Student Government is putting USF administrators to shame when it comes to acting in the best interest of students.
SG President Garin Flowers and Faran Abbasi led more than 70 students to a sit-in and press conference Tuesday to demand that administrators address key concerns of students, such as the scarcity of police officers, which has coincided with an increase in violent crime on campus. SG also pressed another issue the administration has been rather mum about in recent weeks: allegations that Vice President of Student Affairs Jennifer Meningall misspent money, hired unqualified officials and fired officials for voicing their concerns over her actions. The Oracle and other local media, including camera crews from television stations, covered the event.
Both long-unaddressed and recently discovered problems at USF were publicized so that the whole Tampa Bay community could have a better idea of what USF students now endure: the physical dangers of an under-patrolled campus and the intellectual dangers of a campus that may not police its administrators because of a lack of independent inquiry or because whistleblowers feel repercussions.
Administrators, though, didn’t care to attend the sit-in and talk to SG or to participating students one-on-one.
This doesn’t speak well for transparency on the part of the University.
“If students have concerns and they choose this route to air them, and it’s within University guidelines, I support that,” Meningall said of the sit-in.
Saying “I support that” seems empty, however, when nothing gets done to address valid concerns.
Collective bargaining for UP fell flat after the University failed to offer salaries and benefits that competed with local law enforcement agencies.
And calls for a completely independent audit to investigate allegations of misspent money in Student Affairs – an audit that’s not associated with the University whatsoever – have also fallen on deaf ears.
Nor has the air been cleared on allegations of improper hirings and firings.
SG should be praised both for doing its job – properly representing students by addressing real campus needs – and for having the courage to stand up to Student Affairs when it’s clear the department is increasingly detached from students.
Student Affairs and the University administration should have openly addressed these concerns, and hiding only fostered mistrust and suspicion on the part of students.
Whether they claim to have been in meetings or not, administrators also should recognize that they have an obligation not to pass the buck on key issues.
Students pay a lot of money to attend a safe, transparent USF, and will continue to protest and publicize ugly parts of student life if the University isn’t holding up its end of the bargain.