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Plenty of cheer and only modicum of substance

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By HOWARD TROXLER

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 25, 2001


Judy Genshaft, the still-new president of the University of South Florida, spoke last Friday at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club in St. Petersburg. Isn't that swell?

"My whole psyche is green and gold and USF Bulls!" Genshaft began. She told the club it was "the most important non-partisan political group in Florida." In fact, Genshaft went on, she should have marched right over to the Tiger Bay Club in July 2000, when she took over, to get the right advice!

Genshaft's take on Florida so far: "It's just a great, great state." She introduced Bill Heller, the dean of USF's campus in St. Petersburg. "Stand up! Wave!" Bill's swell.

Genshaft said she has four goals:

(1) To make USF "an even greater and more recognized national research university." That's great!

(2) To enhance graduate and undergraduate instruction! Fantastic!

(3) To "enhance the community through engagement"! Swell!

(4) Economic development!

"These goals are ones that I really, truly believe will take us into the future," Genshaft said. I sure hope so!

"I was really pleased with how things worked out," Genshaft said of this spring's session of the Legislature. (By this she means that the state Senate decided, for the time being, against ripping USF into pieces.)

Of course, she told her Pinellas County audience, she favors more autonomy for each branch campus! That includes St. Petersburg! After all, St. Petersburg is "the oldest of our regional campuses, and the most mature!"

"It's all of our university," Genshaft said of USF. "Its success, I believe, is also the region's success... . It's a great, great institution! Go Bulls!"

The members of the club asked questions. They were great questions!

Like, what kind of nickname would she give to state Sen. Don Sullivan, the main university meddler? She said:

"You know, he's a pal. He really is! He's done a lot for the University of South Florida! He really has! His goals were the same as my goals!"

That poopy old Linda Lerner from the School Board tried to ask a tough one: Does Genshaft truly think it's good public policy to have abolished the old university system and given the governor total political control?

"I don't know how to answer that, yes or no," Genshaft said, her smile slightly more forced. "So I guess that's the way things are now."

Lerner said that Genshaft hadn't answered. "It's the only public policy I know," Genshaft said finally. "So I'll dodge that one." Wasn't that great?

Marty Normile congratulated her on surviving all the tough problems so far! Genshaft beamed. "The positives of USF and the people of this region absolutely made it spectacular," she said.

True, she had hoped her good friends at New College in Sarasota would have stayed part of USF, but the Senate's president, John McKay, wanted to break it off so he could have his own 11th state university, and he is a great guy, so everything is going to work out just fine! USF will still be a good neighbor! Isn't that great?

Club members Tom Dunn and Michael Mayo again tried to make Genshaft opine about destroying the old state university system. She became frank. Maybe it was slightly "unfortunate" that there was not more planning beforehand, she admitted, frankly.

But cheer returned. Of the new setup, she said, "I think it's going to be a very positive move for the University of South Florida. In either case, USF will be the winner. So join with me and say, go Bulls!"

So, really, it was great!

- You can reach Howard Troxler at (727) 893-8505 or at troxler@sptimes.com.

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