Students become lobbyists for a day

Dozens of USF students joined faculty, alumni and peers from USF campuses across the state to meet legislators and promote growth of the University during this year’s Bulls’ Day at the Capitol.

With multiple campuses stretching across the Tampa Bay metropolitan area, USF has become the second largest university in Florida. As USF continues to grow, it utilizes events such as this to remind legislators of its achievements and future plans. Also, meeting students and seeing their passion for the University helps legislators connect with USF, making it less of a name and instead a more easily identifiable community of constituents.

“Visibility, visibility, visibility. This is an environment where if you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind, and if you’re out of mind, you’re out of the budget,” said Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa.

USF’s current legislative priorities for the undergraduate program include funding for USF Student Excellence Scholarships and enhancing the Tracking the Academic Progress of Students (TAPS) program, requiring $5.9 million. The graduate program calls for $8.1 million to equal the level of support for graduate students that students at Florida’s other top public research university – the University of Florida – receive.

“We’re one of only 63 top-, top-, top-tier universities in the country, according to the Carnegie Foundation,” USF President Judy Genshaft said. “There are only three in Florida.”

USF also hopes to protect its share of Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) funds in order to plan and construct a new Visual and Performing Arts teaching facility.

Students handed out informational packets to senators and representatives to provide them with USF’s stance on certain legislation. It included their recommendations on the aforementioned USF-oriented material, as well as bills affecting the entire State University System.

“There are so many legislators in the Tampa Bay area, and USF has many campuses throughout the region that I think USF will always be OK (in terms of funding consideration) because USF is in the heart of their territory,” Tallahassee attorney and USF alumnus Barrett Johnson said.

Two major statewide issues students lobbied for were protecting Bright Futures scholarships in order to retain in-state students and maintaining low tuition rates in Florida. According to the informational packets, tuition rates have increased 47.7 percent since 1996, while student fees have increased 25.7 percent.

At the “IncrediBULL” luncheon, alumni, legislators, faculty and students gathered to present awards to senators and representatives who have consistently aided the University.

“I think anyone from Tampa Bay would be shortsighted if they were not supporting everything that’s happening at the University of South Florida,” alumnus and representative Charlie Justice, D-St. Petersburg, said. “Everyday you open the paper and you read about the positive impact that our University is having on the community.”

Following the luncheon, a “MeetaBULL” pep rally was held to showcase Bull spirit. The Sun Dolls and Herd of Thunder marching band performed, and bags of pretzels and animal crackers emblazoned with the USF logo were distributed to passersby.

“The pep rally intentions were to get legislators in Tallahassee excited about what USF has to offer,” Student Government senator Randy Holm said.

To commemorate USF’s 50th anniversary, the House unanimously passed a resolution to have April 18 observed around the Capitol and across the state as USF day.