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Sept. 11 Memorial good idea, but not at students’ expense

No freedom-loving student can deny the impact Sept. 11 had on the United States and our own back yard. At USF, we dealt with terrorist-related issues from rumors of an attack to accusations that one of own professors had terrorist ties. Now, three years later, Student Government wants to spend tens of thousands of dollars of student money to memorialize Sept. 11.

SG senators had the right idea in asking the students what we thought about the idea. They posted an online survey and passed out questionnaires. Short of the “yes,” “no,” “maybe” voting system we became accustomed to in elementary-school dating circles, SG thought it had a system that worked. Getting the votes is one thing. Counting them — as we know all too well in Florida — is another.

Out of 1,130 completed surveys, about 61 percent of the students said yes to spending $65,000 of Activity and Services Fees on the project. Then when it came to a vote among the senators, the request was denied. The discrepancies in the survey responses and the senators’ votes have raised questions.

The Oracle conducted its own poll about the memorial, asking 226 students to give their opinions about the 9/11 Memorial. In the student newspaper’s study, about 48 percent said “no,” while less than half — about 19 percent — gave it a green light. Seems like somebody has some explaining to do.

SG senate’s president, Stavros Papandreou, told The Oracle, “I’m 100 percent sure senators didn’t vote against the students they talked to.”

Former student body president Michael Griffin gave initiated the memorial idea two years ago. Students didn’t bite then, and for whatever reason, no one is biting now.

Paying homage to such a tragedy is noble for any university, no matter how near or far from the sites of the attacks. Perhaps trying to do so in our bad economy isn’t the right decision.

The best thing for SG to do is find a corporate or private sponsor for the memorial. There should be a tasteful way of building the project without turning it into an advertisement.

During her fall address, USF President Judy Genshaft said the governor had indicated that universities will face a tight budget year. Money on a memorial could be better spent other ways right now.

Take some of that money and set up a scholarship fund. Maybe establishing scholarships in the names of Sept. 11 victims with ties to the area would entice businesses to match scholarships. Then, a percentage of that money could be placed into a reserve that some day be used to build the memorial.

It’s hard to decide what more than 39,000 students want. That’s why we elect officials and hope they use their good judgment in hashing out all aspects of an idea. The 9/11 Memorial may still happen. Senators have vowed that they are trying to find ways to fund and build it. If the student body truly does not want to spend the $65,000 then the decision made by the senators was the right one. I guess only the vote counters and our trustworthy SG senators know for sure.

Kevin Graham is a former Oracle Editor in Chief.