When Christopher Leddy and Richard Shockley began reviewing Florida laws at the end of the spring semester, they came across a possible misuse in student-paid Activity and Service (A&S) fee allocations. Their suspicion prompted an internal investigation with the help of University administrators.
“It was really random how it happened. We were just going through the laws to make sure that the University is following the laws and A&S fees are being distributed correctly,” said Leddy, a senior majoring in political science and history who ran for Student Government (SG) president in February.
What they found was that Florida statutes state that A&S fees may not benefit activities for which an admission fee is charged. The fees must “benefit the student body in general” and membership must be “open to all students at the University without regard to race, sex or religion.”
For Leddy and Shockley, a senior majoring in marketing, the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life (OFSL), which will receive $285,364 in A&S fees in the 2010-11 fiscal year, fell short of those qualifications.
“There is no way that (OFSL) benefits the student body in general,” Shockley said. “Greek life is an organization that charges dues and pledge fees, and I’d say that the biggest argument that we’ve come in contact with so far is that the funds don’t necessarily go toward fraternities and sororities.”
The OFSL offers supervision for fraternities and sororities and uses student fees to pay staff members and sponsor events that are open to the entire student body, Patrick Romero-Aldaz, director of OFSL, said. Thus, it offers a service to the “student body in general” and stays within the law.
“I think it can be argued,” he said. “(Even though) we serve a particular targeted population with some of our work, it doesn’t mean we target our work toward only that population.”
However, Leddy insists that, based on his interpretation of the law, the office benefits fraternities and sororities – organizations that require membership fees and are unfit to receive A&S funding.
“In our opinion, it’s not really a difficult issue,” he said. “It directly benefits the Greek organizations.”
To resolve the matter, administrators began a formal investigation at the end of the spring semester.
“There was an investigation because there are two students who think we are violating the law,” Dean of Students Kevin Banks said. “They did their research.”
However, that does not mean Leddy and Shockley are correct.
Banks said organizations that do charge membership fees are not given A&S fees directly, but they can access it by offering services that can support student involvement.
One such event sponsored by Fraternity and Sorority Life is called Burgers and Bands, which is open to all students, he said.
“It’s a Week of Welcome festivity,” Banks said. “Welcome back on behalf of Greek life.”
Therefore, Banks said the investigation is focused primarily on how other universities fund their Greek life offices. Information provided by Leddy and Shockley suggested they did not use A&S fees.
However, Director of the A&S Business Office Eric Reiter said that, while other universities may use different systems to operate their Greek life office, the A&S fees are still used to fund many Greek offices, like at the University of Florida (UF).
UF’s Office of Sorority and Fraternity Affairs is currently funded by the J. Wayne Reitz Student Union, which in turn is funded by a combination of A&S funds and auxiliary funds, Director of UF News Bureau Stephen Orlando said. But that does not mean that the office receives A&S funds, he said.
Banks said a report should be ready by the end of this week. Should it not reflect the interpretation Leddy and Shockley feel is right, the two said they are willing to take matters into their own hands.
“We first tried to solve it internally, but we don’t think it’s going anywhere,” Leddy said. “We have to wait to see what they say, but right now, we’re looking for an attorney. The intention of this law is to lay the ground rules on how A&S funds are used. We’re just trying to make sure the University is doing the right thing.”