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Thursday, May 06, 2021

Florida State University has a circus. UF has our Student Government with better clowns.

Wondering how SG ran out of money for the Fall? This is the story of how your student leaders earned their red rubber noses.

Once upon a time, there was a student group named Young Americans for Freedom (YAF). A relatively new group, YAF hadn’t been granted consistent yearly funding and had to rely on SG to approve requests for money on a case-by-case basis.

YAF requested to bring in a speaker, which costs a decent chunk of change. The Senate Allocations committee denied the request and then two senators authored a financial rules revision that barred student organizations from funding speakers through the Allocations committee. That wasn’t exactly very nice of the senators, so YAF sued and reached a $66,000 settlement with UF that stipulated the Student Government had to replace their system of funding organizations.

Starting in the spring, the Senate tossed together an “800 Codes Revision Ad-Hoc” committee and started revamping the way organizations are financed. There were some very unpopular changes made to the overall amount of funding for events student organizations could receive, as well as the maximum amount that could be spent on an event. Perhaps the most substantial change came in the loosening of requirements to fulfill for student organizations seeking funding and the institution of a first-come, first-serve policy for evaluating funding requests. Concerns about funding availability were brushed aside.

The changes turned the struggle to get SG funding into a free-for-all. Student Government could have increased the overall amount of money available to student organizations so we wouldn’t run out, but they didn’t. My guess is that they would rather spend your student fees on their pet projects and promotional T-shirts.

A lot of people didn’t know about the changes to the funding process, how to get funding for their student groups or how quickly the money was running out. We ran out of money for the Fall semester weeks before the Fall semester even started and Student Government only has itself to blame. Organizations that received thousands of dollars a year ago are getting absolutely nothing this year. Many large scale events that have been going on for years are at risk; the defunded welcome assemblies are just the beginning. 

The current Student Government administration has been notably silent about possible solutions and what it is doing. I, in the meantime, have drafted up a reserves transfer of $800,000 dollars to provide temporary relief to student organizations. Student Government has a “reserves” account with millions of dollars sloshing about meant to be used for “one time” causes. If you would like to support this potential solution or have any questions, please email me at zchou@ufl.edu.

So, what became of the two Senators who got us into this mess and destroyed everything we knew and loved? You would expect that such a gnarly screw up wouldn’t be great for their political careers, but one went on to become the senior class president (not elected, since SG doesn’t really care for democracy) and the other, Emily Dunson, is now the Senate Pro tempore (second in Senate command). It’s expected that she will move up to the position of Senate President in the Fall and run for Student Body President in the spring. Career advancement is funny like that... but anything is possible in the circus.

Zachariah Chou is a UF political science senior and serves as the Murphree Area Senator.

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