An annual budget bill proposed by the Activity & Service Fee Recommendation Committee (ASRC) has been signed and approved by Student Body President, Moneer Kheireddine and is awaiting approval or disapproval from university administration. However, one controversial line item of the bill still remains: the $1.375 million endowment.
According to Sen. Yousef Afifi, the endowment ad hoc committee chairman, the endowment is an investment account with the purpose of managing funds to ensure fiscal sustainability and as such, would serve to accommodate things such as rising costs and inflation.
If Afifi’s proposed endowment were to be passed as is, he said he would be ready to get right to work, including the creation of “Student Investment Steering Committee” that would manage the endowment account.
“There actually was a Senate bill passed a couple of weeks ago … that creates a functional group, similar to ASRC that would manage the inner workings of this endowment, that would manage progress reports as to how the account is doing, it would be given the vested authority to work around the endowment’s percentage allocations and what have you,” Afifi said.
If members of administration decide to line-item veto the endowment, however, Afifi said it would be back to the drawing board.
“My thinking would be to try and coordinate with individuals who disagreed with the idea of it so that we can work out a framework to create some type of method for financial sustainability so that we can offset our diminishing account, because if we keep going at this route, we aren’t going to have any money,” Afifi said.
In a message to The Oracle, 58th term Senate President Amani Taha said if the endowment were to be line-item vetoed at this point, the proposed $1.375 million could not be reallocated, as the time for that has passed and as such the funds would sit in the unallocated cash account for the next fiscal year.
As a part of preparing for the endowment, Afifi also said he and other senators met with a number of banks and financial institutions to weigh the benefits that each would provide should they be chosen to host the account that holds the proposed $1.375 million.
According to Afifi, such institutions include Chase Bank, SunTrust Bank, BB&T Bank and Northwestern Mutual.
Afifi points to a lack of communication between Senate and university administration as one of the main challenges throughout the process of creating the endowment.
“One thing that we feel like has been a huge issue for us is a lack of communication that we have gotten and a lack of feedback,” Afifi said. “The environment as it sits right now is not a very proactive one; it is a reactive one. So, with something like the endowment, we do not get administration’s support or guidance on it until … they tell us that we can’t do it.”
However, Dean of Students Danielle McDonald has in the past proposed a flat fee, which would require a student body vote, approval by the Board of Governors and legislative approval, in lieu of the endowment as a way to generate more revenue to curve the impending deficit that members of ASRC warn of.
“I think that the idea (the new fee as proposed by McDonald) itself has merit,” Afifi said. “The problem with it was that … creating a new fee, number one, means exactly that: students pay more fees. And the second issue … is creating a new fee is not that simple. It is something that requires approval from all the way up top in the Florida legislature. It would have been forever before we had the actual approval, if we were going to get it in the first place.”
As far as when a decision about the approval or vetoing of this budget can be expected from the university administration standpoint, McDonald said that administration still has time to decide.
"SG presented the budget to administration on Monday," McDonald said. "They (administration) have 15 class days to respond."
Despite opposition to this proposal from university administration, Afifi said the main objective of sustainability, is a general objective of the university system as well.
“The university likes to talk a lot about sustainability and that is warranted, but sustainability literally has a futuristic connotation towards it,” Afifi said. “If you want to be sustainable, you are talking about sustainability right now and going into the future. So, if the university is so big on sustainability, which I believe that it is, then this is something that runs parallel to that concept, not counter towards it.”