Consolidation is the aim of a Student Government (SG) senate resolution that could merge USF student organizations that appear to be identical.
However, the senate president said the idea will be too difficult to implement.
If passed, the Fiscal Responsibility Resolution calls for the Office of Student Programs to review the mission statements of all organizations funded by student-paid Activity and Service (A&S) fees and look for merging opportunities.
There are about 300 A&S fee-funded student organizations on campus, said senate president Jennifer Belmont.
SG is responsible for allocating more than $11 million in A&S fees, according to the organization’s blog.
Other than names, some organizations are almost exactly the same and have “practically identical mission statements,” the resolution says.
“I personally think it would be too hard to manage, and I don’t even think it can happen because we can’t tell Student Affairs entities exactly what to do,” Belmont said. “We can recommend, but I don’t know if we could logistically redo every single student organization’s mission statement.”
Senator Christopher Biemer, the author of the resolution, said he has heard complaints from students “both outside and inside SG” who think there are student organizations that are “clones of one another.”
Biemer said the review would see which organizations are fulfilling their mission statements accurately and which are not.
“In those cases, we would ask them to change their mission statements to accurately reflect what they really do or have been doing for the last couple of years,” Biemer said. “Then perhaps we would start looking at merging different student organizations’ budgets, and we would allow them both to exist as student organizations, but they both couldn’t be funded.”
But Belmont said the senate cannot refuse to fund an organization because it appears similar to another.
The resolution has positive and negative feedback from senators.
“A lot of senators really like it because time after time we see appropriations bills for things that are very similar in nature, but I think some of us realize that we don’t know how it can really be done,” Belmont said.
For example, she said, the senate could not merge the two Jewish student organizations, the Hillel Jewish Student Union and the Young Israel Jewish Student Center. She said while they may seem similar, they are different because one is more conservative and one is more liberal.
Representatives from Hillel and Young Israel Jewish Student Center were unavailable for comment.
Sara Alnasur, president of the Alliance of Concerned Students (ACS), said she and members of ACS – which she said receives about $5,600 a year in funding – agree with the resolution.
“We think that there are certain organizations that are taking advantage (of SG) and keep creating the same organization over and over again to get more funds,” she said.
Alnasur, a sophomore majoring in political science, said she would not mind ACS combining with similar organizations for one common cause.
“I think the members of my club would be OK with it because it would allow us to work with other members of organizations a lot more, and if you really think about it, we would be getting more money,” Alnasur said. “I actually don’t think our organization would say ‘no’ to it. I think our members would be pretty excited.”
Biemer said there are a lot of non-denominational Christian organizations in particular that closely resemble one another.
Some, he said, have a valid reason to stay separate, including multiple organizations that claim specific denominations of Christianity.
“But if there are a dozen of them that are all claiming ‘non-denominational,’ and all they really do is get together and eat pizza and sing songs and have prayer groups together, then I think that is not valid, and it creates a problem because it encourages sort of ‘clique-ish’ attitudes in students,” Biemer said.
Lauren Cope, the president of Grace on Campus at USF, a non-denominational Christian organization, said although there are many Christian clubs on campus, each one has its own ideas about how to “minister to USF.”
Cope said the organization is not funded by SG but receives funding from individual churches and separate donations.
“If we could all come together and if we wanted to serve one purpose, then there would be one Christian club,” Cope said. “But we all have different motives … so that’s why there are so many different Christian clubs.”
Cope, a senior majoring in mass communications, said if non-denominational Christian organizations were to merge, it would be too large to function properly.
“If we had to combine all of our groups together – which, there’s no telling how many students that would be – we probably don’t even have a room big enough,” she said. “There’s no way we could get through all of our scheduled events, what we need to talk about, all of our guest speakers – the list goes on.”
The senate was scheduled to vote on it last week but postponed the decision. It has been placed on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting.
Additional reporting by Anastasia Dawson.