Many members of the Student Government senate don’t like having their authority questioned.
On Nov. 8, The Oracle detailed a controversial bill that included “a rewrite to Section 902 of the SG constitution in its entirety, creating a division between SG Administrative Services (SGAS) and the business comptroller.” The bill would have “reclassified” the comptroller’s job to fall more under the purview of SG. Essentially, student body president Frank Harrison was to be given the ability to “appoint and fire” his own comptroller, as well as other employees of the comptroller’s office.
Since one of the primary duties of SGAS and the comptroller is to “review funding requests from SG,” and since such reviews include the right to overrule such expenditure requests, it’s understandable that Comptroller Thomas King was upset about the proposed change.
“They are taking away our office’s ability to be independent,” he told The Oracle.
In fact, the senate not only wanted the ability to spend money with no oversight from the comptroller or SGAS, it attempted to gain that power in a very questionable way. The senate had to suspend Rules of Procedure in order to propose the controversial bill at an unscheduled time during the meeting. Some even motioned to move the bill to a second reading – in an apparent attempt to pass it immediately – the very same night.
Senate President Pro Tempore Nathan Davison denied this request. He later said, “I was concerned about the aggressive tactic that was implemented to get this bill to pass tonight.”
It’s a good thing Davison was concerned. Monday night, Vice President of Student Affairs Jennifer Meningall called a meeting to discuss the possible ramifications of the bill that SG tried to hurry through. In addition to Meningall, Chief Financial Officer Carl Carlucci, Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs Guy Conway, Dean of Students Kevin Banks and other high-ranking USF administrators attended. Clearly, there was a problem in the eyes of USF.
Given the method by which the original bill was proposed – rushed, untraditional and bordering on deceitful – it’s not terribly surprising there was a problem. Increasing the power of the executive branch so much that it can escape the regulation of checks and balances is best done like any other suspicious behavior – as quickly as possible.
If the bill was worth passing, the senate could have adhered to the Rules of Procedure. If the bill was worth passing, high-ranking USF administrators wouldn’t have raised their eyebrows at its ramifications. Senators in student government, not being fools, surely knew all of this – and that is the worst problem of all.