USF Tampa campus governor reflects ups and downs of term so far

Improving mental health resources to the student body is Tampa campus Gov. Joey Cipriano’s most significant concern this year. ORACLE PHOTO/ULIANA LEARNED

Tampa campus Gov. Joey Cipriano reviewed his efforts to deliver campaign promises in the midst of funding relocations in USF’s administration.

With the campaign acronym C.A.R.E., Cipriano and Tampa campus Lt. Gov. Gabrielle Henry’s main goals were connection, advocacy, representation and environmental concerns on campus.

Although Cipriano said they were successful in helping students locate existing resources, some campaign efforts were not delivered due to funding decisions.

While addressing the efforts on creating an environmentally friendly campus, Cipriano said the proposals and project are only now being reviewed by the Green Energy Fund.

“Some [projects] are for additional solar, some are for expanding zero-emission buses, or for buses that are electric, and then also for having more golf carts be electric,” Cipriano said. “Ultimately, it’s not our decision, it’s for the committee to decide what projects are funded.”

Currently, there is one zero-emission Bull Runner available at the Tampa campus. The Green Energy Fund provided $1.3 million on solar panels in 2017, already placed at the Marshall Student Center, the only building currently powered by solar energy.

Part of Cipriano and Henry’s campaign was advocating for students. While explaining the efforts of improving virtual and in-person options for counseling on the Tampa campus, and reducing the waiting time, Cipriano said international students feel less inclined to ask for help.

“For some international students, there is a greater stigma around mental health from their parents, if they come from a more traditional background,” Cipriano said.

The governor said with ongoing conversations about the Counseling Center and members of the USF administration, the executive branch has established that the university should dedicate additional funding and resources to the Center. Although improvements are needed, Cipriano mentioned the Timely Care Program has already been implemented to better students’ chances of meeting with a counselor.

“That is just one thing being done,” Cipriano said. “Better serve quicker needs, because the Counseling Center wait times in peak season can be two weeks long, which is sometimes too long for a lot of people.”

Counseling Center Director Scott Strader gave full credit to Student Government for its funding of mental health resources, which he said motivated the Counseling Center to implement the online platform TogetherAll.

However, the decision to use TimelyCare was made by Student Health Services (SHS) and executive director of SHS Joseph Puccio, according to Strader. As SHS needed to increase capacity for psychiatric services due to growing student demand, Strader said Puccio initiated the idea in conjunction with talks between himself and SG representatives.

A promise on Cipriano and Henry’s ticket in the past election was delivering 12 new gender-neutral bathrooms on campus. Cipriano said after communicating with the administration, there is not enough demand from students to implement more.

Instead, SG is relocating its effort to the Period Project, which already exists in bathrooms at the MSC and library. The project is aimed to cater to people of different genders that have periods by providing period products in all gendered bathrooms. Cipriano said that guaranteeing those hygiene products in every bathroom is crucial due to the big circulation in those buildings.

“By the time they get restocked, they are always empty,” Cipriano said. “We are not meeting the demand already existing in those buildings. So we are really just trying to match that.”

Connection to the student body for an accurate representation of its needs was a crucial part of their gubernatorial campaign. While acknowledging what concerns are raised the most by students through Instagram and other platforms, Cipriano mentioned the concern with the decline of diversity and how that would affect the student body as a whole.

“We have been able to restart conversations with administration regarding the needs of Black students on campus, especially as enrollment declined, which wasn’t expected,” Cipriano said. “It is something that we want to address, and the administration wants to address.”

Working in constant communication with administration, Cipriano mentioned that promoting diverse cultural events on campus, such as Diversity Week this November, is one concrete action already in motion. He also said it is within planning to visit local high schools to promote more diverse enrollment next term.

“Some of the Black students’ needs are related to admissions and scholarships, but there is also other topics involved,” Cipriano said. “We have been in communication with the MSC to set more permanent hours for the Black student space on the third floor, next to OMA.”

The governor’s effort to give students a platform shined a light on issues that weren’t originally on their campaign. As students reached out to request more accessibility resources through campus, Cipriano said that they are now moving to understand exactly what students need from physical infrastructure, communication with professors and maps around campus.

“We now have an Accessibility Task Force,” Cipriano said. “We sent out a survey with over 200 student responses to really gauge what disabled students need, what improvements the university needs to make.”

While the conversation was initiated by the President’s Advisory Committee on Accessibility and included all three campuses last November, Cipriano said the Accessibility Task Force is a Tampa campus executive SG initiative.

Cipriano’s biggest accomplishments were associated with how closely himself and the lieutenant governor wanted to work with students, constantly keeping communication open between student government and who they are representing. Cipriano said he is happy with the joint effort.

“I feel like we’ve got a good amount of things already accomplished, and some of our initiatives in the works that I think will really help benefit our students,” Cipriano said.