A bill filed late last week could result in handing some power from students to the governor.
The joint resolution pitched by Sen. Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fort Walton Beach) would change the way the student representative to the Board of Governors (BOG) is selected – making the position an appointment of the governor, instead of elected by students.
Since the BOG’s creation in 2003, the student representative has been the chair of the Florida Student Association (FSA), an association made up of all state universities’ student body presidents with the exception of Florida State University. The chair position is elected by all members.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Gaetz, a former FSU alumnus, said making the position governor-appointed would level the playing field by removing FSA, which collects $8,500 in dues from each school, as a requisite.
Yet Michael Long, current BOG student representative and FSA president, said making the position governor-appointed would not help the situation.
“How is the governor going to be able to select a student leader and be a better judge than student leaders themselves?” he said. “The simple fact is that you’re taking power away fromstudents, you’re giving it to the governor and you’re reducing the credibility of the position. No student nor BOG member is going to take a representative appointed by the governor as seriously as a representative elected by his or her own peers.”
The governor currently appoints 14 members to the BOG, with the faculty and student representative positions being elected.
Long said despite FSU’s non-membership in the organization, he remains in touch with them and as of next year, FSU students will be able to run for BOG representative and FSA chair.
“Anytime you elect someone, accountability measures are put in place because the body has the power to impeach. If the person is not acting in a way that is representative, their power can be taken away. With the proposal, that’s completely removed. Giving the governor power to appoint the student representative is ludicrous to me.”
BOG spokeswoman Kelly Layman said the board values student perspectives.
“There is a long-standing tradition to have a student representative on the Board of Governors,” she said. “It is very important to us, and is similar to the position held on the board by a faculty member from the system to represent that perspective. The Board of Governors is very comfortable with the tradition that the student body presidents at the universities select from
the system for the student member appointee.”
A similar bill was proposed last year but failed to gain enough support.
Yet, some have speculated this year’s pitch was a response to Long’s public debate with state Sen. J.D. Alexander (R-Lake Wales) at a November BOG meeting in which Long accused Alexander of using his political power inappropriately.
“Some have said the bill was pitched because of the rather controversial remarks I said at the last BOG meeting,” Long said. “I don’t know. I’d rather not assume that and think that it’s FSU that is behind this. I can only hope so.”