USF President Judy Genshaft and State Senator JD Alexander (R-Lake Wales)
TALLAHASSEE, Florida - After holding their first face-to-face meeting since a falling out last fall, USF President Judy Genshaft and State Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, then held their tongues in speaking to the press.
Genshaft, flanked by USF Trustee Brian Lamb and USF's Director of Community Relations and Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller, said the meeting was "productive" and the two sides agreed to share new numbers this week.
USF faces a proposed 58% cut to its 2012-2013 budget, the steepest cut of any university. But Alexander, who proposed the Senate's budget, says Genshaft was helping him come to a better "understanding" of the university's needs.
Several legislators tell 10 News it's the first step to a compromise where USF's proposed funding would be partially restored and Alexander could get help in making USF-Polytechnic in Lakeland the state's 12th university ahead of the Board of Governor's 3-to-5-year schedule.
Alexander admitted after the meeting that he had concerns for how students in Lakeland would be affected by the immediate split of USF-Polytechnic. Genshaft echoed the concern for the USF-Poly process, but remained ambiguous about what happened behind closed doors.
Neither side spoke much of the disproportional cuts Alexander initially proposed, other than to indicate they may be amended by the time the budget is taken up later this week.
When 10 News asked Alexander if he anticipated any changes this week in the bill that would give USF-Poly immediate independence, he said, "I wouldn't speak to that today." The Senator wouldn't yeild any leverage in his budget negotiations other than to say he had "more homework to do."
Because the meeting was not held in a public forum, no more than two Senators were allowed to attend. Alexander was joined by State Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Daytona Beach, who will join him in negotiating the budget with the House. Senators Jim Norman, R-Tampa, and Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, could not attend because it would have been a violation of Sunshine Laws.
Genshaft was joined by Lamb, Miller, and USF's legislative administrator Mark Walsh. The group had several more meetings scheduled for Monday afternoon.
The meeting almost didn't take place, after Genshaft's Continental Airlines flight was erased because the airline didn't have a crew. But the USF contingency ended up taking a private plane for the important meeting.
Previous USF Coverage:
2/15/12 - Budget cuts live, but ''divorce settlement'' brokered
2/14/12 - USF Students depart overnight to protest budget cuts
2/14/12 - 10 News leading charge to #SaveUSF
2/14/12 - High school students impacted by USF attacks
2/14/12 - USF fears "devastating" 58% budget cuts
2/8/12 - JD Alexander pushes "backdoor" path for USF Poly independence
12/22/11 - Barbs traded over Genshaft's handling of USF Poly handling
12/20/11 - Genshaft dismisses USF Poly chancellor
11/10/11 - BOG grants USF Poly conditional independence
11/7/11 - USF Poly spends thousands on Star Wars statues
11/3/11 - JD Alexander's bully pulpit
10/31/11 - Polk leaders vote for USF Poly independence
After the day in the capital, Genshaft sent the following memo to USF students, faculty, and alumni:
We are all deeply grateful for the outpouring of support the entire USF System has received this past week. You made the case that the USF System should be treated fairly as cuts are applied to state appropriations. And business, community and elected leaders stated clearly that the economic recovery of the Tampa Bay region needs USF. This was a tremendous help. Thank you.
This week, we are looking for solutions. Thanks to Senators Arthenia Joyner and Jim Norman, today we visited the chairman of the Senate's budget committee, Senator JD Alexander.
We had a constructive conversation. He clearly understands our goals in making sure our students are protected. Now we're working to find solutions to the remaining issues.
Our messages are clear:
- Continue to protect the students, faculty and staff of USF Polytechnic during any proposed transition to an independent polytechnic (it would cost USF in Tampa $18.1 million to absorb those positions);
- Do not cut funding for our new College of Pharmacy ($6 million);
- Treat USF fairly among the state's universities when making budget cuts caused by the state's revenue shortfall.
We will work hard for solutions that show equity for USF as a whole, and protect our students, especially at USF Polytechnic. We are encouraged that this will be resolved. But this is a marathon, not a sprint, and we have a great deal of work left. Later this week or next, the Florida Senate will consider its budget for the entire state. Because the House has already concluded its budget, the two budgets will be negotiated in Conference over the next several weeks. After that, the negotiated budget will go to the Governor for his signature.
To track the USF's progress in the budget process, please see: http://www.usf.edu/budget2012/
Throughout this long process, we need your continued advocacy and support and we will contact you with specific requests for help during the coming weeks. Please continue to express your support for these three messages, remembering that if you're a USF employee you can't use state equipment, letterhead or email.
We will continue to fight for the USF System and for you. We all need to thank our many friends in the Legislature, and the Governor, for standing up for our students. Urge them to support the USF System and its importance in creating a successful future for each student, and for the region's economy.
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