They had received a response, but they weren’t happy with it.
So once again, members of Students for a Democratic Society marched to the Patel Center for Global Solutions building, this time equipped with strawberries, bagels and textbooks and sat in the lobby, waiting for a chance to speak with President Judy Genshaft, who responded to their request to meet the day before.
The group first marched to the Patel Center a month ago where they voiced their list of eight demands to Chief Operating Officer John Long, Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Dee Siscoe and USF student body President Brian Goff. Genshaft was unavailable that day, they were told, but they could email her scheduling assistant, who was out of office that day, to see if setting up a meeting was possible. But they left saying they wouldn’t be satisfied until they could meet with Genshaft.
The group sent an email requesting a meeting with Genshaft a couple of weeks later, but when they didn’t hear a response, they marched to the Patel Center equipped with posters stating “chop from the top” and “Why won’t Judy meet with us?”
They said they wanted their concerns to be heard.
They wanted to see expanded student rights. They wanted to see the university take a stronger stance against “rape culture.” They wanted to see tuition increases stopped. They wanted to know Genshaft had heard their concerns.
The group was told they could expect a response within a week’s time, but they didn’t leave. They sat in the lobby of the Patel Center until they had classes or until the close of business. If Genshaft entered or exited the building, they said, they wanted to talk to her.
Last Thursday, Genshaft sent the group an email stating she had heard their concerns.
“The interests of USF students and student organizations are diverse, but I think we all agree on the importance [sic] student success, affordable tuition, operational efficiency, appropriate funding and a safe campus,” the email said.
But their request to have their concerns heard, she said, might be more effective if they met with Provost and Executive Vice President Ralph Wilcox and Dean for Students Michael Freeman.
“Whether a concern comes through the Student Government President, who is a full voting member of USF’s Board of Trustees, or from a student outside the Juniper-Poplar dining facility, my practice is to refer students to the subject matter experts who are best able to respond,” the email said.
But the protesters came back Friday with books and food on Friday. They wouldn’t set up a meeting with Wilcox or Michael Freeman until they had assurance that Genshaft would be present too, they said.
They said USF Media and Public Affairs Coordinator Adam Freeman told them Genshaft’s schedule was filled with meetings for the rest of the day and she might not be back in the building, but the group decided to stay anyway.
“We want to remind her that this is an educational institution, not a corporation,” Tefa Galvis, a senior majoring in theater who sat in the Patel Center on Friday said. “This is not her kingdom.
“We’re here to talk to her,” she said. “Whomever she wants to bring is fine, but we’re here to be listened to by her … She’s talked about as this graceful, amazing person at USF, but she doesn’t even want to talk to the students. This is our school. She works for our school and she’s here because of us.”
In her email to the students, Genshaft said she regularly receives student feedback on campus through several methods including Student Government, which she said “exists to equally represent the views of students through student-elected representatives;” “Lunch and Learns,” or lunches with groups of invited students the president hosts every four to six weeks or as her schedule permits; campus walking tours on the first days of classes, at on-campus events and via emails and letters.
Nathan Schwartz, a senior majoring in psychology, said he wasn’t satisfied with the response and said he felt the university “cares more about its overall image than its students.”
“She’s our representative to the Board of Trustees, but she’s not acting like it,” Schwartz said. “She’s acting like she owns the place.”
Galvis said the group plans to return every Friday until they feel Genshaft has taken their concerns seriously. 12