In recent years, USF students have responded to budget cuts, tuition hikes and legislative changes from the state Legislature.
But this year, Student Government wants the student voice to be heard in the state capital before the legislative season begins.
“We’re a leading voice in the state of Florida and an economic engine, and students have to realize the power behind that,” Christopher Cano, Student Government (SG) senator on the committee of university, community and government affairs, said.
Cano, along with other members of the SG Senate, will be in Sessums Mall between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. collecting feedback from students in hopes of making student concerns clear to Florida lawmakers.
Members of SG will ask students to share their concerns with lawmakers by making a video that will be sent to state leaders.
They will also be asking students to sign-up for what may become a “rapid response system” to legislative actions, which Cano said will take a proactive approach to issues he has seen pass legislation over the years.
“We need students to be ready at the drop of a dime to write a letter, to make a phone call to talk to their legislators and say this isn’t helping us, this is what we need,” Cano said. “We’ve been missing that. I’ve seen it time and time again, every time we have a crisis, it’s always at the last minute that we are mobilizing to get our voices heard, and it has not been productive for USF.”
In addition to the annual concern of budget cuts and tuition hikes, which USF has faced regularly for the past several years, with the exception of this fiscal year, Cano said the legislative decision to separate the Polytechnic branch campus from the USF System also caught students by surprise.
“…Too often we are waiting until February or March to ask for what we want,” Cano said. “Let’s bring it to the table now, and have a seat as students at the table.”
Cano said SG wants to create a video of student opinions and send it to members on the education committee in the Florida Senate and House of Representatives.
Cano said he hopes to get the attention of students who could one day be state leaders.
Right now, he said, the leaders of the Florida House and Senate are comprised mainly of alumni from the University of Florida and Florida State University.
“State representatives are finally beginning to respect our university. We’re not some small school anymore,” Cano said. “We need to take pride in what we do as students. We need to create that atmosphere of pride on campus and respect it and make others respect it.”
Colton Canton, also a member on the SG committee, is leading the project with Cano and said he aims to show real student voices to lawmakers.
He will be standing with Cano and SG members today at their table between the College of Education building and Pollo Tropical.
“It’s important, in order for a democracy to work, that we all take an active role in making society into the society we want to live in,” Canton said.
Cano agreed, and said there is a current problem in politics. The problem, he said, is epitomized in current events when lawmakers can’t even decide on a budget and are preparing for a shutdown of government.
“We need to start taking control of our nation because it is out of control,” Cano said. “Who are we going to look to for leadership? If we aren’t getting it out of older generations, then it is time for our generation to step up and take an active role in leading our nation.”