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SG opinion mixed on $600,000 proposed fee increase

The Student Government (SG) Senate recommended the Local Fee Committee fund only 25 percent or less of the $600,000 requested by USF Athletics for athlete scholarship differentials in a straw poll taken Tuesday night.

According to the results of the poll, 18 SG senators voted to deny the funding request, 20 voted to approve $150,000 of the request, five voted to approve $300,000, four voted to approve $450,000 and only one senator voted to fully fund the request.

Currently, students pay $14.46 per credit hour toward the Athletic fee, on top of a $10 flat-rate fee. The $600,000 proposed request from USF Athletics would be an
additional 62 cents per credit hour per student.

Prior to the poll, senators
entered into nearly half an hour of debate over the $600,000 proposed increase in student athletic fees. The debate was sparked by a
presentation by SG Senator and Local Fee Committee member Corey Ulloa.

Senator Chris Johnson, one of the most vocal critics during the discussion, said the debate shouldn’t be about the merit of sports programs, rather the merit of allowing USF Athletics to draw more money from students.

“The biggest issue is that if they need $600,000 extra, they can draw up some of their existing money and not request such a large increase,” Johnson said. “I personally feel that giving them the extra $600,000, regardless of the reason why, could be subsidizing potentially poor appropriating practices.”

At-large Senator Frank Cirillo and College of Engineering Senator Ana Lopez agreed with Johnson. Both senators said, after speaking with their respective constituencies, that it seemed students highly disagreed with granting USF Athletics’ request to fund athlete scholarship differentials.

“All of the students who came to me, they all had the same concerns, which were they don’t benefit from this fee increase,” Cirillo said. “They benefit when the (Activity and Service fee) is increased or when health services fees are increased, because every student takes out of those fees.”

Senator Samuel Shiflett stood up multiple times in defense of the proposed increase and said he feels paying for the student athlete scholarship differentials will allow USF Athletics to bring national attention to the university.

“If you were to ask someone who USF was 15 years ago, they wouldn’t know,” Shiflett said. “Part of that is what Judy Genshaft and the rest of this university has done, part of that is our football was pretty darn good for about five or six years and brought national attention.”

Shiflett also repeatedly told the Senate that if the proposed increase in student Athletic fee is approved, students would see a return on their investment because “Athletics operates on a profit” and “brings money to the school.”

According to the USF Athletics 2013 fiscal report, the department made a total profit of $453,723 last year while receiving roughly $16 million in revenue from student fees.

The Local Fee Committee will have its final meeting Friday when the committee will finalize the fee increases to take effect next academic year.

Ulloa said he will take the results of the straw poll and key points of the debate back to the committee for discussion.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The headline on this article is different than the original version which appeared in the Oct. 22 print edition.