Genshaft’s bet on research money wagers USF’s future

Judy Genshaft gave her Fall address Wednesday, and while there was plenty of good news for graduate students, undergraduates might not be too happy with some of what she had to say.

USF is betting on getting funds through research grants and donations to fund graduate as well as undergraduate classes. Last year, USF received a record $254.8 million in research support, but it remains uncertain if the plan of using research money will work in the future as well. This puts students coming to USF for a well-balanced education potentially at risk.

Genshaft pointed out that USF will have to focus less on “intellectual leadership” to be able to offer education to a wider number of students. This, while good for USF in the short term, might hurt the school in the long run.

Genshaft said, “America’s public universities have shaped the development of our democratic society.” How will this be possible if students do not receive a well-balanced education? A precedent like this — where lucrative departments are favored — could leave liberal arts education in the dust.

Genshaft also indicated she would visit the individual departments to assess their progress and see if they are on the right track in following the university’s strategic plan. They will be judged mostly on if “they have a sense of who they are, where they are going, how they’ll get there and when they have arrived.”

While it is important that USF retains fiscal responsibility, this method will not work across the board. How can, for example, the philosophy department be assessed based on these criteria? Philosophers are no closer to defining the meaning of life than they were a thousand years ago, yet the discipline is a valued addition to a student’s education and the general curriculum.

Genshaft also spoke about ensuring that more students graduate. In order to make this happen, the departments will be judged on how many students in each program will graduate. While this is providing good quantitative feedback, it does not necessarily tell anything about the qualitative measure of the education the students receive.

This goes hand in hand with the proposed plan to make “school spirit” more prevalent on campus by expanding the Phyllis P. Marshall Center, building more residence halls and Greek housing and making a student’s stay at USF more enjoyable. Students, because of a more enjoyable atmosphere, will choose USF over other colleges, Genshaft said.

This should be important as it brings much-needed funds to USF, but the overall educational experience should not suffer because of it.

Naturally, graduate students will be happy to hear that their research is sought after because it brings research money and grants to the colleges. This means that areas that bring in research money, such as the College of Medicine, receive funding. Other areas, such as the School of Architecture and the School of Music, will not receive the funds for new buildings that they are in dire need of.

Betting on research as the main driving force behind the development of USF has a good chance of paying off as long as the departments are developed evenly and students are not left behind.