USF Preparing For Accreditation Consolidation

Mar 7, 2018

University of South Florida officials are not waiting for Governor Rick Scott to sign a higher education bill before they start planning to consolidate their campuses under one accreditation.

The House and Senate approved the bill Monday and it's already been delivered to Scott.

In return for giving up some independence, USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee would receive more of the state funding the Tampa campus is set to receive for academic excellence. 

In addition, during Tuesday's board meeting in Tampa, trustees learned that the campuses will keep their names, separate campus advisory boards and their "unique identities."

According to board chair Brian Lamb, they're already trying to find out what people associated with all three campuses want out of the change.

"There's been a number of our trustees out in the local community, listening and gathering feedback and perspective - that's important to us," Lamb said. "Our students and our faculty have also participated in that learning process."

If the bill becomes a law, a task force will be formed to oversee the consolidation, with members appointed by state lawmakers and the university. Lamb is glad that they get to weigh in on what happens next.

"I think our elected officials in Tallahassee have done a good job of making sure that we can locally make decisions that are in the best interest of the university, our students and our faculty," said Lamb. "I think they've listened and taken some feedback, Rep. (Chris) Sprowls (R-Palm Harbor) and Sen. (Jeff) Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) have both been engaged and listened to what the community has said in terms of recommendations and I think you've seen some amendments come through in response to that feedback."

"We will absolutely be ready to respond to the statutory guidelines that are laid out by our legislature. Our board has always been prudent, following due process, being transparent and also holding each other accountable to do the right thing for our students," he added.

The task force will have to submit recommendations to trustees by February of next year, then the trustees must adopt and submit an implementation plan to the Florida Board of Governors, which oversee the State University System's 12 public universities, by March 2019. The bill requires USF to phase out separate accreditations by the end of June 2020.

In other actions Tuesday, trustees approved renewing System President Judy Genshaft's contract for 2018-19. 

She'll receive $505,837 in base pay, $118,674 in deferred compensation and a performance bonus of up to $300,000. 

Lamb pointed out that Genshaft requested she receive the same base pay as in her 2017-18 contract.

"She has consistently put the university first. This is yet another example of her putting the university first, the university's best interests, the students, the faculty and this community," he said.

Genshaft's 2017-18 performance bonus was $263,175 - almost 96 percent of the maximum she could receive. Trustees rule on how much of the bonus she can receive based on goals set at the beginning of the contract, with the board chair choosing to add to that or not.

"We still have a significant amount of her compensation tied to performance, and she's very supportive of that model, and that's a testament to the president realizing, at the end of the day, we need to produce outcomes that are in the best interest of USF and the state of Florida," Lamb said. 

The Florida Board of Governors requires university presidents to have contracts renewed annually instead of on a long-term basis.

By way of comparison, figures provided by USF show that University of Florida President W. Kent Fuchs will make $872,900 in base pay in 2018-19, with $310,000 in deferred compensation and a performance bonus of 3 to 4 percent of his base pay. Florida State President John Thrasher will make $566,847 in base pay, $228,802 in deferred compensation and $200,000 in bonus pay.

Both men were hired in 2014, while Genshaft has been with USF since 2000. With the retirement of University of Central Florida President John Hitt this June, Genshaft will become the longest-serving president in the State University System. 

Hitt will receive $505,739 in base pay, $118,646 in deferred compensation, a $164,475 performance bonus and a professional development salary of $260,000 if he comes back to teach for one year after he retires.