It’s 2018 and USF is glowing.
Students, professors and alumni alike are celebrating preeminence and what it means for our relatively young and modern university. However, one group in particular is attempting to reboot its image, with new programming and recognition building events.
In the last month, Student Government (SG) has funded two big ticket items with big ticket hopes.
Senators are hoping that a $37,100 leadership conference and an $8,200 Correspondents’ Dinner will create the positive image they’ve been sorely missing since they delivered harsh cuts to department budgets and attempted to create an endowment during the 2017-2018 the Activity and Service Recommendation Committee (ASRC) cycle.
As a former Senator and member of ASRC, I can say that SG is being wasteful and hypocritical.
The amounts being allocated are exorbitant, the return on investment is lacking and it sends any message but one of stewardship and fiscal responsibility.
In the 2017-2018 term, ASRC struggled to deal with impending budget shortfalls, claiming a number of factors were threatening the fiscal solvency of the Activity and Service (A&S) Fee. In response, SG spent the spring of 2018 deliberating where to cut.
Programs including Homecoming and University Lecture Series saw direct cuts totaling over $50,000 and departments like Campus Recreation and the Marshall Student Center were forced to cut operating hours. These services directly impacted the student experience more than any single dinner ever could.
The Correspondents’ Dinner is an egregious abuse of SG’s funding power.
At last check, 138 people have confirmed their intention to attend and 30 people are unsure. The Senate Pro Tempore Yousef Affifi claims he plans to invite between 100 and 150 more people to attend.
As it stands, the per person allocation is almost $60 per head. Student organizations are allocated $4 per head for the first 200 people and $2 per head for the last 200 people, capping their funding at $1,200 per event. It is delusional to even hope that the cost per head of the Correspondents’ Dinner will be close to reasonable. It goes without saying that the $7,000 difference in funding is excessive and unjustified. ASRC regularly cut budgets with high per-person spending, arguing that the allocations were inflated compared to their low turnout.
The fact that Senate approved this event, while departments struggle to makes ends meet and their accounts hardly flounder in the green, speaks to an out-of-touch and fiscally irresponsible governing body.
The Suncoast Student Government Summit is an equally bad decision, toeing legal lines on the use of A&S dollars. SG reported that they plan to charge non-students for entrance and expect to see a profit from the conference.
Using A&S fees to profit or fundraise, even for charity, is explicitly prohibited in Title 8, SG’s finance code. Student organizations who fundraise using A&S fees risk their accounts being frozen and their eligibility for future A&S funding.
SG doesn’t tell student organizations they can fundraise as long as they can distinguish between students and non-students. SG flatly bans all fundraising. For SG to explicitly break their own funding regulations is duplicitous and self-righteous.
SG can’t behave as if the only time money is spent responsibly is when it’s spent by them.
While their hearts might be in the right place, their votes are not. It is a hard face SG must wear if they wish to claim financial struggles all while funding over-priced events and cutting services that students overwhelmingly use.
The core of the Senate is being stewards of the A&S fee; it is time they start acting like it.
Aida Vazquez-Soto is a senior majoring in political science.