The Student Government senate narrowly shot down a resolution Tuesday night that denounced a bill in the Florida Legislature that would cut millions of dollars in financial aid to international students.
“I think the message this sends is that (the senators) are not representing the international students, which are part of a minority here at USF,” senator Nuvala Fomban said outside the meeting. Fomban is a Florida resident now, but is originally from Cameroon.
The legislation in Tallahassee would prohibit approximately $6.9 million in state funding to financially assist international students with M-1 or F-1 visas. Though the bill’s wording is vague, the money would likely be redirected to Florida residents. There was debate on the SG senate floor as to where the money would actually go.
Senator Danya Shakfeh introduced a resolution to the senate denouncing the bill Tuesday. It was voted down by a vote of 13 yeas to 17 nays.
Theoretically, resolutions passed by the senate represent the voice of the student body, which the senate is tasked with representing.
Senator Randy Holm said that with education money already being cut left and right, the money should be saved and redirected to American students.
“With the cutting of funds already, (the legislation in Tallahassee) is a good idea to allow more money to fund American citizens’ education,” Holm said.
Many senators had issues with “their” tax money going toward financial aid for foreign students. Fomban pointed out that international students also pay taxes.
Another issue brought up was the propensity of international students to stay for short periods and later go back to their home countries after finishing school.
“As I understand it, it’s using taxpayer funds for financial aid to give to students who may not stay in the country,” senator Zac Floweree said.
Shakfeh said her father is an example to the contrary. He came to the United States from Syria as an international student and stayed.
Fomban said he felt senators did not do enough research on the nuances of the issue before voting on it.
“First, they didn’t pay attention to the resolution, they haven’t even researched it,” Fomban said. “They haven’t researched the value of foreign students to the United States.”
Senator and student body Vice President-elect Faran Abbasi told the senate that USF built its status as a top research university on the backs of international students.
Some argued that the bill could be a powerful deterrent to international students looking at Florida universities, but Holm did not see it that way.
“The bill is in no way denying internationals to the university system,” Holm said. “It’s just denying (them) American taxpayer dollars.”
Coincidentally, the Florida Student Association, of which USF’s SG is a member, is in opposition of the pending legislation in Tallahassee.
FSA is a network of student governments from universities throughout Florida, the main goal of which is lobbying on higher education issues.
SG pays $29,000 in student- paid Activity & Service Fees to be a member of FSA.
Tuesday night’s meeting was the final meeting of the 46th term of the senate, which encompasses the summer and fall semesters of 2005 as well as this semester.