A pointlessly heated debate among Student Government (SG) senators and the public broke out over the past week concerning students’ rights to record meetings.
Despite assertions by USF General Counsel and some senators, SG should not be considered exempt from state laws that allow for recording in public space.
During a Senate meeting June 13, one of the senators attempted to live-stream the meeting without prior permission. Other senators expressed being uncomfortable with the streaming, but gave permission for the Senate president to video record.
By SG statutes, the chair and only the chair is allowed to record meetings in any form.
SG reiterated this point last week in an email sent out by Student Government Advising, Training and Operations director Gary Manka. The email stated that anybody — SG member or not — found recording at a meeting could be referred to Student Rights and Responsibilities.
Florida State Law Chapter 119, commonly referred to as Sunshine Law, asserts that open meetings are allowed to be recorded by those in the room. An open meeting has no assumption of privacy.
Yet, USF General Counsel insists that SG is exempt from the law. General Counsel has taken this stance multiple times in the past, including in 2014 to allow SG to deny or delay public records requests. Still, public record requests are filled “voluntarily” by SG.
This comes from General Counsel’s legal opinion that Sunshine Law does not define SG as a “public agency.”
Whether SG is a public agency or not really doesn’t matter in this case. SG is a part of the university, which is a public agency and would therefore be required to fulfill duties of public agencies anyway.
Even that is being disputed. In an interview with The Oracle last week, Manka said he could not define whether SG is an agency of the university or not.
However, the dean of students doesn’t decide the outcome of a club election. The average club isn’t in control of allocating $17.8 million in fees collected by the university. The Board of Trustees doesn’t put regulations on student organizations.
If SG isn’t part of the university, those things shouldn’t be happening, but all have in the past few months.
The student governments at UCF, UNF and UF allow for outside recordings of its Senate meetings and follow Sunshine Law. USF should be no different than our fellow universities.