Three months are left for student body President Matthew Diaz to complete his tenure, as well as fulfill his campaign promises.
Diaz, a senior majoring in political science and philosophy, outlined his goals for the remainder of his presidency during a State of the Student Body Address at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Chambers of the Marshall Student Center during a Student Government (SG) Senate meeting.
Inaugurated in May with campaign running mate and student body vice president Zachary Johnson, a senior majoring in chemical engineering, the pair campaigned under the slogan “Total Bull Movement.” Diaz said the slogan centralized their desire to enhance student life on campus by uniting the student body.
The Oracle takes a look at how close the administration has come to fulfilling promises made during its campaign and whether their “movement” was a success.
During his inauguration in May, Diaz promised he would fight attempts to significantly increase tuition and lessen the impact of state funding cuts that may be incurred by the University.
“I think, obviously with budget cuts, we’re going to see an increase in tuition, but it shouldn’t be 15 percent in one year, it shouldn’t be 10 percent, it shouldn’t even be 5 percent. It should be very small increments where it isn’t such a hit on the students,” Diaz said during a May interview with The Oracle. “To do 15 percent like that, that’s going to hurt a lot of students. If they think they can do 15 percent this year, they’re going to think they can do 15 percent next year.”
However, in June Diaz voted along with the USF Board of Trustees to approve a 7 percent tuition increase that came with an additional 8 percent increase agreed upon for all 11 state universities by the Florida Board of Governors.
Diaz said his vote was made within his role as a university trustee, rather than as a student body president, and was necessary to allow USF to function at its highest level.
Florida Student Association (FSA)
Along the campaign trail, Diaz said he would increase USF’s involvement in FSA, which consists of student body presidents from the 11 state universities who advocate for issues that have a direct effect of students, such as tuition increases, keeping education costs low and the continued funding of Florida’s Bright Futures scholarship.
Diaz said if students “put a face to an issue,” by lobbying for support in Tallahassee, legislators will be more likely to support them and that other university student body presidents have told him he has been more active than former-student body President Cesar Hernandez.
He and Johnson have lobbied in Washington, D.C., once and in Tallahassee twice, Diaz said. Johnson said $2,383 has been spent thus far on travel expenses for Diaz and his administration, out of an $8,000 budget allocation.
Expanding school spirit
While campaigning, Diaz promised to build upon “some of (USF’s) existing traditions and make them stronger.” Since then, Diaz said SG worked through the summer to plan for fall 2011 events.
In September, SG sponsored a new event — a student watch party at the USF Baseball Stadium — to view USF’s opening football game against the University of Notre Dame. SG spent $494 for security and $105 for hotdogs, according to Johnson. A traditional event that continued during the Diaz administration was Bulls Night Out with the Rays, which invited students to travel together to watch a September Tampa Bay Rays baseball game. The event cost $2,175 to fund, Johnson said.
However, attendance was down for the fall 2011 outing compared to fall 2010. He said use of the Bulls Blitz program, which shuttles students from campus to Raymond James Stadium to view Bulls football games, started with strong attendance but was underutilized following the fifth game of the season.
Diaz said his executive office has a few more events planned for spring 2012. The Mr. and Miss University of South Florida scholarship pageant in April has a more than $20,000 budget, up from about $6,000 in 2011, Johnson said, and will, for the first time, serve as an automatic qualifier to the Miss Florida pageant. Also planned is a Bulls Night Out to see the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team and USF Day, which Diaz hopes will transform into a spring homecoming.
Book of Bull
Diaz said he wanted to improve the Book of Bull, a free book about the history and traditions of USF, by “making it thicker.” However, Diaz said it was an idea they “kind of lost focus on, in my administration.”
Johnson said the book, which was last updated in 2008, is a collaborative effort with other organizations, including the Alumni Association.
“It’s my hope and dream that in the next three months I’ll have some kind of product to hand over to the next administration to produce, so that by Week of Welcome we’ll have something to hand out to students,” he said.
Final three months
Diaz said his executive branch, along with the legislative and judicial branches, wants to sufficiently prepare the incoming student body president and vice president take over in May.
“Transition hasn’t been a strong point in Student Government, so there is no way I could fault the previous administration,” Diaz said. “There just wasn’t that tradition of, ‘Hey, you’re the new president. Come with me to all my meetings (and) let’s meet every week. Let’s make sure you’re on point so that, when you start office, you can hit the ground running … If the (next president and vice president) don’t overshadow me, then I’ve failed in the part.”