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New student foundation is a long way from success

USF Student Government (SG) has plans to allow students to begin choosing what projects the university will pursue with a new student fund. While the general idea of this foundation is good, there are some kinks to work out before it will be successful. 

Student body President Andy Rodriguez and student body Vice President Michael Malanga used the proposal of a student fund in their campaign for office and have established a department tasked to fulfill this promise.

The money used by the foundation would apparently be acquired by student, alumni and perhaps even corporate sponsor donations. This is one of the main issues SG will run into while establishing this fund. While alumni and corporate establishments have funds and may be willing to donate, students do not.

A report by the Institute for College Access and Success revealed the “average student debt at college graduation grew from $18,550 in 2004 to $28,950 in 2014, a 56 percent jump.”

If students cannot even afford to attend college, how are they expected to be able to donate to this foundation? Most students live paycheck-to-paycheck and are entirely reliant on financial aid and loans.

However, Florida State University has a similar foundation and, somewhat surprisingly, receives the majority of its donations from students by asking for donations during course registration with a popup on the registration page. While this tactic was successful in Tallahassee, it’s hard to imagine it working here.

Yes, students want to have a say on what changes and improvements the university makes. They are the ones who will benefit from said changes, so the interest will be extremely high. However, realistically, the funds collected from students will not be enough to do anything monumental.

Thus, this foundation will be almost entirely funded by alumni and corporate sponsors. As long as students are the ones deciding what the funds are used for, that will not be an issue. If all donating parties are capable of swaying what is funded, there will undoubtedly be conflicting interests.

Students and alumni will more than likely be on the same page for what would be best for the university. Having spent time as a student, both parties will recognize the needs at USF and will hopefully have creative ideas to fix them.

But corporate sponsors do not share those same views. It will be interesting to see what protocols SG puts in place to ensure donors cannot overthrow the desires of the student-run board allocating the funds.

Because this is a foundation and not a student organization, the leaders would not be required to be transparent with their records. To be blunt: that’s unacceptable. Before a student donates a single dollar to the foundation, he or she should have regulations established that would ensure other students have complete access to what those funds are going toward.

There is no room for secrecy in this endeavor. If students are expected to donate, they should without question be able to know how those funds are being used. There should never be an instance where certain circumstances allow the foundation to be exempt from showing public records.

The responsibility of deciding if the records would be open to the public would entirely be up to students in charge of the foundation, Rodriguez said. The fact that choosing to keep students in the dark is even an option is outrageous.

Having an organization run by students working toward creating a better college experience would be a great step for USF. Students would be able to begin projects they are passionate about and see campus improve before their eyes.

But if a foundation refuses to embrace transparency, it does not belong at USF. Much is yet to be decided about the workings of the new foundation.

“The specifics of many processes, including the online application process for submitting funding proposals, the process for funding a project and the management of the endowment’s funding, are still being hashed out,” Jessie Poen, the USF Student Foundation’s current student director, told the Oracle.

If done correctly, the new foundation could be a useful addition to USF. If the funds are somehow raised, students could have a chance to be a part of implementing positive changes at the university.

However, there is much work to be done before that dream becomes a reality. Too many problems could occur to make the gamble on the foundation worthwhile. Students need to know our desires and interests will be completely supported before any of us feel comfortable donating what little funds we have to this supposedly constructive foundation.

 

Breanne Williams is a junior majoring in mass communications.