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SG conference postponed due to lack of preparation, funding

The student-funded conference will use $32,000 from the Activity and Service (A&S) fee unrestricted reserve account. ORACLE FILE PHOTO/LEDA ALVIM

The Student Government (SG) Suncoast Student Government Summit conference, originally scheduled for last month from March 7-10, has been postponed to next spring due to pressing deadlines and a condensed budget.

Senate President Pro Tempore Yousef Afifi had the idea for the conference in the summer of 2018. He said it is meant to showcase USF as a preeminent university and provide learning opportunities to students.

However, with deadlines in the fall, senators decided it was not realistic to plan a nationwide conference in less than a year.

The conference will now be held in the spring of 2020.

“From the moment the idea of the conference was conceived, we were having to work faster and harder in order to meet the deadline,” Afifi said.

The conference will use $32,000 from the Activity and Service (A&S) fee unrestricted reserve account. Each student that attends USF is required to pay $12 per credit hour and a flat fee of $7 in A&S fees.

Even though this is an SG conference, Senate President-elect Suzane Nazir said students are still welcome to attend since it is using student money.  

“I would never sign off on something that was using A&S fees if it wasn’t going to have any benefit the student body,” Nazir said. “There are a variety of activities and workshops that both SG and students could benefit from.”

However, non-USF students who attend will have to pay a registration fee of $200.

Due to budget issues, Nazir called a motion during an Activity and Service Recommendation Committee (ASRC) meeting April 12 to zero-fund the conference for the following fiscal year.

The 2019-20 budget was overallocated by about $600,000, which prompted cuts to be made to departments such as Campus Recreation and the Marshall Student Center (MSC).

That meant an unallocated cash request would have to be placed to fund the conference, if the Senate believes it is still feasible to organize.

“There are programs and departments that I would like to prioritize first,” Nazir said. “The program is a brilliant idea, but it is not essential.”

The $32,000 is secured for the remainder of the 2018-19 fiscal year as long as the purchasing is finalized by July 1.

Some of the purchasing includes $20,000 for food accommodations, $6,000 for room reservations at the MSC, transportation costs to and from the on-campus Embassy Suites hotel and promotional items.

If the deadline is not met, the funding will roll over into the next fiscal year’s account and could fund other student initiatives.

Although Afifi was not on board initially, he said he can understand why the decision to zero-fund the conference was a necessity.

“When we kept dipping into the unrestricted reserve account to fund student organizations, we saw that the conference was not a top priority,” Afifi said.

“Actually it hardly became a priority at all.”

Afifi agreed to reduce the costs of the conference from about $36,000 to $32,000.  

“The goal this year was not to focus on funding new initiatives, but to rather accommodate as many organizations as possible,” Afifi said. “So to appease the committee, I voluntarily reduced the allocation by $4,000.”

This means that some of the operations had to change.

SG planned to book 100 rooms at the Embassy Suites, but now there will be 50 rooms with up to four people in each.

Afifi said he is expecting 300 people to attend. This includes universities with locations ranging from the north of Philadelphia to the west of Texas.

The three-day event will include general sessions and workshops about leadership, resume building, question-and-answer forums and a final banquet.

Sen. Yusuf Fattah said the conference was also postponed because it needed additional time for planning.

“If there was to be a conference that has the University of South Florida name on it, it needs to be a good one,” Fattah said. “We knew it could be better with more time.”

Fattah said he agrees with Nazir’s motion to zero-fund the conference so that the money could fund initiatives and traditions such as Bulls Nite Out and Bullstock.

“We didn’t want $32,000 to be tied up by results we haven’t seen,” Fattah said. “We decided to focus on student programs first.”