The Student Government (SG) senate is scheduled to vote tonight in favor of or against the Fiscal Responsibility Resolution, which aims to merge USF student organizations that appear to be identical.
While it is important that SG remains scrupulous with student-paid Activity and Service fees (A&S), this legislation raises issues.
The author, senator Christopher Biemer, claims that many student organizations receiving SG funds are “clones of one another,” and should be reviewed.
However, senate president Jennifer Belmont said the idea would be too difficult to implement. Belmont’s reasoning is sound. There are about 300 A&S fee-funded student organizations, and consolidating them would be an unnecessary task.
Biemer cited non-denominational religious organizations as an example of groups that should be consolidated.
“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.
Beimer clearly has a limited understanding of organized religion. Even Christian groups with similar beliefs carry them out differently. There are real reasons why students prefer one group over another, and merging groups could be problematic.
Religious groups that seem similar may be significantly different. Take the Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland or the Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Nothing of that scale would happen at USF, but assuming all non-denominational groups are the same is extremely narrow-minded.
It is too difficult to produce a clear and logistical criterion to determine group similarity. Who would be responsible and qualified enough to determine which student groups deserve funds?
There’s also the problem of organizing such consolidation. If SG tried to merge any three groups, there would be a need for internal reorganization of these entities.
“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.”
As Belmont suggests, it’s far too much to install such a dramatic change, whether a religious group or any other is being considered.
SG should not try to pick and choose which student organizations deserve funding based on the originality of the group. SG senators must act responsibly tonight and strike down this resolution.