go up and meet your professors, to make yourself known.
Q: What advice would you give an incoming junior or senior preparing for graduation?
G: Be very organized and take as many courses as you possibly can and finish, graduate. Don’t put off courses anymore, because by your junior and senior year, you are in your area of specialty and often at times you can take a heavier load than what you are used to. Enjoy your last few years.
Q: Is there anything that can make life easier for students on the first day back, for example, by not parking in the wrong spot and getting a ticket?
G: I think we need to ask Mr. Greg Sylvester in Parking and Transportation Services about that. The first day of fall semester is always the busiest day of the year in terms of driving, and the only thing I can advise is people park their car and count on using the shuttle. Also, park in a walking distance and bring an umbrella if there is any hint of rain.