Tampa, Florida -- People across Tampa Bay are worried after learning USF could lose a huge amount of its state funding.
The State Senate proposal -- if it passes -- could cripple USF for decades. And the person behind it has become a one-man wrecking crew.
See Also: 10 News takes stand on proposed USF cuts
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First, here's what's been proposed by the Senate's budget committee: a 58 percent plunge in the funding the state provides to the University of South Florida.
This would mean dramatic cuts to classes, even whole programs. Teachers would lose their jobs. And USF would gain a reputation for instability -- something that could send the best professors, students, and researchers looking elsewhere for to study or work.
The whole state university system would take cuts under this Senate plan. But compared to Florida's other major research universities, the hole ripped in USF's budget would be more than twice as large.
USF's 58 percent cut would be matched by a 26 percent cut at UF and a 22 percent cut for FSU.
Put another way: the state would help support each UF or FSU student with more than twice as much money than would be spent on a USF student.
And that's not all. USF would lose all funding for USF Polytechnic in Lakeland -- $18 million. If USF wants to keep any of those teachers or students from USF Poly, it would have to come up with the money -- somehow.
USF's College of Pharmacy would lose $6 million in funding. The total taken from the University of South Florida, when factoring in the new USF Poly costs, comes out to $104 million.
Why is USF being targeted? Most signs point to a political attack. The chair of the Senate budget committee is State Sen. JD Alexander (R-Lake Wales).
The 10 News Investigators have done stories on what his critics say are his bullying techniques to get his way.
Alexander has focused much of his energy on splitting USF Polytechnic in Lakeland into a separate, standalone state university. It would no longer have a connection to USF.
The trustees and president of USF have fought against that move. They've gone to battle with JD Alexander. And at an emergency meeting Monday night, they said they are now paying the price for standing up to him.
Chairman John Ramil received a standing ovation when he proclaimed, "You have to play the game for a while, but when the game starts to move you away from what's right, and what's right for the university, and what's right for educating our students, you put your foot down and you say, 'Enough.' And we've said, 'Enough!'"
"The game" refers to the politics surrounding the ongoing feud with Alexander, who has been at war with USF over independence for the USF Polytechnic campus.
Alexander has also been criticized in the last week for helping to create a "backdoor" pathway for USF Poly to break away from USF. The plan didn't face traditional legislative committee vetting and would strip USF of its satellite campus, while sticking it with many of the bills.
Previous USF Poly Coverage:
12/22/11 - 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
The release of the proposed budget comes nearly three months to the day after Michael Long, chairman of the Florida Student Association, warned Alexander was committing what some called "checkbook blackmail" and would strip higher education of its funding if he didn't get his way on USF Poly independence.
"When I met with JD Alexander," Long testified in November, "I had one very important question for him: 'What happens if (USF Poly independence) doesn't go through?' Because that's our concern here, that's our fear...will the eleven universities or will the University of South Florida be hurt by our decision here today?
"(Alexander) told me, personally that he would quit fighting for higher education if he didn't get what he wanted on this issue," Long said.
Monday evening's meeting of the USF Board of Trustees ended with a plea from Board President Judy Genshaft for the community to contact their state senators before a final vote. "We really can make a difference and now is the time," Genshaft urged.
USF projects the economic loss to the Bay Area because of these cuts could hit $750 million. The Senate budget committee meets Wednesday and Thursday; the full Senate could vote on the issue next week.
Find contact information for your State Senator online or on your voter registration card.
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