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Saturday, May 08, 2021

Around the end of every semester, 13 men and women decide how university funds are spent. 

Six are appointed by the governor of Florida, and five by the Florida Board of Governors. The Student Body president and the chairperson of the Faculty Senate also serve as representatives of UF students and staff, UF spokesperson Steve Orlando said. 

This is the Board of Trustees. Eleven men and two women make up the current board, many of whom are highly ranked within their professions. 

Take Morteza Hosseini for example, the board’s chairman: Hosseini is the creator of ICI Homes, one of Florida’s largest construction companies. Thomas Kuntz, the board’s vice chair, was a former chairman, president and CEO of SunTrust Bank, Florida. 

Professions in law, medicine and business make up some of the remaining board members’ credentials. 

Board members act as university ambassadors, said Jason Rosenberg, a trustee and reconstructive microsurgeon. They are well-connected individuals from all across the state, and they help to lobby the Florida legislature for its support of campus initiatives. 

These initiatives are decided upon by UF President Kent Fuchs and his team and are then approved by the Board of Trustees. Administrators and volunteers present these to the legislature and negotiate for the funds to carry them out, Rosenberg said. 

In addition to alumni donations and private fundraising, these state funds make up a large part of the university’s budget. Things like classroom renovations, faculty pay, research funds and tuition costs are all determined by how much money the lobbiers bring in, Orlando said. 

It is the trustees’ job to approve the allocation of funds in a way that will best serve the students and the state of Florida, Orlando said. The board meets once a semester to discuss how best to do this. These meetings are normally held on campus and are always open to the public. 

Board members also make up seven smaller committees, each with its own focus. Examples of these include the Audit and Compliance Committee, the Facilities and Capital Investments Committee and the Advancement Committee. Public meetings for these also take place throughout the semester. 

“Everything that the board does directly or indirectly affects students one way or another,” Orlando said. “Even if they don’t realize it.” 

One metric the board uses is UF’s rank among the nation’s public research universities, Orlando said. UF was ranked seventh in U.S. News & World Report rankings in 2019, and the board is determined to reach fifth. 

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The student to teacher ratio is one factor of a school’s rank, Orlando said. In 2017, the board approved the Faculty 500 initiative to hire an additional 500 faculty members for this reason. This lowered the student/teacher ratio from 21:1 in 2015 to 18:1 presently. 

The national ranking isn’t the board’s only consideration, Orlando said. Members also approved the creation of a new position to oversee the improvement of student life, a director of campus experience.

“Being ranked highly is nice,” Orlando said. “But at the end of the day, it’s really about providing the best educational experience for our students.”

Contact Hannah Phillips at Follow her on Twitter @haphillips96. 

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