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University Beat

Raises and Cuts Part of USF's 'New Normal'

Mark Schreiner
WUSF 89.7 News

While staff and faculty at the University of South Florida have $8 million in raises to look forward to, the looming specter of a $12 million budget cutback is casting a pall on the school's outlook.

The two conflicting themes came out of Wednesday, when President Judy Genshaft made her annual Fall Address to the USF System before speaking to the Faculty Senate.

At an afternoon address to a packed house in the Marshall Student Center, as well as web viewers on the university website, Genshaft talked about the financial challenges that many universities are facing and how USF is trying to meet them.

"The long decline of state financial support and now federal sequester cuts means we have to work smarter to climb that mountain," she said. "We have to be strategic in how we use our resources that's the reality. This is the 'new normal' in higher education, particularly public education."

However, the university is making $8 million available for performance or merit-based raises for staff and faculty. Terms of how that money will be distributed haven't been announced, but the increase, which comes on top of a similar pay bump from the state, will be effective January 1, 2014.

Speaking after her address, Genshaft called the raises a "reinvestment."

"The staff have not received raises in five years and the faculty have received some, but they did not receive anything last year at all," she said, "so this is really important to reward top performers and good people that work so hard with money that they deserve."

However, she couldn't rule out layoffs of some faculty and staff.

"I don't know. That is really up to the budget structure that we're going to have, I can't promise one way or another," she said.

The reasons for possible job cuts were made clearer a short time later at the first meeting of the semester for the Faculty Senate.

School newspaper, The Oracle, reports that Genshaft told senators USF  will have to slash $12 million from its recurring budget this year. And $9 million will have to come from Academic Affairs and support units.

“I’d like to see the final numbers come to each of the deans that are in Academic Affairs by next week. I mean, we’ve been waiting long enough. It’s time for the deans to receive their numbers. We’ve had the $9 million out for a couple of weeks — at least three. It’s time for the deans to get their numbers so they can get to work and conduct the business they need to conduct,” she said. “I mean, nobody’s getting rich on this. Everybody is putting forth their efforts and trying on this. We’re all working very hard.”

The cuts would help replenish USF's cash reserves, which were strongly hit by state budget cuts last year, as well as the severing of USF Polytechnic in Lakeland from the USF System.

All was not negative however. Genshaft spent most of her earlier 40 minute Fall Address singling out programs and individuals for praise.

USF's research efforts took center stage, with the announcement that the school received $413.6 million in new research contracts and grants for the 2012-13 academic year, an increase of $2.6 million from the previous year.

"This is spectacular and a true testament to just how strong and focused our faculty and researchers are. We are defying the conventional wisdom by being more competitive in a year when federal budget cuts have made grants more difficult to win," Genshaft said.

She also spoke highly of Professor Erin Kimmerle and her team of anthropologists and students who continue to investigate the mysterious graves at the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna; USF Public Health and program director Jodi Ray, who received more than $4.2 million in U.S. Health and Human Services' funds to hire Affordable Care Act  counselors called "navigators," who will help Floridians enroll in a health insurance plan; and student veterans Dwayne Scheuneman, who won four gold medals at this summer's National Veterans Wheelchair Games, and Kiersten Downs, who biked across the country to raise money for student veterans.

In addition, Genshaft said USF's Unstoppable fundraising campaign surpassed its original goal of $600 million. Since the program was launched in October 2009, $621 million has been raised (as of June 30th), including $325 million for academic programs, $75 million for student scholarships, $40 million for USF Athletics and $34 million for faculty chairs and professorships.

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