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Genshaft: It's worth every cent

"Funding Florida's universities is not an expenditure" but an investment and an obligation, she says.

By ROB BRANNON, Times Staff Writer
Published October 16, 2003

TAMPA - University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft warned faculty, staff and students Wednesday about a troubling shift in American public education.

Genshaft, speaking at her annual fall address, said that around the country the "social contract between public universities and American society" is being renegotiated.

"Times have changed, and we find ourselves in a new and less comfortable role, one that has less to do with intellectual leadership and more with adapting our tried and true practices to larger social forces," Genshaft said.

The heart of the problem, she said, is a growing public resistance to taxes and diminished state resources that have led to dwindling money for education.

With that has come a change in attitude, with education regarded less as a shared societal right and more of an individual benefit.

USF, she said, is about 25 percent financed by the state.

"We are responsible for many things the state used to do, including payroll, collective bargaining and financial reporting," she said.

"If we fail to confront these challenges head-on, or try to deny their magnitude and the importance of them, we put ourselves at great risk of losing the very principles we value most about the academy."

With that in mind, Genshaft said she will join forces with other state university presidents to aggressively petition Tallahassee with the message that universities are vital for the health of Florida.

"Funding Florida's universities is not an expenditure. It is an investment in the future, an obligation to our children and a powerful engine to drive the economic climate of our state," Genshaft said. "Access must be accompanied by an enduring commitment to quality."

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