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Consolidation Concerns, Presidential Search Highlight USF Trustees' Final Meeting Of 2018

Dec 5, 2018

The University of South Florida will see some major changes over the next 20 months.

First, it has to replace Judy Genshaft, who retires as President effective July 1, 2019. Then, the state-mandated deadline for USF to consolidate its three campuses under a single accreditation falls exactly a year later.

Both issues were on the minds of the USF Board of Trustees at their final meeting of 2018 in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.

Chairman Brian Lamb said he's not worried about taking on both challenges at the same time, as they have a plan.

“I think we’re investing time and strategy and effort around transforming and positioning this institution for the future,” he said. “I don’t see (the two efforts) as a distraction, I don’t see it as disruptive, I see it in line with what we’ve already committed to do.”

“When you look at consolidation and the new presidential search, all of those align with the strategies that we've already agreed upon as a board,” added Lamb. “So what would be really tough is if we were trying to create new strategies while we were doing these other key strategic initiatives.”

The board first approved a job description for the presidential vacancy.

USF put out a survey to faculty and staff, students, alumni and community leaders. Search Committee Vice Chair Rhea Law said they received almost 800 responses, including more than 350 from current students.

That feedback, along with consultants’ advice and feedback from sessions held at all three campuses, went into the job description.

It's a comprehensive document with two dozen desired attributes, including, in the university’s own words:

  • “a proven record of distinguished academic, scholarly and professional accomplishment,”
  • “proven success in building strong external community relationships,”
  • and an understanding of “major intercollegiate athletics programs and their role within the university fabric.”

However, Law said it won't mean anything until they see who applies.

Rhea Law, Vice Chair of the USF Presidential Search Committee, shares the job description with trustees.
Credit Mark Schreiner / WUSF Public Media

“Not every single thing is going to be on the list, they may not have the experience today, but they can grow into it,” said Law. "These criteria, all listed, give you an idea of what the University of South Florida is about, but until you see an actual person and you see their background and you see how they might fit, you don't know whether they'd be a good choice or not.”

Law said consultants will next be reaching out to prospective applicants. Recommendations would be presented to trustees by the end of the first quarter of 2019, and they hope to decide on a replacement in the spring. That replacement will also have to be approved by the Florida Board of Governors.

Trustees also received updates on the consolidation of the accreditations of the three USF campuses from both the Consolidation Planning and Implementation Task Force and Huron Consulting, which is assisting the university in the process.

While the plan is moving forward following a number of Task Force meetings and town hall-style listening sessions in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee, concerns remain about the timetable.

Final reports from both the Task Force and USF leadership are due Feb. 15, 2019; the Board of Trustees must adopt an implementation plan and submit it to the Florida Board of Governors by March 15.

As a result, trustees decided to schedule an extra discussion in January, ahead of their next scheduled committee meetings Feb. 12.

“We want to get this done the right way, so we feel it’s prudent to have a working meeting where we really look at what I call the critical few times that deserve attention,” said Lamb. “That should position us to make the right decision when we have the full body of work in February.”

The board also approved Genshaft’s annual bonus of $295,500 for the 2017-18 school year.

Under terms of her contract, Genshaft can receive a performance-based stipend of up to $300,000. Up to 70 percent of that is awarded by a USF Board of Trustees Governance committee, the rest by Board Chairman Brian Lamb.

The committee voted in October to give Genshaft the entire $210,000 allowed, which the board approved Tuesday. Lamb approved 95 percent of the $90,000 he was allowed to reward.

“She had an almost near perfect year,” said Lamb. “What she has done in her role as president has been, bar none, exceptional. I think we captured that in the essence of the overall review, in addition to making sure we’re thinking about how we can continue to get better as an institution.”

Genshaft’s bonus is based on USF's performance in a number of goals during the 2017-2018 fiscal year, including research, student success, strategic initiatives and fundraising.

“I am thrilled, privileged and honored,” said Genshaft. “I think the board recognized how fabulous of a year this has been, but it’s a culmination of a number of years that we’ve worked towards these goals.”

During the fiscal year, USF achieved a trio of Genshaft's long-term goals: attaining preeminent status, placing it alongside the University of Florida and Florida State; joining the Phi Beta Kappa academic honor society; and reaching the $1 billion mark in USF’s “Unstoppable” fund-raising campaign.