Over the course of two meetings last week, the Student Government (SG) Senate elected new leadership for the 2019-20 school year. Bringing a mix of experienced leaders and fresh faces, there is much to be optimistic about.
Whereas, SG is emerging from two years marred by controversies in funding and spending, there now exists an opportunity to move forward in a positive and strong direction.
This year the Senate become embroiled in two distinct controversies. Following a stiff funding process for the 2018-19 year that resulted in funding cuts to many departments, SG attempted to fund and host a Correspondents Dinner and a Student Government conference.
The backlash that followed, especially with respect to the $7,800 price tag on the dinner, left SG struggling to deal with justifying an event that students felt was exclusive, overpriced and hypocritical.
The dinner ultimately occurred without the additional funding— Student Body President Moneer Kheireddine opted to veto the bill when it came to his desk for approval.
The new leadership should take note.
Students might be persuaded to understand cuts to funding programs and departments but SG must hold itself to the same standard.
Similarly, during my time as a senator during the 2018-2019 funding process, outrage emerged over the inclusion of a $1.375 million endowment. This came in the midst of the previously mentioned funding cuts.
While SG argued that the endowment was necessary to compensate for a lack of Activity and Service Fee (A&S) increases in recent years, the reaction was again one of feeling that SG was out of step with its message of fiscal responsibility and equity.
Here, Senate leadership will be faced with a unique opportunity.
The selection of a new USF System President in Steven Currall and the election of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) offers a fresh chance to call together the Local Fee Recommendation Committee, the group charged with recommending an A&S fee increase to the state of Florida for approval.
The committee must be called to order by the USF system president, irrespective of SG. Current System President Judy Genshaft has been tepid about bringing the committee together, likely due to previous Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) campaign promise to keep tuition from rising in Florida.
A new governor and a new president means SG could go about raising fees and collecting money through traditional channels, given that they and administration are willing to work together in a good faith way. Senate leadership should seize the moment and take the first step toward that partnership.
A positive relationship with the administration will reap rewards for SG and students. Senate leadership should pursue that.
The path to a Senate that works for the students starts with its leadership. The individuals elected to lead this term are diverse leaders who understand the sacrifice that comes with the position and that leadership is not about self-aggrandizement.
This year we can and should hope to see that play out to the benefit of SG, to the benefit of students and to the benefit of the USF community as a whole.
Aida Vazquez-Soto is a senior majoring in political science and economics.