A bill still under consideration in the Florida Legislature would allow Rick Scott to appoint the sole student representative on the Board of Governors – but it has also divided the students of Florida.
If the bill
proposed by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, passes the full Senate and House of Representatives, the governor will appoint the board’s student representative rather than the Florida Student Association , which is composed of all student body presidents except Florida State University.
The University of South Florida’s student body president has the chance to be the chairman and also to serve as the
board representative, who voices the interests of students.
USF Student President Matt Diaz attended a Florida Senate Committee on Higher Education meeting earlier this month to oppose the legislation in Tallahassee. He said students choosing their representative is a democratic process of which he approves.
On one end of the meeting room sat Diaz with
representatives who oppose the change – including USF, Florida A&M University, Florida Atlantic University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida International University, New College of Florida, University of Central Florida, University of North Florida and the University of West Florida.
On the opposing end were student delegates of the University of Florida and Florida State University, who support the bill because they do not approve of having to pay to vote for a representative. The schools must pay dues to be a member of the Florida Student Association.
The atmosphere was tense within the Capitol, and Diaz said the opposing sides made the meeting a mess.
“With (UF) and (FSU) throwing out one message and then us throwing out our message, the committee was kind of conflicted with both messages,” he said.
However, Diaz said there was a glimmer of hope.
Diaz said he hopes UF and FSU students can find a middle ground with the rest of the state’s students to determine what will be the best option for the entire system.
Last year, in May 2011, the same bill died. Gaetz co-introduced the bill and later, during a Board of Governors public meeting, Michael Long, the current board student representative and sophomore student body president at New College, said Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, told him he would quit working for higher education if a bill he proposed in the past wasn’t approved.
Long also said he didn’t feel “well-represented” by Alexander during the same meeting. Yet, Diaz said he doesn’t believe this is a political attack on Long.
Diaz said discussions with all universities on the current bill should be developing soon.