USF president praises progress

USF has attained national prominence in research and athletics, but in order to continue its upward rise, the University has to improve campus security and academics to draw more students to live on campus, said President Judy Genshaft on Wednesday in her Fall Address.

Genshaft discussed the implications of the University’s five-year strategic plan, which was designed to facilitate USF’s rise and thrust it among the ranks of the Association of American Universities (AAU).

Genshaft said the administration aims to have a quarter of the student body living on campus or in USF-affiliated housing by 2012, a figure required by the Carnegie Foundation to designate USF a “residentialinstitution.”

Genshaft said she recently approved plans to build a new residential complex, which will house 1,500 students, a dining hall and a fitness center. She said it will be built on the Tampa campus, but did not specify the exact location or cost.

As an indication of her commitment to the quality of student life, Genshaft reminded the audience about the living learning communities in existing residence halls and the progressing construction of the new 300,000-square-foot Marshall Center.

Genshaft said there is a task force comprised of members from all campuses considering improvements to safety procedures on campus, and she expects to receive its recommendations in the next few months.

“There’s nothing more important to me than having a safe environment for our students, our faculty and staff,” Genshaft said. “Campus safety is a critical priority and always has been at USF.”

She referred to an 11 percent decline in campus crime statistics that was reported in August. She did not discuss the unusual number of bike thefts this semester or the recent capture of Jerrod Pass, the suspect in a number of rapes in the area surrounding USF.

Aside from thanking the University Police, Genshaft did not speak about the agency’s budgetary problems that have driven some officers to seek employment elsewhere.

Security personnel will be contracted to patrol residence hall areas in November. She did not give the name of the firm to be hired or provide any details about the projected cost.

Genshaft said the MoBull Plus text-messaging system, initiated following the mass shooting at Virginia Tech last year, now has 11,000 subscribers.

Pointing to audience members, she urged them to sign up for the service, declaring with a smile that she herself is a subscriber.

In response to the recent death of sophomore Rachel Futterman from bacterial meningitis, Genshaft said, it will be mandatory for all students living on campus to show proof of vaccinations, including meningitis.

“Due to the recent tragic event on our campus, I urge you all to be smart about your personal health,” Genshaft said.

Genshaft highlighted the growth in graduate studies at USF, saying graduate enrollment has risen 13 percent over the last three years, with doctoral students more than doubling over seven years.

To gain AAU status, USF’s administration seeks to have 25 percent of total enrollment in graduate and professional studies, Genshaft said.

She hopes to shrink the time graduate students take to complete their degrees from three and a half years on average to two years.

Genshaft said the USF Board of Trustees had just approved three doctoral programs – in government, history and sociology. The programs are awaiting approval by the Board of Governors, the body in charge of Florida’s public universities.

“I remain committed to raising funds to recruit and retain graduate students who are vital to our teaching and research mission,” Genshaft said.

Genshaft singled out and congratulated a number of prominent researchers and new academic appointees, USF’s “academic superstars” who were correspondingly thanked with loud applause by the audience.

Dan Catlin can be reached at (813) 974-6299 or