With university presidents around the state getting eyebrow-raising pay increases, the University of South Florida board of trustees is preparing to offer president Judy Genshaft a significant salary boost.
How much is unclear, but it could be in the $50,000 range. That is expected to be resolved next month.
On Thursday, the trustees heard from a national consultant who said Genshaft's pay is "way, way underneath the market."
Several trustees agreed.
"I believe she is not only one of the best presidents in the state, but in the nation," said trustee Steve Burton. He said he would wait to see what is recommended by a committee studying the issue, and then "if it's not high enough, then I'll speak up."
Board chairman Dick Beard said he has not decided how much Genshaft should be paid, but said: "I'd be disappointed if it was less than $285,000."
Genshaft has been at USF for two years and makes $237,800.
Beard's figure is in the ballpark of what suddenly seems to be the going rate for university presidents in Florida.
The University of Central Florida's board of trustees voted Thursday to make UCF president John Hitt the highest-paid president in the University of Florida system, with an annual salary of $295,000.
Florida State University and Florida International University pay their presidents about $285,000. Florida A&M, a much smaller institution, pays its new president $275,000. Many presidents also get a housing allowance.
Board members didn't formally evaluate Genshaft on Thursday during their meeting at the Lakeland campus. But they started plans to do so and to address her salary at their next meeting.
They think she has done a tremendous job under pressure.
"It has been a very tough time, and she has handled it very well," said Ann Duncan. She cited Genshaft's handling of the St. Petersburg campus' move toward greater autonomy, which has been a controversy for years.
Genshaft also has had to contend with lawsuits over alleged racism in the USF women's basketball program. Her biggest challenge has drawn national attention as an academic freedom issue: the proposed firing of professor Sami Al-Arian, who has been accused of having ties to terrorists.