It turns out that Judy Genshaft is still president of the University of South Florida. She finally moved decisively and appropriately Tuesday to remove the chancellor of USF Polytechnic who had been conspiring with a powerful state senator to make the Lakeland campus an independent university. The only question is what took Genshaft so long to deal with a top administrator who was on his own mission and had forgotten the name of his boss.
Genshaft said in her letter to Polytech chancellor Marshall Goodman that she had lost confidence in him. No wonder. It has been apparent for months that Goodman was taking direction not from the USF president but from state Sen. JD Alexander as they tried to bully their way to independence for the Lakeland campus. The ties would be severed now if the Board of Governors, which oversees the state university system, had not slowed the process down and required a more methodical approach. This bad idea should have been rejected outright, but at least there will be a deliberate march with high benchmarks rather than a reckless stampede.
There is plenty of evidence to support Genshaft's decision to replace Goodman. He oversaw extravagant spending to advance a plan for an independent university that was based on rosy projections judged to be unreasonable by USF staff. The more the Lakeland community learned about the succession scheme, the less it liked the idea. And a no confidence vote in Goodman's leadership and a vote of confidence in Genshaft by USF Poly's Faculty Senate should have been the final straw.
Genshaft's appointment of David Touchton as interim Lakeland chancellor appears to be a smart choice. Touchton is a USF graduate, an accountant and the author of a letter signed by more than 200 Polk County residents who sought to slow down the rush to independence. He can bring order to the process, and Genshaft pledged to diligently work to meet the benchmarks along the way.
In most situations, Genshaft avoids public confrontation and prefers an upbeat approach aimed at building consensus. It turns out that the USF president can play tough when backed into a corner. Alexander, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, may take Goodman's removal out on USF's budget in the legislative session. But the senator's vindictiveness already is well documented, and it was time for Genshaft to make clear she is in charge of the university.