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A Conversation with USF President Judy Genshaft

In the last few weeks, USF President Judy Genshaft found herself in the fight of her career, taking on powerful lawmakers who wanted to slash USF's budget and make USF's branch campus in Lakeland into an independent school.

Florida Matters had a chance to talk with President Genshaft recently while she was in the middle of the budget fight. We've reported on that before.

But we also wanted to ask her about other issues -- rising college tuitions, USF's membership in the Big East, and USF's new medical facility.

The university is about to open a state-of-the-art medical training facility called the Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn calls it the most exciting thing to happen to downtown Tampa in 20 years - and Genshaft agrees.

She says the facility will draw thousands of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to town for training. It also should lead to new inventions and spin-off jobs.

We also asked her about another difficult moment for her. It was two years ago, when USF Football coach Jim Leavitt was accused of striking one of his players and then trying to cover it up.

Last year, Leavitt settled a lawsuit against USF for almost $3 million. Genshaft said she really cannot talk about the case because of that settlement.

"But I can just tell you I have a lot of respect for Jim Leavitt. Personally, I like him very much. So, it was very sad for me personally to have to...go through the whole scenanio."

When we talked with her, she was in the thick of a battle with Senate Budget chairman JD Alexander of Lake Wales. Most of those proposed cuts have now been scaled back. Genshaft says that's thanks to pressure from people in Tampa Bay.

Of course, there's more than one side to this debate. WUSF has an open invitation for Senator JD Alexander to join us for an interview.

Meanwhile, we are including in the show part of the Senate debate where Alexander and two other Senators talk about the fight over USF's budget and Polytechnic. We' hear from Republican Senators Jack Latvala of Clearwater and Jim Norman of Tampa, But first, Senator Alexander describes why he lost faith in Genshaft's ability to help create Florida's 12th university in Lakeland.

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