SFS founder Will Mleczko, a sophomore economics major, said he struggled to afford the cost of living on campus and was forced to take out loans. His struggles were similar to those of his peers in SFS.
Six of the organization’s members spoke while around 20 other members held signs reading “The cost of living is unsustainable” and “Pay to live.” As a number of students and faculty passed by on their way into the MSC, SFS failed to gather a crowd of listeners.
In the hour-long rally, SFS addressed a number of concerns including the price of living, the cost and quality of meal plans, the construction of an on-campus stadium and new honors college, the struggles of commuting students and USF’s carbon footprint.
“A lot of our purpose is founded in these inequalities and the cost of living. A lot of us are really struggling to get by. That’s just something that we’re trying to amplify is that not everybody is okay with where USF is going in this direction of continuously raising prices, continuously raising housing, meal plans, etc.,” Mleczko said.
“It’s not sustainable environmentally but it’s also not sustainable socially.”
Mleczko moved about 20 minutes off campus this year because the cost of on-campus housing was no longer affordable. This move came after a 4.5% increase in on-campus housing prices this year, according to a Feb. 28 Oracle article.
“As things get more scarce, regular people, regular students, like us, cannot afford to be here,” Mleczko said.
Organizers of the rally included officers from Students for Protecting the Environment and Animals through Knowledge (SPEAK) and the Climate Leadership Engagement Opportunities (CLEO) Institute’s youth movement organization (GEN CLEO) to address environmental concerns.
USF’s 2010 Climate Action Plan established its mission to emit 80% less carbon dioxide than it did in 2007 by 2050. The Tampa campus’ plan set a goal to be carbon-neutral by 2070 and the 2016 plan from the St. Pete campus set its goal for 2050. One student held a sign reading “2050 is too late! Climate action now.”
“It’s definitely something that we should be taking into account and the fact that the most willing that they’re willing to settle for is carbon neutral by 2050 makes us really uncomfortable,” Mleczko said.
SPEAK Co-Presidents Thomas Muthalakuzhy, a junior biology major, and Ally Caine, a junior psychology and anthropology major, attended the rally to advocate for a decrease in the negative environmental impacts of the university.
“[USF talks] about how commuters are half of the issue with their greenhouse gas emissions, but the efforts they have put into play have nothing to do with lowering the amount of commuters,” Muthalakuzhy said. “…Obviously we want to decrease it, as a commuter myself, we want that to be decreased, but there isn’t that many options for us.”
The student speakers addressed the SFS members and students walking past the MSC during the rally.
Despite the lack of a crowd and afternoon heat, the SFS students continued to try and make their voices heard while urging students to remain unified for their cause.
“It can be tiring at times and it can be frustrating because you’re advocating for a position that the majority of students here don’t necessarily agree with,” Mleczko said. “But, to me, it’s always something that we’re just looking to better people’s lives.”