Worried students rally against USF's plan for massive budget cuts

As the University of South Florida plans out a multi-million dollar cut to its budget, students grew concerned about what will be impacted and held a demonstration Monday.

The Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society held a rally at the corner of 50th Street and Fowler Avenue to urge university leaders to spare as many services as possible, they say.

"We shouldn't cut instruction or student services or things that are valuable to students who go to the university or that would affect the workers through layoffs," said Enya Silva, a senior at USF. "I think that they should have a heart and think about the students and workers. Budget cuts are already awful, and historically students have had to face the brunt of them through tuition hikes and workers being laid off."

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The state is cutting USF's funding by about $37 million due to COVID-19. On top of that, the university is estimating its own coronavirus expenses will reach $31 million for the rest of 2020.

Demonstrators are specifically calling for cuts to university administrators and campus police.

"This campaign is chop from the top and from the cops," said Matt Wheat, a USF senior.

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A USF spokesperson, however, said all of those things are already in the works. USF President Steven Currall is taking a 15% salary reduction, lowering it from $575,000 to about $489,000. Other members of the university's leadership team are taking a 6 to 10% pay cut. Meanwhile, the police department is having its budget trimmed by 5%.

"To be clear, some steps will be challenging. USF and indeed all of higher education is facing financial challenges from COVID-19 that we have never faced before," Currall said in a video statement last week.

That does likely mean some of the cuts will impact students and faculty, although it's unclear exactly how. The decisions are expected to be finalized by June.