At last Thursday’s Board of Trustees meeting, Student Body President Bijal Chhadva took an impressive stand against USF’s administration. Chhadva said what many before him have also said: USF President Judy Genshaft is not accessible enough to both student and faculty members. For speaking such truth to power, Chhadva should be commended.
Chhadva’s remarks followed a statement by BOT chairman Dick Beard that gave Genshaft a glowing evaluation. Beard’s written review of Genshaft praised her for her commitment to USF, saying, “President Genshaft’s focus on USF’s five-year strategic plan is paying off.” The university met or exceeded its 2002-03 performance in 80 percent of its own benchmarks, the evaluation said.
Chhadva spoke up, rightfully feeling like he had a responsibility to do so as the lone student representative on the Board. Chhadva told the Board that he had received complaints from students calling Genshaft and other USF leaders “inaccessible,” alleging that Genshaft does not make enough of an effort to reach out to students. He also accused Genshaft of misleading the Board as USF students’ median SAT scores have steadily declined in the past five years, a fact she conveniently left out of her report to the BOT.
Chhadva’s honesty came as a surprise, given the relationship between student body presidents and Genshaft in recent years. Though he made strides in getting students politically involved, last year’s president, Omar Khan, never publicly addressed these escalating problems with the administration. Mike Griffin, Student Body President before Khan, even went on a plane trip with the BOT. Hopefully the days of the student body president simply signing off on anything Genshaft says, no matter if student interest are hurt or not, are in the past.
Genshaft responded to Chhadva’s statements by saying, “I’d be happy to meet with you Bijal.” But this is just yet another example of too little too late.
Genshaft’s meeting students and observing first-day happenings by walking around the campus seemed forced and phony. She has also repeatedly refused to meet with reporters of The Oracle, delegating questions to her staff that were directed at her. There is no reason why the USF president would be this inaccessible. Former USF President Betty Castor could often be seen riding her bike to and from work on campus, always appearing approachable and friendly.
Hopefully, Chhadva will continue to be so forthcoming and not cave under pressure from these same university leaders to be quiet.