After over a year of virtual programming and social distancing, UF Student Government is taking $1.55 million from its reserve account to enhance the student experience as in-person activities return.
SG’s reserve fund is an account that holds about $4 million and collects leftover money at the end of each fiscal year to be used for one-time expenses. It was last used May 2020 when Senate passed a bill allocating $500,000 to provide students with rent relief because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, as UF recovers from COVID-19, SG wants to welcome students back with an exciting year by adding $1.55 million onto the fiscal year budget. On July 13, Senate unanimously approved the second reading of the bill advocating for the transfer.
The transfer sets aside $750,000 for Student Government Productions and $250,000 for the Accent Speakers Bureau, which are SG agencies funded by student fees. It also allocates $500,000 for student organizations and $50,000 for the Student Government Cabinet.
The bill was authored by Student Body President Cooper Brown and sponsored by Vice President Faith Maniti and Treasurer Giovanna Mompremier.
SG administration recognizes its role in helping students create lifelong memories, Brown wrote in an email.
“Students deserve a big year coming out of one and a half years of campus being shut down,” he wrote.
Kevin Trejos, the president of the Hispanic Student Association, said it’s amazing SG is using some of its emergency money to help campus life. Trejos, who previously served as a business administration senator, said the money awarded from the reserve transfer will help ensure student organizations have enough funding for their events.
“We’re able to use all that money that never got to be used to have an amazing year that should hopefully bring a lot more entertainment and a better experience for students,” he said.
For HSA specifically, Trejos said it’s a shame how some of its third-year members don’t know what the organization’s events are really like. In the past, HSA collaborated with Accent to bring Hispanic guests, like Pitbull and Prince Royce, to speak on campus and virtually, he said. Trejos hopes the reserve transfer will allow them to host Hispanic and Latinx artists again.
Radames Leyva, an 18-year-old UF finance freshman, said after a year affected by COVID-19, the money from the transfer will definitely enhance students’ experiences. For instance, the speakers can give students another perspective on life, he said.
“It’s pretty nice to have something to do on campus,” he said. “You don’t necessarily have to go off campus or 40 miles to the springs to have fun.”
However, not everyone agrees with the reserve transfer. Zachery Utt, who won the Murphree Area senator seat in Oct. 2020, said he was furious when he first saw the bill.
In May 2020, the 20-year-old UF computer science, statistics and mathematics junior co-authored a bill that would have shipped students hotspots to help with internet issues as they navigated online classes. However, he said he was told it would be irresponsible spending.
“We could’ve given 900 students WiFi,” he said. “We could have improved education for 900 needy students that struggled and had to claw their way for an education that they didn’t ask for. They didn’t sign up to go to a virtual school.”
Last year, when another reserve transfer provided $500,000 in rent relief for students, Utt said they tried to double the amount to no avail. People needed investments when times were hard, not now when everything is fine, he said. He is supportive of spending reserve funds to enhance the student experience, but said it needs to be done logically and for the benefit of all Gators.
“I think it’s hypocritical because when students needed us the most, we weren’t there for them,” he said. “The reserves over the Summer had $4.5 million in it. It’s ridiculous that we’re sitting on that kind of money.”
Contact Juliana Ferrie at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @juliana_f616.
Juliana Ferrie is a second-year UF journalism student. She is excited to be working for The Alligator as the Santa Fe Beat reporter. In her free time, you can find her reading or listening to music.