USF BOT: Poly transition task force, a new fee, and a visit from the Morsanis
In the first meeting of the University of South Florida Board of Trustees since state university system leaders voted to delay the independence of USF's branch campus in Lakeland, the board's chairman created a five-member committee to oversee that transition.
"I'd like for this work to be done with maximum communication and transparency," said chair John Ramil. "Effective and timely completion of these milestones would be in the best interest of the USF system and USF Polytechnic."
The committee members are: Brian Lamb, who will serve as chair; Stephanie Goforth; Stephen Mitchell; Byron Shinn; and Jordan Zimmerman. They will oversee USF Poly's work toward separate accreditation, increased enrollment in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) degrees, completing the first phase of its new campus, and reaching the various other goals outlined by the Florida Board of Governors last month.
The USF Poly issue was touched upon multiple times during the Thursday morning meeting. First with that task force announcement, and again in USF Poly regional chancellor Marshall Goodman's remarks. Goodman, wearing a gold tie, assured the USF leaders that the campus was working hard to meet those independence benchmarks. The school now has more than a dozen searches underway for new faculty members, he said, and hopes to rapidly increase its student enrollment in STEM degrees from the current 17 percent to 50 percent.
After that, the trustees moved on to a presentation by provost Ralph Wilcox on USF's STEM policies, but soon after, USF Poly was on their lips again. During the round table discussion trustee Elizabeth Bird, president of the USF Faculty Senate, blasted Goodman's leadership during the firestorm before the independence decision. She shared with the trustees a vote by the USF Polytechnic faculty senate that voiced "no confidence" in Goodman after what they deemed a disregard of their opinions in the split debate. (A majority of the faculty wanted to stay a part of the USF system). Student Body President Matt Diaz echoed Bird's message on behalf of the students.
But USF Poly wasn't the only item on the table.
The board also voted to approve a new student fee that will help pay for internships and co-ops. It was supported by the USF Student Government as part of a compromise that would make it "cost-neutral" for the first year. That means that cost increases on two other fees that would be automatically hiked with tuition will be frozen, and the new fee will cost whatever that hike amount would have been. So students end up paying more, but only as much as they would have paid anyway, without the fee.
USF President Judy Genshaft gave her update to the board on the USF system and USF Tampa -- speaking about the recent Florida A&M University hazing scandal and asserting that USF works hard to discourage that kind of behavior, and lauding the university for moving from No. 8 to No. 5 in a ranking of military-friendly schools and for having its first Marshall Scholar.
In an emotional end to the meeting, local philanthropists Frank and Carol Morsani, who just donated $20 million to build a new USF medical school -- the largest in USF's history -- told the trustees they were honored to help the university educate "the best and brightest minds."
"What we hope this gift will do," Frank Morsani tearfully said, "is it will educate, create and inspire."
"USF is a better place because of you," Genshaft said.
The couple got a standing ovation.