WFSU News Team
Wed April 20, 2011
Lawmakers reconsider membership of university governing board
Tallahassee, FL – The board that oversees the state's university system is in for a change under a proposal moving through the House. Right now that body is made up of gubernatorial appointees and a student member recommended by the Florida Student Association. Lynn Hatter reports the house is moving to make the student member of the board a gubernatorial appointee, and the students are not happy about it.
In order to change how the student member of the Board of Governors is appointed it has to be done constitutionally. The proposal in the House is sponsored by Democratic Representative Alan Williams of Tallahassee. He presented the proposal to the House Education Committee Wednesday.
"House Joint Resolution 1359 Board of Governors/ Student Body President- amends the Florida Constitution to require that one of the members of the Board of Governors be a state university student body president appointed by the Governor."
Right now, the constitution calls for a student body president chosen by the Florida Student Association to be a member of the Board. The bill takes appointment authority away from the Florida Student Association. And that doesn't sit well with current FSA President Gallop Franklin. He's also the Student Body President of Florida A&M University and is serving on the Board of Governors.
"Since its existence, since 2003 we've always been the group to appoint or elect the student member of the Board of Governors and we want to keep that in place, because we have a lot of accountability measures, I can be unseated if I'm not performing to a certain level. When you change that to another government appointment or different council, to us that doesn't make much sense because we are the council."
Franklin voiced his opposition to the proposal during a rally of students at the capital a few weeks ago, but William's bill would also take away the Student Association's role as council, something Republican Representative Marlene O'Toole from The Villages, points out.
"So, I don't have to belong to the Association to be considered to be on the Board of Governors, correct?" Williams: "Exactly, you're exactly right."
University of South Florida Student Body Vice President, Spencer Montgomery says he doesn't like the bill either. But he also says the current system doesn't always work out.
"I don't like it because it takes the power away from the student, but at the same time sometimes they don't elect the right student. So we need to come with some balance of who is the best student to represent all students of the state university system."
Democratic Senator Bill Montford of Tallahassee also heads the Florida Association of School Superintendents. He's sponsoring a companion measure in the senate, and says the issue of student body presidential membership on the Board of Governors is a question of equity. But not all student body presidents are Florida Student Association members.
"Here's the problem. You have to be a member of the Florida Student Association to be selected. At least one university, Florida State University, has elected not to be a part member of the FSA. And therefore they are not eligible. So this is a way, hopefully, that we will be able to assure all universities, whether they are a member of the FSA or not, will be able to serve."
Representative Williams says his bill is still a work in progress, but the change is needed.
"You never know, they may not exist, and so why have that, down the road, so why have that in our constitution. So, that's the other reason why we're clarifying this in our bill."
In Florida's old regents system, the Florida Student Association made recommendations to the governor, who then appointed a student member to the board that oversaw the universities, and the proposals sponsor says he's open to suggestions. If it makes it to the floor of both chambers, a two-thirds vote is needed to send it before voters on the 2012 ballot.