The proposal of a controversial bill at last week’s Student Government senate meeting caught the eyes of some of USF’s most powerful officials.
At an impromptu meeting set up by Vice President of Student Affairs Jennifer Meningall, senators and University officials discussed issues that resulted in the creation of the bill.
Bill 47-101 calls for all of chapter 902 of the SG constitution to be rewritten, placing the business comptroller – previously a separate entity – under the regulations of SG. In doing this, SG would also be creating a division between the comptroller and Student Government Administrative Services (SGAS).
Currently, both the comptroller and SGAS are the same entity and are held responsible for reviewing funding requests, compiling audits and approving payroll transactions. All funding reviewed by SGAS comes from the Activity and Service fees paid by students.
In Monday’s meeting, Meningall, along with Dean of Students Kevin Banks, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Carl Carlucci and other high-ranking University officials questioned the motives and issues behind the creation of the bill.
Senators were quick to point out that their major concerns lie with the authority SGAS maintains. Many argued that those holding advisory positions were overstepping their boundaries when it came to decision making for SG, and that a solution to this would be creating a more structured outline of duties for each position.
“In the current setting as we have it in Student Government Administrative Services (SGAS), we have a mix of students working in the office and we have a mix of professionals,” said former Student Government Pro-Tempore Devin Lee, who authored the bill. “In essence, when you have those two groups mixed into an office certainly problems can occur. Often, the students will assume they are on the same level as the professionals and try to assume power or authority that they may not have, and quite often the staff members will also oftentimes assume that they are on the same level as the students, in regards to Student Government, and will make decisions that should ultimately be left up to the students in some particular cases.”
After discussing the issue further, Meningall said she felt a small group of senators led by Banks should be formed to discuss changes that can be made to improve the working environment without disrupting the processes that are set in place by Florida statutes.
“It almost sounds to me like there are some operational issues that seem to be getting in the way – opposing this idea, that if it were in a different body of people, this operation of things would not occur,” Meningall said. “I think that there needs to be a real clarification on the University’s obligation to manage A&S fees. It’s not just given to the authority of students in SG – that’s at any institution. Those are state funds and we as an institution – the president is ultimately responsible to oversee those funds and ensure that they adhere to the highest level of business practices and to the University’s policies and procedures. Moving them (the issues) as you are proposing doesn’t really resolve it.”
Carlucci presented many facts and figures from state level agencies in charge of monitoring the ways in which public universities manage their funds, but some felt the bill had very little to do with the way money management would be structured.
Student body President Frank Harrison contended that the bill may not be flawless just yet, but the intention was still dead on, and that should have been highlighted at the meeting.
“I’m glad everyone is here discussing this, but I think we’re going into some unnecessary things here,” he said. “There are a lot of misconceptions, a lot of reasons why this bill has come at its current form its intent is one thing and I think what it actually does is very different. … What I like in it is the attempt – albeit a botched attempt – but an attempt to arrange SG statutes in better consistency with the Florida Statutes that created them.
“What the bill is intending to do is create a more accountable and more student-representative government.”
According to Sen. Jason Taylor, there are still plans to place the bill on second reading at tonight’s senate meeting. Any bill on second reading or above has the opportunity to be voted on during the meeting.
Senate meetings begin at 6 p.m. in Campus View East of the Phyllis P. Marshall Center and are open to the public.