Each semester, all USF students are charged a small Student Government (SG) Activity and Service (A&S) fee along with their tuition.
These fees, which are projected to generate $9.8 million in 2010-11, serve an important role in funding SG’s budget, student-run organizations and student programs and services such as the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life (OFSL).
Recently, two USF students – two-time former student body presidential candidate Christopher Leddy and former SG Senator Richard Shockley – questioned the legality of allocating A&S funds to the OFSL.
They may have a point.
Florida Statute 1009.24 10(B) says, “The student activity and service fees shall be expended for lawful purposes to benefit the student body in general. This shall include, but shall not be limited to, student publications and grants to duly recognized student organizations, the membership of which is open to all students at the university without regard to race, sex or religion. This fund may not benefit activities for which an admission fee is charged to students, except for student government association sponsored concerts.”
Greek organizations at USF charge dues for membership, and some may not allow freshmen to join, according to the OFSL website. These groups are not “open to all students” at the University.
Greek Life supporters argue that the A&S funds don’t go to fraternities and sororities themselves, but to the OFSL, and not all its work is with Greek organizations.
“I think it can be argued,” said OFSL director Patrick Romero-Aldaz. “(Even though) we serve a particular targeted population with some of our work, it doesn’t mean we target our work toward only that population.”
He said an event called “Burgers and Bands,” which is open to all students, is a “welcome back on behalf of Greek Life.”
It’s likely this event benefits Greek organizations by promoting them and only subsequently benefits students. It’s like a free sample at a supermarket – they both may influence a purchase.
The USF Student Organization Handbook clearly states that all A&S funded groups “must be open to all USF students regardless of major, sex, race, religion or sexual orientation,” and “cannot charge dues of any kind.”
It’s not fair that other A&S-funded groups have to abide by these guidelines, but Greek organizations do not.
A similar situation is currently before the Supreme Court. The case, Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, involves a student religious group that sued a public California law school for refusing A&S funds and official recognition for the group because it required a statement of faith for membership.
Debate over whether A&S fees should be used to benefit groups that practice exclusion is apparently wide open, though it shouldn’t be.