Listen: USF, President Genshaft, President Trump discussed on Florida Matters
"This is Florida matters. I'm Robin Sesing ham. It's the end of an era at the university of south Florida after nineteen years as the president of USF, Judy Genshaft is stepping down today on Florida matters. We're talking about the highs and lows of president gin Chaffetz long tenure. I'm going to say at the outset that Florida matters and USF public media is based at the university of south Florida and received support from USF but is editorially independent with me in the studio is Mark Schreiner assistant news director at W, USF, and longtime, producer of university vit. He's been reporting on the university of south Florida for many years, highmark. I Robin, thanks for having me, and Steve newborn WS assistant news director and reporter, Steve attended USF as a student in the eighties. So he seen a lot of changes to the university over the years. Hey Steve glad to be here. Well, nineteen years that is an unusually long time for one person to remain a college president, isn't it? I mean, what's been her secret to her staying power, do you think Mark thinks this thing is Robin nineteen years? I think she passed Jon Allen is the longest tenured president of USF about five years ago, Jon Allen, the first president of the university. And what I think, really worked well, for president Genshaft is that she was always a cheerleader for the university, the joke that has been going around particularly for the last year, but it was very noticeable every speech she ever gives and I mean, you probably wouldn't like someone asks her, you know, paper or plastic. She probably says paper and then she throws in a go bulls at the end. Making that the bowl logo. Yes. Which should I'm surprised one of her hands isn't, you know, posed. An but, but she's, she's a huge like I said, a huge cheerleader for the university while at the same extent a job like that you need to be politically, astute, you need to work with not just a board of trustees who you answer to, but you work well, with city legislators, and of course, with the US F system. You're not just talking Tampa. You're talking Saint Petersburg, you're talking Sarasota manatee. You're talking Polk County with lakeland in polytechnic for a while there. And then state lawmakers because of course it's a state university. It gets funding from the state, and she was very much into a strengthening those relationships and keeping strong bonds with those lawmakers and powers that be in the community constituency. It's a big university. Do you know how many people it's actually? And that's the other thing that that is really being trumpeted now is the idea. Of the growth that took place in the two decades under, again shaft, you know enrollment growing by forty percents. Oh my God. Yeah. Yeah. Right now, I want to say realize that yeah, that's the thing is that just the growth in terms of students. I want to say between the US F system. It's in the neighborhood of now, fifty thousand students on the three campuses of USF Tampa, Saint Pete, and Sarasota manatee, and then another thirty thousand staff and faculty, Mark talk a little bit about her background. She was a professor, I guess she started out, yet, she actually went to university of Wisconsin Madison, social work and psychology. And then she really focused in on school counseling when she got her graduates, and doctorate at Kent state university, and the, the focus, there was how schools reached out to students and you saw that more and more throughout her tenure with the honors college back when she started in two thousand USF's honors college wasn't even a college. It was an honors program at the time. Quickly. She wanted to set it up as a college brought in directors to run it as a college, and now the last probably the last thing that she's going to be best known for is this twenty million dollar gift to create an honors college that will bear her name, twenty million dollar gift from her and her husband. Stephen Greenbaum for this college, that's going to expand to about five thousand students, and at that ceremony in may, when she talked about the gift, one of the things she stressed was the idea that this was something that she has always been about from her education days from her days in college of focusing in add student achievement. All right. So you mentioned Mark that she came on board as president of university of south, Florida and the year two thousand and Steve, she got kind of off to a rocky start. She became president in July two thousand the next year. We had nine eleven and then soon after that the admit. Station suspended a professor by the name of Sami Al Aryan, and this was a national brouhaha and you were were reporting on that at the time, right Semioli, Iran was a professor. He started a group called wise the world in Islam institute at USF L on came under investigation by an independent documentarian by the name of Steve Emerson, who basically accused wise of being a front for a group called Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which was later declared a terrorist group, by the United States government, the month after nine eleven you gotta remember emotions were running really, really high and Ari on when on the Bill O'Reilly show, the O'Reilly factor on FOX and a Riley, basically ambushed him. And people were phoning in death threats bombing threats against USF so Genshaft and the new university board of trustees. You gotta remember the board of trustees had just been established. Replacing the longtime board of regents here, and it was a group of basically business people who are running the university. Just a lot of disruption at this time disruption they came to an agreement that they were going to fire him. They didn't actually do it at the time. And this created a firestorm of controversy from professors, who believe that the university should be a beacon of academic freedom. This became a national even international issue, and it really didn't come to a head until L Aryan wasn't died about the federal government about a year later, and they quieted down a lot of people who were defending him became silent at that point, because it looked like okay. They had reasons beside freedom of speech. They had reasons to suspend him. And you've got to remember back then the image of the university took a really big hit of we, we were being called jihad. You really a nationally. We're getting getting to be