SG leaders explain “controversiality” behind women-only gym at USF

Relations Committee members are established by Student Government (SG) based on the student-elect senators interests and availability. ORACLE PHOTO/JUSTIN SEECHARAN

A proposal for a women-only gym space was presented to the Student Government (SG) Relations Committee earlier in the month. The resolution was voted “controversial,” but that doesn’t mean it’s no longer on the table. 

Senator Alexa Matos proposed one room at the Tampa campus Recreation and Wellness Center (REC) to be a space reserved for female students. 

Related: A women-only USF recreational space is too controversial, leaders say

Christian Chow Quan, vice-chair of the relations committee, said Matos needed to rewrite parts of the bill and conduct an official survey completed through SG. The bill was then deemed “controversial.”

“We are working on ‘controversiality’ because it is a heavy word,” Chow Quan said. “It carries a negative connotation if you are coming to us for a resolution, and we say ‘controversial,’ it must feel terrible for that student.” 

Chow Quan said they are working on changing the term to something like “pre-check.” 

Controversiality was defined as a term in spring 2023 as a way to tell students they need to make changes on their bill before bringing it back to the committee, SG Senate President Fariah Ansari said. The term is “vague” so it can be up to the interpretation of the committee, she said. 

Karina Diaz, chair of the committee, was “disheartened” to see students’ disapproval of the decision. She said with the “hard work” they put in, it was “sad” students did not understand how SG works.

“I am hoping it comes from a place of ignorance,” Diaz said. “If students knew how much work we put into SG and how we operate, we would all be on the same page.”

The template for bringing an issue forward to the committee is similar to one of a research paper: presenting sources, a definition of the issue and reasons why it impacts the student body, Diaz said. 

When a bill is presented to the committee, it is read out loud, discussed and voted on by the nine senators. The chair abstains, only voting to break voting ties, Diaz said. If the bill passes the committee, it goes to the Senate. 

Before controversiality was established, bills were turned down after the majority voted ‘no’ in the committee. With controversiality established as a “filter,” students can bring back the bill in the next meeting, Chow Quan said.  

“We assign a committee member to work alongside students,” he said. “Purely for advice and guidance, they do not become an author in any way.” 

This keeps the door open for students to bring back their “research paper” with tweaks and corrections to ensure that it can be presented to the senate. 

Chow Quan said Matos is welcome to come back with “corrections” to her bill, but she has not reached back out to the committee again.

Julia Saad, News Editor

Julia Saad started as a news correspondent in fall 2022. During Saad's tenure at The Oracle, she has covered a variety of news. However, Saad's favorite topic to cover is being able to place readers in the ambient environments of USF events.