Remarks by USF President Judy Genshaft

Remarks by University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft to the Board of Governors, Nov. 9, 2011:

(Acknowledged USF Board of Trustees members Chair John Ramil, Hal Mullis, Gene Engle, Byron Shinn, Jordan Zimmerman and student trustee Matt Diaz, as well as Dave Touchton of the USF Foundation Board. Also acknowledged the USF students who came to the BOG meeting.)

Thank you Chair Parker.  Our Board of Trustees Chair John Ramil and I would like to take this opportunity to offer some opening remarks. I think you might have noticed some students that have come from all of our campuses.

Let me be very clear, the University of South Florida System is performing remarkably well.  Our four institutions are working together to respond to the needs of our Region and this state, to increase economic activity for our communities and the state, and to offer a first-class education to our students.

With very few exceptions, our students, our faculty, and alumni have expressed their strong desire to keep the USF System intact.

It’s not the right time, either economically, educationally, or practically, for a drastic change to the USF System.  USF has proven ourselves a national leader in building and operating regional Campuses.

Our regional campuses offer Florida’s students access to a first-rate degree from a top-tier institution, with minimal administrative duplication, and at a great cost savings to the taxpayers of this state.

The USF System leverages cost-sharing measures and the affordable purchasing power of bulk-buying.  We leverage USF’s top Moody’s bond rating and we’re one of the top three universities in the SUS, to build the ancillary facilities at our campuses that could never be accomplished alone.

We want each of our regional campuses to be the best that they can be.  We have taken the leadership role in the development of regional campuses and institutions in this state, by allowing our regional institutions and campuses to be the only ones in this state who have the direct authority to create their own degree programs locally – the programs that best meet the needs of their host communities.

The USF System is working, and it’s working well.

With respect to USF Polytechnic, the Statute which the Legislature passed in 2008 that legally established USF Polytechnic established it as the, and I’m quoting, “Lakeland Campus” of USF to be known as USF Polytechnic. 

Prior to that time, and certainly since that date, USF has set out to do just that: Build and support our youngest regional campus of the USF System as we have with our other USF institutions.

I have read with great interest and concern as this process unfolded just 14 weeks ago, comments insinuating that the USF Board of Trustees and our leadership have failed to properly “prioritize” the development of the new USF Polytechnic campus within the priorities of the USF System. 

It is important that I set the record straight.  It was USF that developed the “Polytechnic” concept for this campus.  With the generosity of the state we provided the campus with the ability to hire faculty of their choosing and create Polytechnic degree programs. In other words, USF Poly has its own search processes and academic autonomy.

USF Polytechnic’s mission is to be a campus of USF that focuses primarily on unique STEM disciplines and applied technology, because that mission best fits the needs of the geographic area where the campus is located.  My constant mantra since the day I arrived is that the USF regional campuses and institutions should meet the economic and educational needs of their regions and the state.

The USF Board of Trustees submitted to this Board of Governors in our Annual Work Plan, in June 2010, at USF Polytechnic’s request, the intent to offer 14 new degree programs of the campus’ choosing.  With the 14 new degree programs, there was the intent to offer 3 additional new degree programs, not duplicative of the original 14. And since then, we submitted notice of intent for another 3 new USF Polytechnic degree programs in the Annual Work Plan this summer. We are not a barrier whatsoever. It is in our minutes, and your minutes, that they have been passed through. However, with all the talk, not one degree program has materialized. Not one has come through the Board of Trustees, through to the Board of Governors.   

As of today, zero of those 17 degree program proposals for new Bachelor’s and Master’s programs have been developed and submitted by the USF Polytechnic Campus to the USF Board of Trustees for authorization to implement them.

And just last month, the campus submitted its preliminary list for next year’s work plan to create 14 additional new degree programs.

The USF Board of Trustees has rejected none of these degree proposals. In fact, they have never even received them.  The delays in degree production by that campus are related to productivity and growing pains, but not barriers from the USF System.

And how did USF demonstrate its commitment to building this new campus?  USF and Polk Community College sought PECO funding for a joint use facility. Then it was USF that guided and went through an open bid process to secure the land donation for this new campus.

Then, for seven consecutive years, the USF Board of Trustees, and the Board of Governors, submitted PECO requests, within the revenue available to us at the time, to secure the state funds necessary to arrive at the point in time we are today – ready to begin construction on the first facility at the USF Polytechnic campus site.

In the six years that followed that first appropriation the USF System has initiated and received full funding for only one other new PECO facility project on all of our other USF campuses or institutions combined.

USF’s commitment to the development of this Regional Campus is beyond doubt.  USF cannot be reasonably accused of holding back the growth of USF Polytechnic.  In fact, we have really facilitated its growth.

However, Board Members, what you have before you today is not a development plan for a Regional Campus of USF. It is a plan for a new State University.

A new State University offering Freshman through Doctoral level programs with at least 20 facilities planned for construction campus and residential life for tens of thousands of students, NCAA athletics, and a full cohort of university administrative services to support itself.

Let me give you a reality perspective of the time that it takes to develop such a robust university. The institutions that I have selected are those listed by USF Poly as “peers” and “aspirational peers.”

You have these in your appendixes. (Mentioned the following and length to full development: Arizona State University, 45 years. California State Polytechnic University Pomona, 34 years. California State University San Luis Obispo, 74 years.)

It takes time, that’s what I’m saying. And there are more, and I bring these to you because the USF Polytechnic has been named a polytechnic for only three years.

What I ask today, on behalf of the USF System, BOT, our constituencies, faculty, staff and students, is that you reaffirm the mission of this campus as a USF Polytechnic Campus.

Through our present governance system, and free from outside interference, we will continue our work towards fulfilling the needs of a region, through a Regional Campus of USF, rooted in STEM disciplines, and serving the niche needs of its host community.

We have every intention of making USF Polytechnic the successful institution we all believe it can be and we have put it on the great path toward success.

Perhaps most importantly what we need from you today is a final resolution to this issue.  Further delays only serve to further divide us. 

Reconciliation must begin immediately. But it cannot begin in earnest until the decision of this board is no longer in doubt.

I cannot tell you how many different constituencies and residents from Polk County, from students, to business people, to educators, to elected officials, have said to me, "We need the University of South Florida.  Please stay in our community."

To those individuals and others who’ve supported USF, and me and our leadership, I’d like to extend our great thanks. 

As you all know, I have always believed in and fought for our region. I am a regionalist. And our region includes Polk County.

I have made promises to our region and to our students, and I have always lived up to them to the best of my ability.  I have every confidence that we can bring to Polk County the STEM and applied technology that you so richly deserve and I believe we can do it through the University of South Florida.

Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to your discussion.