Student Body President Jean Cocco was censured Tuesday night by the Student Government (SG) Senate after refusing to step down from his position on the Local Fee Committee.
Under SG statutes, the student body president cannot to sit on the Local Fee Committee, a position Cocco appointed himself to on Aug. 15.
The Local Fee Committee makes recommendations regarding fee increases for the Athletic, Activity and Service, and Health fees. The statute forbidding this was passed during the final SG Senate meeting last spring.
On Aug. 15, a grievance was filed against Cocco and was investigated by the Judiciary and Ethics Committee (JEC). After two hours of deliberation, they found Cocco in violation of SG statutes and recommended the SG Senate Executive Committee issue a notification of non-compliance.
SG Attorney General Alexander Johnson issued a legal opinion four days later, stating the statute was unconstitutional and the grievance against Cocco should be stricken from the record.
The Judicial Review Panel stated there were no grounds to strike the grievance.
Dean of Students Michael Freeman said Cocco is eligible to sit on the committee and recommended the SG Senate not pursue action against Cocco.
Cocco was notified Aug. 23 to step down from the Local Fee Committee or face censure. Cocco did not comply and SG Senate voted Tuesday evening to censure him with a vote of 23-3 with 2 abstentions.
In an interview with The Oracle, SG chairman of the senate committee on appropriations and audits Chris Johnson said he voted to censure Cocco, as he believes no SG official should be held above the rules.
“I like Cocco as president, but if you’re an idealistic person, sometimes you put the product before the process,” he said. “It was very much a constitutional issue, and you don’t throw away the constitution.”
Johnson and many other senators at the Tuesday meeting voiced the need to amend statutes so future student body presidents won’t be penalized for serving on the Local Fee Committee. Senators also expressed disapproval that they were asked to file public record requests when inquiring about the censure in the week leading up to the meeting.
In an interview with The Oracle, Cocco said he has a right to sit on the committee.
“The Dean said I can sit on this committee,” he said. “It was knowingly ignored.”
Cocco said student body presidents from other Florida state schools and former USF student body presidents, such as William Warmke and Brian Goff, sat on equivalent committees.
Should the issue remain unresolved or Cocco refuse to step down from the Local Fee Committee in the next week, the SG Senate will begin impeachment proceedings.