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Judy Genshaft on USF budget cuts: ‘There’s still time to make a difference’

Minutes before the BOT meeting adjourned, Chairman John Ramil gave encouraging words to the audience within the Patel Center Auditorium. Before he even finished audience members gave a standing ovation. "This university has been under assault over the past several months … you have to play the game for a while but when the game starts to move you away from what’s right for students … you put your foot down and you say 'no.' We say 'no.'" - Ramil (Photo Credit: Diedra Rodriguez)

After the Florida Senate’s proposed budget became publicized, the University of South Florida Board of Trustees called an emergency meeting Monday evening. The Dr. Kiran C. Patel Center for Global Solutions‘ auditorium filled with USF faculty, alumni, students and concerned business owners to hear what direction USF will take with a possible slash to next year’s budget.

The budget proposed would decrease 58 percent of the University’s existing budget; whereas most other Florida public universities would see no more than 30 percent decrease. The 2011-12 appropriation was $178.3 million, while the 2012-13 proposal budget would allocate $74.5 million in state funds.

USF officials and community business leaders attended the meeting to lay out the implications of a large cut and create a plan of action to mobilize against it. Everything from faculty recruitment, economic development in Tampa and accreditation could be in jeopardy.

Yet, USF student body president and trustee, Matt Diaz, was the first to ask how it would affect students – and he did not receive a positive prediction.

Student tuition may rise to make up for the budget cut, as well as reduced access and increased demand for courses. The number of sections offered would have to change, resulting in a long-term decrease in graduation rates and higher post-graduation debt.

Other difficult circumstances would arise, such as the economic impact USF has in the Tampa region,  which would lead students to look elsewhere for jobs. Recruiting and attracting high quality faculty and staff would decrease the quality of education students receive, and USF would have to work harder to find money to maintain accreditation. This means that a student would graduate with a degree from a non-accredited university.

Student body president of USF Polytechnic in Lakeland, Damon Dennis, attended the meeting and said he will rally students from his regional campus to oppose the budget proposal.

“We’re looking into taking a bus to Tallahassee on Wednesday,” he said. “I’m glad they brought to light a lot of information on what the effect of students is going to be. A lot of it was just breaking the bad news to everyone. It’s going to affect the entire state of Florida. It’s already a bad economy, so why kick it when it’s down?”

Before, during and after the meeting, attendees discussed why USF is seeing the highest budget cut. All said it is political.

Here is audio of Board Chairman, John Ramil, on the situation: 

The proposal also allocated $32.7 million to USF Polytechnic University – which has yet to be officially created. In July 2011, behind-closed-doors conversations of USF Polytechnic separating from the Tampa campus became publicized. The media consistently kept the story alive before, and after, the Board of Governors approved a separation if certain conditions were met.

Polytechnic students have voiced opposition to the separation since July. Senator J.D. Alexander, Chairman of the Higher Education Budget Committee of the Florida Senate, has been the main cheerleader, whereas USF President Judy Genshaft is not. Both have reportedly clashed over the separation and Alexander continues to say Genshaft is doing what she can to ensure it does not happen.

Since the meeting, students have shared via Facebook and Twitter an online petition against the budget cuts. At 9:15 p.m., the petition had 256 signatures. At 9:30 p.m., there were 291 signatures.

During the meeting, Genshaft said there is still time to make a change in the legislation.

“I truly believe everyone in this room can make a difference,” she said. “I can tell you that I have also spoken to several other university presidents and what they are saying is to them this is very serious. They are willing to work together to work with us to activate their legislative region to work on behalf on the entire university system on having a better budget, but we have to make sure that every legislator in our region hears from you … Ask them to stand up for USF and our students.”

Here is audio of some of her speech: 

Diaz said he is ready to rally the troops.

“I’m encouraged to see how our community has really come together. It’s significant. It’s powerful,” he said. “We have to really see what we’re going to do. We have to play strategically. If we’re going to send students up there it’s not going to be just for show.”

Here is audio of USF Student Body President, Matt Diaz:

Senate President Khalid Hassouneh said the SG Marketing Department will have a campaign set within the next 24 hours.

(Audio by Digital Bullpen reporter Atecia Robinson)

About Diedra Rodriguez

I am a current junior at the University of South Florida, majoring in Journalism-News Editorial. I have interned with The News Chief and The Ledger and will be interning full-time with the Tampa Bay Times this summer. I have been with The Oracle, USF's student newspaper for three years and have been a correspondent and news editor for the publication. In my spare time, I love going to the movies, running and using social media. I live, breathe and write news.


One Response to “Judy Genshaft on USF budget cuts: ‘There’s still time to make a difference’”

  1. This is the petition Damon Denis was talking about.

    Posted by Sage Stevens | February 13, 2012, 11:39 pm
    Reply to this comment

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