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Genshaft: Lawmakers Hearing "Don't Mess with USF"


USF President Judy Genshaft says there’s one positive side effect of almost having $128 million cut from the budget: seeing the Tampa Bay delegation and community rally around USF.

“We believe the University of South Florida is very strong and will remain strong. And we’ve shown this strength through the outpouring of comments and e-mails and calls,” she said.

“The legislators have heard very loudly that the University of South Florida system: Don’t mess with it.”

In an interview with WUSF's Florida Matters, Genshaft explained why she asked for the Tampa Bay community to lobby lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott.

“This is my 12th year as president. Never once have I called for this kind of a response. But frankly, never has the university been targeted like this, either,” she said.

“The original proposal was to take the University of South Florida down by $128 million. That’s just unheard of. That’s obscene. That’s just beyond (the) pale.”

She says she’s especially concerned about the USF College of Pharmacy, which would lose its $6 million appropriation under the Senate plan.

She also reiterated she wants to take in all the students, faculty and staff from USF Polytechnic that might lose their institution if it becomes an independent university overnight.

But she says she needs $18 million in funding to absorb them.

“While you’re going through these kind of challenges, it puts in question, is everything going to be okay? Are we going to come out of this alright?” she said.

“And that’s unfortunate. That’s unfortunate that anybody would need to question that in this day and age that higher education is going to be okay,” she said.

Meanwhile, Tampa Senator Jim Norman has filed three amendments he says would restore fairness for the University of South Florida in the budget process.

USF officials say Senate Budget Chairman JD Alexander's current proposal to cut $78 million hits USF harder than any other university.

Normans' amendments restore $6 million to USF for its pharmacy program, $16 million in costs for absorbing the faculty and staff from USF's Lakeland branch, and reduce USF's overall cut to $50 million, spread across all USF campuses.

Scott Finn is a former news director at WUSF Public Media, which provides in-depth reporting for Tampa Bay and all of Florida.
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