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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Gaetz says motive of proposed bill is to avoid "pay to play" for BOG seat, Long says he's against it



 When Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz filed a bill on Wednesday that would make the student seat on the Florida Board of Governors an appointment by the governor, he says the point was to curb what he sees as "pay to play democracy." Right now, that seat is held by the president of the Florida Student Association, a group made up of the student body presidents that charges each school $8,500 in dues.

Florida State University is the only public school that does not participate.

"I was a member of student government at Florida State University," Gaetz said, "and I keep in touch with a lot of students there. They are concerned that there's a constitutional provision that requires them to pay money to a private lobbying company to be able to have a voice in who the student representative is on the Board of Governors... It's like pay to play democracy, and I think that principal is repugnant." 

Gaetz said the bill has nothing to do with the current student Board of Governors member, New College sophomore Michael Long, who got attention last month after standing up to the powerful Sen. JD Alexander at a Florida Board of Governors meeting. Gaetz said he talked to Long about it and explained his reasons, himself.

But that doesn't mean Long is on board.

"I think it's a very bad idea," Long told the Times. "Taking away power from the students to elect that leader and giving it to the governor is just a silly idea."

Long said the state constitution spells out that the Board of Governors student member is the Florida Student Association president "or some equivalent." He takes that to mean that if the university student body presidents wanted to get together outside the association and elect their member, they could. 

But he says the association, which collects the dues from part of students' activity and service fees, works. It helps the members be organized, keep close communication and stay abreast of major issues. 

Plus, Long says, "Just because you're not a dues-paying member doesn't mean you can't sit on the Board of Governors. You can still throw your name in." In fact, he says he checks in regularly with FSU's student leaders and encourages them to participate in conference calls and meetings.

"There's nothing wrong with the process," he said.

[Last modified: Thursday, December 8, 2011 3:15pm]


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