Students attending Florida’s state universities could see representation on a state level after the November election.
If it passes, Amendment 12 would give Student Government Association presidents a seat on the Board of Governors through the Florida Appointment Process for State University Board of Governors Revision Amendment.
A council comprising the student body presidents from the 11 state universities would replace the governor-appointed chairman from the Florida Student Association.
Harrison DuBosar, director of Florida State’s SGA Office of Governmental Affairs, helped develop the amendment. He said Amendment 12 could play a key role in removing what he refers to as a “pay to play” mentality of the FSA.
“If a university wants the opportunity to have their student body president serve as the student representative on the Board of Governors, they need to be a member of the FSA first,” DuBosar said. “But the problem is that in order to be a member of the FSA, you need to pay membership dues, and those dues are much higher for schools like FSU and UF (University of Florida).”
Under the current system, the chair of the FSA serves on the Board of Governors. The FSA requires annual dues – $8,000 – to be paid to participate in decisions.
FSU was the only state institution with no representation in the FSA because it chose not to pay the fees.
Dues are no longer required and FSU has joined FSA, but Asimina Boutzoukas, an FSU graduate who served as the former director of the university’s SGA Office of Governmental Affairs and proposed the amendment, said keeping it that way would be a permanent measure allowing equal representation for all schools.
“Our concern there was that it’s a private organization,” Boutzoukas said of the FSA. “We didn’t want our student body, four years down the line, to be back in the House and the Senate again because Florida Student Association decided to implement dues once again.”
Boutzoukas emphasized the significance of the bill.
“This is a very important bill for us to show that student issues are real issues,” Boutzoukas said. “The role of this bill is going to make all representatives much more inclusive and include all universities and bring diversity to the board.”
DuBosar added that the FSA comprises all of Florida’s public universities, including smaller universities such as New College of Florida. That is why DuBosar believes that FSA does not represent the interests of FSU.
“Having someone from New College, for example, represent us on the Board of Governors doesn’t accurately reflect our needs,” DuBosar said.
This was in regard to FSU being one of the largest schools in the state and having its own goals and interests naturally inclined.
Florida A&M SGA President Marissa West said “it’s almost repetitive,” of replacing a single FSA chairperson with a council of student body presidents.
“The purpose of a council is very similar to what we’ve made our purpose in FSA,” West said. “Because that BOG seat has always respectively been that FSA chair, that person is not just going to the Board fighting for Florida A&M University or fighting for UCF (University of Central Florida) or fighting for New College of Florida, they’re fighting for all of the things that we can agree upon as students, as student leaders of our student bodies in the state of Florida.”
West added, “I think to have an outside person, this person would still have to be able to meet and share dialogue and see where we are as far as issues on our respective campuses.”
In an email, Kim Wilmath, spokeswoman for the Board of Governors, said, “The Board of Governors is fortunate to have a student voice at the table when making decisions that impact the State University System of Florida. Amendment 12 – whether it passes or not – will not change that.”
Editor-in-Chief Karl Etters contributed to this article.