TAMPA, Fla. -- Florida senators will begin voting Thursday on proposals to drastically cut state university budgets. In the case of the University of South Florida, the school stands to lose more than $100 million.
Bay Area senators have crossed party lines to team up in an effort to spare USF from potentially devastating cuts. Sen. Jim Norman (R-Tampa) and Sen. Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa) are pushing amendments to the senate budget, which could save USF more than $55 million.
The proposed amendments would restore funding for USF's pharmacy school, along with its campuses in Sarasota and St. Petersburg. The university would also receive money to cover students and staff relocating from USF Polytechnic -- that is if senators vote to make the polytechnic school Florida's 12th independent public university.
At a meeting before the faculty senate at USF late Wednesday, University President Judy Genshaft thanked the community for fighting back against the deep cuts. "You could just see the difference in the legislators when they started getting all the calls and all of the emails and the Twitter...and it was like, 'Whoa, what happened!?'" Genshaft said. "Since that time, the media has been fantastic, just fantastic. I just want to thank all of you. I just want to thank all of you for all you've done because it really has made a difference."
10 News also uncovered an interview with Senate Budget Chair JD Alexander (R-Lake Wales) from late 2008 with WUSF Public Media. In that exchange, Alexander contradicts his recent comments about USF.
A few months ago, Alexander said USF leaders "have a very arrogant attitude." He even accused them of "bullying." Those remarks preceeded his call for more than $100 million in cuts to the University.
However, when talking to WUSF Public Media 3 years ago, Alexander said, "I broadly support university funding for all of our universities, and particularly for USF. They're so critical in our region."
JD Alexander also supports splitting USF Polytechnic into the state's 12th public university, saying, "I think if you talk to any leader who really understands the way branch campuses are treated, they don't work."
Remarks like that conflict with what Alexander told WUSF in 2008, trumpeting the benefits of having schools like USF Polytechnic under the umbrella of a larger, more well-known university.
"Using the University of California model, where you have a fantastic flagship that's.. that is the leader for a university system," Sen. Alexander said. "And use then... the smaller campuses where you can create a higher quality experience, I think is the best way to serve the growing population of students here in Florida."
Previous USF Coverage:
2/20/12 - Judy Genshaft, JD Alexander meeting "productive" but secretive
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