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Doling out student money

Senators in the Student Government senate this year are in charge of allocating an $8.5 million budget to student organizations. What many students don’t realize is that the Activity and Service Fee that they pay each semester is the source of that $8.5 million.

On Tuesday, the senate passed next year’s budget by a vote of 33-9.

The Activity Service fee Recommendation Committee is made up of five senators, a member of the executive branch, an SG vice president designee, and some members of the business office. This committee made up of seven members looks at about nine to 10 budgets of student organizations.

The committee contacts the organizations and informs them about the guidelines regarding what can be funded and what cannot be funded and what the maximum funds a particular organization can receive, said senate president Ryan Caruso.

“For instance, a student organization can’t request $10,000 for travel. That’s just not allowed,” said Caruso. “When (an organization) puts that down, it’s automatically cut down.

“But, the (committee) can also look at the overall budget of an organization and say ‘all right, that looks like it’s going to be for the greater good of the student body’ and go ahead and give them the funds.”

According to Caruso, in most cases student organizations request funds without looking at the A&S fee guidelines first, which causes the committee to deny certain requests.

In addition, student organizations have a deadline, usually in January, to turn in a request for funds, Caruso said.

Caruso said that the senate likes to have an emergency reserve fund just in case the legislative body under-budgets or over-budgets the available resources.

According to the A&S fee guidelines, the purpose of the charge on students’ bills every semester is to aid students as well as student organizations. Although, it states the senate “is not obligated to fully fund student organizations.” In addition, “all entities” requesting funds “have to justify purchases and projects beyond reasonable doubt.”

Caruso said SG is modeled exactly after the United States government. Its structure consists of the three branches: legislative, executive and judicial.

“All (of the branches) serve in very respective roles,” Caruso said. “The (branches) serve as checks and balances.”

The senate, or legislative body, concerns itself with students on an individual level. The senate handles all funding allocations requested by Activity-and-Service funded organizations and each senator elected deals with about 500 students in their college, which could be any 500 students because of the absence of a zoning plan, Caruso said.

“It’s their job as a senator to get feedback, attend college council meetings and bring that to the senate to discuss providing any remedies for any problems (that) are proposed,” Caruso added. “Mainly, (to) work out with giving organizations the funds that they rightfully deserve that everybody pays for in their tuition.”

This year, the SG senate, which meets every Tuesday evening, worked out allocation a budget of about $8.5 million that has to be approved by a majority of the senate.

The senate’s relative importance to students, however, was not reflected in last week’s student body presidential election. From USF ‘s largest college, Arts and Sciences with a student population of more than 13,000, the highest number of votes cast for a particular senator was 513.

Although, SG senate president Ryan Caruso said apathy among student voters is a problem every university faces, each year, he says, the numbers voting in SG elections keep increasing.

Each year, the number of senator positions changes depending on the number of students that attend each college. One senator is elected for every 500 students that attend a particular college.

This year, close to 80 students applied for a senate position with 66 people elected during the April 7 and 8 elections to represent his or her designated college.

The term for the elected senators this year starts May 2 and ends May 2, 2005.

Caruso, who has been involved with SG for the past five years, was elected to serve as a senator for the Arts & Sciences College in 1999. He then served in numerous positions as a senator, senate vice president, or what is now called senate president Pro Tempore, and his current role as senate president. His term ends the first week of May.