Student Government (SG) is currently awaiting approval of another recently passed unallocated cash request that will fund a conference hosting SG members from around the country.
The request totals $37,100, which includes a 6 percent overhead charge of $2,100.
This passed Senate on Oct. 16 with 28 voting yes, zero voting no and five abstaining — due to being absent from the room during the discussion period — after a presentation given by Senate President Pro Tempore Yousef Afifi.
This money will come from the Activity and Service (A&S) fee unrestricted reserve account.
The A&S fee is included in every student’s tuition — it totals about $12 per credit hour and $7 per semester. This means that a student taking 15 credit hours in a particular semester would pay about $188 in total for this fee.
The conference, Suncoast Student Government Summit (SSGS) — named this because Tampa is in the Suncoast region of Florida — is slated to take place March 7 to 10 and is intended to host SG members and advisors from a wide geographical area. This area stretches from Philadelphia to Florida to just west of Texas, according to Afifi.
Given this large area, Afif said at the Oct. 16 Senate meeting that about 300 people will be invited to attend SSGS.
“It gives a boost in terms of the fact that we’re preeminent,” Afifi said. “It’s really good momentum to feed off on. It highlights our SG.”
Afifi said that $13,350 of this money will go toward paying for five meals for a potential 300 attendees — based off a quote provided by Aramark — promotional items, booking fees for 13 rooms for three days in the Marshall Student Center (MSC), charges for a 50-block reservation at the on-campus Embassy Suites and transportation for attendees from the hotel to the MSC.
However, Afifi said he does not expect to have to pay for any hotel charges because it only needs to be paid if a certain percentage of rooms are not booked.
Non-USF students that choose to attend SSGS will be charged $200 and because of service fees that will be applied, SG will actually make $192 per person. This means that if 300 people go, SG will make $57,600, a $20,500 profit when the unallocated cash request is deducted.
“Even if we don’t make money off this, the actual attempt to garner a profit in itself differentiates this request from other requests that have come before us,” Afifi said.
Afifi said if this conference is something that SG decides to continue, this profit can be used to fund it in the future.
“I recognize that I’m here talking consistently about why our budget is tight, why we should clamp down on certain things, make very cost-effective decisions,” Afifi said. “You might have those same concerns about this conference right here. All I’ll tell you is, even though the budget is tight, this is not like other requests, because this is one request that we’re making money off of.”
However, this potential profit is not guaranteed and depends on attendance. If a profit is made it would go into Senate’s auxiliary account.
“Our auxiliary is something that is much less restricted in terms of what we can and can’t utilize funding for,” Afifi said.
Dean of Students Danielle McDonald said that she and SG want this conference to be planned well so it is the best use of funds and would help USF’s reputation.
“We’re still waiting to get some of the details to see if this is being planned in the best way possible for this year, or whether it’s something we need to spend a little bit more time working on,” McDonald said.
As per A&S funding guidelines, this event will be open to all students and Afifi said some of the programming will be geared toward non-SG students.
According to the tentative programming schedule, there are panels that will discuss resume tips and conflict resolution, along with more SG-specific panels.
However, the current dates that SSGS will be held fall on the Thursday through Sunday right before Spring Break begins on March 11.
According to McDonald, as long as the topics presented at the conference are ones that any student could benefit from, then this would be an appropriate use of A&S funds.
“It depends on the program, and that’s something I’m waiting to see before I can pass any judgment on whether it meets the qualifications of what an A&S fee should be used for,” Mcdonald said.
Afifi has not reached out to other university’s SGs yet since the details are not finalized, but he said he did talk to some schools informally while at a conference at the University of Florida and it was received well.
Student Body President Moneer Kheireddine has signed off on the request, but he told The Oracle that he is still discussing with Senate whether or not this event is feasible and whether it will actually be moving forward at this point.
In an interview this week, Afifi said there are no issues in regard to the feasibility of the event as opposed to what Kheireddine said.
Vice President of Student Affairs and Student Success Paul Dosal still has to approve or deny the request, however, since it exceeds $25,000. This is a new procedure that was added this semester.
Afifi said that Dosal endorses the conference but Dosal said in an email to The Oracle that he would “consult with a few key stakeholders” before making a decision on whether to approve the cash request.
“We’re a premier SG in the United States,” Afifi said. “We just don’t get recognized or known for that. This will definitely put us on the map in that regard.”