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Genshaft’s role changing as USF grows

When USF President Judy Genshaft was a college student in the early 1970s, university presidents played a much different role than the one she plays today.

According to a recent survey of university presidents by The Chronicle of Higher Education, college presidents across the country have been forced to deal with financial matters more than other issues, such as those that directly concern students, faculty and athletics.

“It’s very different than it was 30 to 50 years ago,” Genshaft said during a Wednesday interview in her office. “We have so many people we’re accountable to.”

The shift to concentrate on finances, according to Genshaft, is a result of less money from the state.

She said that about 10 years ago, state money comprised 65 percent of USF’s budget. Now it comprises about 25 percent.

“If we want more than that, we have to find alternative sources,” Genshaft said.

Those alternative sources include contract grants from research organizations and revenue from things such as the Sun Dome and the Bookstore. Money is also received from donors and fund raising.

In 2005, $287 million of USF’s $1.3 billion budget came from research contracts and grants.

“She gets good exposure for the University and she does a super job of helping to raise money,” said Betty Castor, the former USF president who Genshaft replaced in 2000.

The Chronicle study also found that of the 764 presidents who responded to the survey, 41 percent said they dealt with educational leadership daily, and only 28 percent said they dealt with student issues on a daily basis.

As a result, the accessibility of Genshaft has tightened for some groups on campus.

“Her objective is to expand and build USF, which is understandable, but I’ve heard it time and time again: Students say, ‘Where is the president?'” student body President Maxon Victor said. “I think she should think of ways to be more accessible because students, from what I hear, aren’t as pleased as they want to be with seeing the president.”

Genshaft walks around campus on the first day of every semester to mingle with students and holds a luncheon approximately once a month in which she meets with selected students. Provost Renu Khator, the head of the faculty, said Genshaft was “amazingly accessible.”

Student body Vice President Sameer Ahmed doesn’t agree.

“As far as expanding the University, really taking it to the forefront, she’s really doing a good job with that,” he said. “But students don’t know that. They don’t see her.”

Genshaft said she meets with Vice President of Student Affairs Jennifer Capeheart-Meningall and the other vice presidents individually once a week.

“Students are extraordinarily high priority; they’re the reason we exist,” Genshaft said. “All the fund raising is for them, for their benefit.”

And while she admits being president of a university is increasingly demanding, she still calls it her “dream job.”

“You have to have the right kind of background and the constitution for it, because it’s very stressful,” she said. “But I love it.”