A lot has changed for student body President Frank Harrison and Vice President Faran Abbasi over the course of two semesters.
Dressed down in basketball shorts, T-shirts and hats while sitting at their desks in their cramped office, it would be hard to guess that they mingle with high-ranking state government officials, eat dinners with the president of the University and manage an entire organization from sunup to past sundown every day.
While they both agree there have been several perks to the job – such as being able to use a Gold Staff parking permit, having VIP status at different social events and receiving field passes to all the football games – the stress and time commitment have taken a toll on both of them, mentally and physically.
“I’ve developed carpal tunnel syndrome from writing, keyboarding and shaking hands,” Harrison said. “Faran is balding. It’s one of those things that, yes, you do have all of these perks, but you pay a very high price for them. Probably one of the toughest things is the level of responsibility and the level of public scrutiny – it’s a 24/7 level of responsibility.”
This term has been unlike any other for a USF student body president – Harrison not only had an automatic seat on the University’s Board of Trustees, but also chaired the Florida Student Association, which granted him a seat on the Florida Board of Governors.
But Harrison said that this wasn’t his greatest accomplishment while in office.”I’d say probably just one of the main points that we ran on (during our campaign),” Harrison said. “Putting the government back in Student Government, and above all else, we really accomplished that. … A lot of (things we’ve done are) not tangible things that students see directly.
“The first job as a student body president and vice president is to lobby for the students. (To lobby effectively), you really need to understand the outside world and what affects it. Because you’ve been elected, you always remember what you can do that no one else can, and it’s that lobbying, that representation … that has to take priority because no one else is going to do it.”But with the good, there is also the bad, and according to Harrison and Abbasi, one area they wished they had more impact on was the level of communication and direct involvement between SG and Student Affairs.”It’s kind of like, you evaluate yourself based on what you can do and where your sphere of influence and control ends, and I think within our sphere of control we did everything we can do … but I think there is still a lot of work to be done, particularly within the division of Student Affairs,” Harrison said. “And I don’t want to point the finger and say that’s someone else’s responsibility, but we’re students, and as much as we do what we can to be professionals … we don’t have the amount of resources and professional staff that other parts of this University do that should probably be more involved in the strategic planning of programming and the development of student life.”
Abbasi agreed that communication between the two entities was strained over the past few months, citing specifically the College Readership Program that was set in motion by SG during summer 2006. The program, which aimed to bring free copies of USA Today and The Tampa Tribune to campus, was delayed for several months due to miscommunication and other factors, but SG plans to have it implemented by this summer.
“Throughout this whole year, I literally don’t know what (Student Affairs is) doing over there – I have no idea,” Abbasi said. “I know there’s been restructuring getting the department off the ground but … (the College Readership program) was stagnant for so long, and then we had to go poke it with a stick and make sure it was still alive. I’m probably biased because I have a jaded view, because I’ve been up here working and have seen how things could’ve been presented if it weren’t just for bureaucracy and egos and all that. For things we couldn’t accomplish, at least we laid the foundation for things next year and the year to come after that – so that everything we’ve done this year won’t be forgotten next year.”
Now that the year is winding down, Harrison and Abbasi said their duties are changing as they have begun to prep President-elect Barclay Harless and Vice President-elect Garin Flowers to take over office.”We’ve had them sit down and really list their objectives for this next year,” Harrison said.
But prepping for the position isn’t all about how the paperwork is done.”I’ve tried to stay in both their ears about where to be and when to be places, how to carry yourself – just little things like how to dress, how to speak to people and just the whole image aspect and what it means to be president and vice president and how it’s going to affect your personal life,” Abbasi said.
Although this is the last semester in college for Harrison, Abbasi has another two to go, and he said he plans to stay active with the University but is unsure if he will continue to participate in SG. Harrison said he has begun applying for jobs within the political arena, but has intentions of traveling to Europe within the year.
Tonight in the College of Business Administration Building, Harless and Flowers will be inaugurated into the 48th presidential term. They will take office May 6.
“It’s been the best experience we’ve had that we wouldn’t want to do again,” Abbasi said.