Student Government (SG) plays an important role at the University by creating an opportunity for students to address interests and issues on campus through an electoral process.
However, lack of participation and feelings of apathy towards any democratic process, which is apparent at USF, will consistently lead to its undermining. This year, students should invest more interest in SG because this is the only way to combat possible corruption.
In the spring, student body presidential elections brought only 5,500 of the over 40,000 students at the USF Tampa Campus to the polls. SG at USF, particularly the legislative and executive branches, has predictably been susceptible to imprudent leadership. When students don’t care, SG does not have to work hard. The past year shows how a lack of student interest can lead to controversy in SG.
A special election was held in April to replace soon-to-be vacant seats in the senate. Nicole Nolan was elected to the senatorial seat for the College of Medicine, and Justin McNabb and Christopher Leddy were to take seats for the College of Arts and Sciences. There are 27 senate seats for the College of Arts and Sciences and one for the College of Medicine, with 28 other seats spread amongst the other six colleges.
The Senate Executive Committee determined that proper paperwork was not filled out specifying that there would be openings in the senate. Although the openings were there – and still are – the committee determined it was best to leave the College of Medicine unrepresented and allow the vacancies in the College of Arts and Sciences to remain. The election of the three representatives went unrecognized and student votes were simply ignored.
Another strikingly questionable action is the budget for the executive branch, which showed an increase of $90,733.50 in the executive branch’s payroll, a total budget of $225,771. Formerly known as the Student Resource Agency, Student Life and Traditions is now part of the executive branch and accounts for $35,841 of the increase, leaving $54,892.50 unaccounted for executive payroll.
Student Body Vice President Bruno Portigliatti said in June: “This is what we’re budgeting for in case there is a raise or something like that … but we’re not necessarily paying this to all the employees … We have some leeway on how much money we’re going to be giving to employees.”
Soltero and his administration are going to have leeway in giving themselves nearly $55,000 to create five new positions and hand out raises.
The positions Soltero and his administration created had been eliminated by last year’s administration and were deemed unnecessary by many. However, despite huge budget cuts across the entire University, the executive branch saw the need to add wasteful funds to its budget, including having two press secretaries.
It has become all too obvious that students ought to take a more active role in SG. For far too long, there has been a feeling that SG is nothing more than a popularity contest. Students have relied on colorful chalk drawings all over the ground and often know little about the candidates.
In addition to voting more often, students should also consider running for office.
SG has a limited number of requirements: good academic and disciplinary standings of at least six current credit hours for undergrad and five for grad students. Those who wish to take part in this needed overhaul of SG should go to its Web site, sg.usf.edu, or visit the SG offices in person at MSC 4306 to fill out an application.
The next general elections will be held during March 2-5 and will determine the next president, vice president, senators and other possible referendums that may be on the ballot.
It is important for every USF student to use his or her voice and vote to keep SG accountable. When no one cares, it proves that mishandling students’ dollars can happen, and no one can complain about corruption if they are unwilling to take action.
Justin Rivera is a senior majoring in history.