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Administrators’ stance causes students to hire attorney

After prompting the University to conduct an internal investigation into a potential misuse of funds, students Christopher Leddy and Richard Shockley got their answer — one they are not satisfied with.

When the students discovered a Florida statute that stated that student-paid Activity and Service (A&S) fees “may not benefit activities for which an admission fee is charged,” and can only fund organizations “the membership of which is open to all students at the university without regard to race, sex or religion,” they brought their concerns about the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life (OFSL) to USF administrators.

During a conference call Tuesday with Dean of Students Kevin Banks, director of OFSL Patrick Romero-Aldaz and Director of the A&S Business Office Eric Reiter, the administrators said they do not believe they are violating the law.

“Because we serve a particular targeted population with some of our work, it doesn’t mean we target all of our work toward only that population,” Romero-Aldaz said recently in defense of the funding practice.

Leddy, a senior majoring in political science and history, and Shockley, a senior majoring in marketing, argue that the office should not receive A&S fees because it strictly benefits fraternities and sororities — organizations that require membership fees.

For the 2010-11 fiscal year, the OFSL will receive $285,364 in A&S funding.

However, administrators have a different interpretation.

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 such offices, like at the University of Florida.

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 and auxiliary funds, said Director of the UF News Bureau Stephen Orlando. But he said that does not mean the office receives A&S funds.

Organizations that charge membership fees are not given A&S fees directly, Banks said. However, they can access these fees by offering services that can support student involvement, such as a Week of Welcome event hosted by OFSL called “Burgers and Bands.”

“That was the main argument we got from Dean Banks,” Shockley said. “We basically agreed at the end of the conversation to agree to disagree.”

However, the two don’t plan to let the matter rest.

Upon hearing the administrators’ decision, Leddy said he and Shockley are looking to hire an attorney and file a class-action lawsuit. Their task now will be to gain the public support necessary to sue the University, he said.

To accomplish this, the two created a Facebook page called “Stop A&S Funding of The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life.” At press time, the page had 345 members.

“Rather than investigating, they were just trying to justify why they were doing it,” Leddy said. “I feel like having an outside source look over the entire situation and make a judgment on it would be more appropriate.”

Shockley said they plan to hire an attorney by the end of the summer semester.

“When you’re asking someone to investigate themselves, you’re not going to get a straight, unbiased answer,” he said. “Their investigation is over, but Chris and I aren’t done by any means. We are going to make sure that we fight this as hard as we possibly can. To be honest, this is going to be a slow summer.”