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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Student BOG member bill moves ahead in the Senate

9

February

 A bill to make the student member of the Florida Board of Governors a position appointed by the governor was approved by a Senate higher education committee on Thursday.

It’s looking more likely that the idea will come to reality, as a House version of the bill passed through its education committee earlier this week. For students, it’s a controversial issue – with heated opinions on both sides.

Right now that student member is elected by the Florida Student Association, a group made up of student body presidents that confers on various student issues and puts forth a collective legislative agenda each year. Ten of the state’s 11 universities participate. Only Florida State University does not.

The reason for the change, said bill sponsor Sen. Bill Montford, is that the Florida Student Association collects dues. Last year, the FSA collected about $8,000 last year from each participating school, paid for out of students’ fees.

But recently, the FSA has changed its bylaws so that dues are not mandatory for membership. Plus, another change to the bylaws says that a unanimous vote among all members is required to implement dues. So if FSU wants to do away with all dues for everybody, they could be that lone dissenting vote.

Michael Long, the current student BOG member, says its essential that students are able to choose their own leader. Students from all but two universities came out to support him. Just FSU and the University of Florida voiced opposition.

The decision Thursday wasn't quick or easy. Senators shared the dues worry, but also favored students electing their BOG seat from within. 

"I squarely side with the students," said Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne. Altman proposed an amendment that would make a new student group apart from the FSA in charge of choosing the student. The group would not charge dues.

FSU students were not satisfied. Maybe that group could decide in the future to charge dues anyway, they said. Plus, how would inclusivity be ensured? 

It was because of that uncertainty that senators allowed the bill to move forward. Altman said he "reluctantly supported" it so that students could keep working out the kinks and hopefully come to a compromise.

[Last modified: Thursday, February 9, 2012 3:10pm]

    

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