The grades are in on Genshaft’s Fall Address

There is certainly a bit more green and gold around campus this week as SuperBull IX is well underway. Trying to overcome the commuter school stigma, activities abound to instill a little school spirit and tradition leading up to Saturday’s football game.

While perhaps not as exciting, an important event recently occurred on campus that deserves some attention: USF President Judy Genshaft’s 2005 Fall Address. I realize that it may not have the lure of homecoming, but understanding the current state of the University and where it is headed has a huge impact on your education and future.

At the outset, I have to admit I didn’t attend Genshaft’s address due to a class conflict. I did, however, view the Webcast, which I would classify as half pep rally and half substance.

The key is to get past the ad nauseam statistics touting the University – especially telling for an economics major to say – and focus on the substance of the president’s remarks. Once that was achieved, I figured the only way to effectively look at some of the main points is to speak in the language we all understand: grades. So I broke down a few main points of her speech and then assigned a grade.

Humanitarian efforts: “B.” It just plain feels good to hear how the University is involved in Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts. From donation drives on campus to students and faculty utilizing miniature helicopters to provide surveillance in Mississippi, the campus community came together.It’s also a nice gesture to enroll 100 displaced students. No doubt such a savvy decision by the administration also provides a great deal of positive public exposure.

Under the surface, such a gesture raises a very good question: Do current students receive the same administration support, or was it just because these displaced students were in the national spotlight?

Genshaft commented on a student from Louisiana, saying that “within two days she was enrolled in all the courses she needs.” This is quite foreign to the many existing students who constantly scour the schedule of classes on the Web over Christmas break in hopes of getting the classes they need.

Recognizing monetary challenges: “A.” Genshaft said last year’s state funding was 28 percent of the total allocated throughout the state. As the president noted, “The new formula garnered USF more than $12 million.”

While the increase over past years is notable, the key reason the president deserves recognition is the realization that private support is crucial to the University’s future fiscal stability. As The New York Times reported on Sunday, public university revenues from state and local taxes have “declined to 64 percent in 2004 from 74 percent in 1991.” This trend will most likely continue.

The challenge will be to continuously raise private support that will not only be used for research, but also for infrastructure. The same report in The New York Times mentions the consequence of private dollars is that “more professors are paid mainly to conduct research.” This effect of private support could lead to a dire classroom outcome that this University needs to be mindful of in the future, and leads to my final grade for Genshaft’s fall address.

Putting research in the proper perspective: “F.” Recently, I wrote that USF’s 47 percent graduation rate (as stated in a Tampa Tribune editorial) needed the administration’s focus. I advocated a press release stating our new aim of becoming a top 50 academic institution, with no ensuing administration response.

If you doubt the one-sided emphasis on research at this University, just read the text of the president’s remarks linked on the University’s Web site. During her speech, I counted how many times she used the word “research” and how many times she used the word “graduation.” Research: 25 times. Graduation: three times.

To her credit, Genshaft did mention a new tracking tool for first-time-in-college students that is supposed to help them to graduate on time and an emphasis on raising student selectivity.

Will this help? I don’t know, but more and more I’m thinking that pay raises for Genshaft, already making a bloated six-figure salary, should be tied to increasing our abysmal graduation rate. I bet priorities would change a little then.

To view President Genshaft’s 2005 Fall Address in its entireity visit

Aaron Hill is a senior majoring in economics.