embarrassing. Yeah. Rodney plot of bad press. So Steve, you're. Reporting on this story of Al Arian and the university of south Florida, at the time and we have some archival tape of Judy Genshaft at the time. This university has been through a great deal and it's, it's hurt the university, and it's been very difficult for us. And I believe that, that severing all ties of this misuse of our university is a very important step. This university is larger than this particular case. So she did, so she survived that she went on, but then Mark, she did have some run ends after that with faculty. And again, you're going to have that, that, that push and pull at any university, where faculty and administration bump heads. Whether you're talking a pay issues or tenure or things like that, one of the big arguments at USF, which is a big argument in higher education in general, right now is the use of adjunct faculty, which are. Professors and instructors who, don't get a tenure don't get benefits in many cases are poorly paid are working basically part time jobs, as a full-time basis. So that has long been an argument anytime that's Genshaft salary came up the idea that she was at one point in time, the seventh highest paid public university presidents in the country as of two thousand sixteen seventeen academic year, that argument always was, you know what about the faculty. What about the adjuncts how you paying them? But again, it's an industry wide issue right now recently, the university decided to consolidate all of its branch campuses, and this caused quite a bit of concern among people in Saint Petersburg, especially where USF Saint Petersburg, is located. I'm going to put the disclaimer on that of the university may have decided it, it may have been decided outside the university that USF was going to consolidate. There's a lot of. Speculation on who really came up with this idea was it Representative crisp rolls, a USF alum based out of palm harbor. Was it president shafter self? She has been quoted multiple times as saying that she had heard talk about consolidation being an idea, but she was surprised when the state legislature put it in a proposal. But again, you know that there's never really been a definitive answer of whose idea it was as far as I know. But the concern was for years. And this again, predates president Genshaft, the idea of Saint Petersburg, and Sarasota manatee wanting more autonomy, maybe even at some point, separating and becoming their own colleges, while again, the state's nest necessarily was going to allow that, but the campus is ended up with a lot more atonomy under consolidation. Some of that on Tommy is going to be taken back some of that's going to. End up in the hands of Tampa. What comes with consolidation though is more money for those regional campuses. And what a lot of university officials are praising is the idea that a student now can enroll at Sarasota manatee can enroll at Saint Petersburg, and end up taking the same classes that they can take on the Tampa campus. So kind of keeping them as as strong branch campuses with their own identity. But at the same idea, making those programs cross borders across the three, I think one thing that probably in the back of president in Chaffetz mind. This whole thing was the, the lesson of what happened to the USF lakeland campus USF had a joint campus with Polk munity college for many years, and after the started bursting at the seams, literally, they USF wanted to build a branch campus. USF polytechnic is what it was called and somewhere along the line a very. Powerful politician by the name of GD, Alexander who was speaker of the house at the time is very big landowner a Polk County as well. He decided that he wanted to make this a separate campus and he used his considerable political will to basically cleave this off of the us system. And it became Florida polytechnic. It's now this beautiful building with, well, it's university state university. Right. The, the beautiful building this right on I four. But that had to be in the back of her mind. The lesson there of how to keep these branch campuses in Sarasota and Saint Petersburg in the USF or breaking off. And I thought, you know, people who are involved in that very bitter, fight must have also been thinking, well look what happened to the branch campuses. After all good thing, we went ahead and became an independent university that was one big fight that Judy Genshaft ended up losing, when USF lakeland, which became USF polytechnic. It's split that was in two thousand twelve that was that. Must have been quite a rough time. I'm not going to necessarily say that they lost because what ended up happening after, you know, USF losing. Yes, the polytechnic campus which I'm sure was a loss for the university. What happened then was the budget deal? The budget battle that immediately followed that in early. Twenty twelve where JD Alexander basically is the guy who controlled the pen and control the money was going to say, you know, what USF you fought me on this. I'm gonna punish you and he was looking at cutting funding for the university somewhere in the neighborhood of one hundred and twenty eight million dollars. I mean that is like taking a blow torch to a university. That's almost a fifty percent budget cut at the time. And I remember there was a lot of talk about salaries being cut. So it was affecting people in personal level, a lot of angst around, there was and again, that, that goes all the way from faculty down to, how's it going affect students classes. We're talking about being caught, and you saw something similar when? Then preeminence happened with the university preeminence being a mercury get into that. But just as an explanation, a metric system that the state sets up that allows for extra funding for schools that reach these levels at a point in time when USF looked like it was going to attain preeminence, in join Florida and Florida state's the goalposts got moved, and I had the opportunity to watch the board of trustees and president Genshaft at that time rally the troops, and they did something similar with this budget battle back in two thousand twelve and this is again, that political animal that political power that a president needs to use is to reach out to the community to reach out to not just your board of trustees, but businesses around the community to reach out to lawmakers in the community to reach out to power brokers and say, we need a hand.."