Do the new BOT regulations take power away from Student Government?
Conflict between Student Government (SG) and the Board of Trustees (BOT) has come up over the past two weeks as the BOT created new regulations regarding SG’s ability to pass legislation.
During a meeting on June 8, the BOT passed an update to the SG regulations that lay out a plan for administration to approve new legislation passing through the Senate.
“I think it does a little bit of good and a little bit of bad,” Moneer Kheireddine, student body president and a member of the BOT, said. “I think there’s a reason behind it. I think there’s a huge factor of accountability that comes in line with this. I view it as an opportunity for accountability to be held.
“For example, if a statute is passed that might kind of conflict with state law or issues in the past that USF SG isn’t opening itself up to a lawsuit or something of that nature. I don’t think this is the best, I do think we can make improvements, but I do want to see how things go before judging too quickly.”
The new procedure requires all existing governing documents to be reviewed at the beginning of the fall semester and all proposed changes to be submitted at least a month before the start of each new semester.
An exception is included for time-sensitive pieces of legislation, such as approval of the executive branch structure. These changes are immediately effective, but the president reserves the right to accept or reject new pieces of legislation.
Kheireddine said he views this new set of regulations as a rough outline to be improved as time passes.
These regulations were discussed with the prior SG administration and were already being reviewed by the BOT when Kheireddine took office. However, Dean of Students Danielle McDonald met with Kheireddine and Senate President Amani Taha to listen to their concerns and draft an agreement with them that’s not officially in the regulations.
This agreement introduces a second period during the semester for legislation to be presented for approval. The legislation would be presented 30 days prior to the start of the semester or 30 days before the deadline to drop a class with a W.
“Senators are still coming into their roles, they don’t know how to write bills in the summer,” Taha said. “It’s more of a teaching time, so they gave us four deadlines. Again, it leaves the Policy Committee useless during the second half of the spring semester. We just didn’t see the point.”
While both Kheireddine and Taha are optimistic about continued conversations to improve the process for both parties, other senators have voiced concerns that the regulations will impede SG’s ability to govern.
Senator Aladdin Hiba presented a resolution at the last Senate meeting that states the regulations “fundamentally impair the ability of our Student Government to fulfill its role.”
While the resolution didn’t pass the Senate — and was sent back to committee for further review — it also brought up the concern that these regulations could allow for deletion of “part or all of Student Government,” according to the resolution.
During the meeting, some senators expressed concern that the language of the resolution — which would get sent to the BOT — was too strong while others were concerned it wasn’t strong enough.
In past years USF’s SG has had limited oversight by administration. Hiba expressed that other state universities, while having some oversight of SG, weren’t as stringent as these new regulations.
FSU has legislation reviewed by the vice president of student affairs. UCF’s regulations state that “ultimate authority … rests with the BOT and the president.”
“I feel like that argument falls short with me,” Hiba said. “Us just having less regulation isn’t a reason for us to have more regulation. If somebody were to propose something that would be terrible, something that would hurt students or something that would have a negative impact on the university, the people to stop that would be us and that’s just how our system works.”
McDonald set up a meeting with leaders of the executive and legislative branches in November to discuss the impact of these regulations and whether there are any necessary improvements.
Taha is still concerned about the Senate’s inability to overturn vetoed legislation.
“It’s basically in their hands,” she said. “So if we wanted to change a rule we don’t like and they veto that then we’re stuck following a rule that we don’t like. We should be able to overturn it, there’s always checks and balances.”