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Amendment 12 Draws Little Debate Over Small Change To University Governing Board

Amendment 12, if passed, will change the way the student member of Florida’s public university governing board is picked. The amendment is straightforward. The change would require creating a new council and shutting out the longtime student advocacy group, Florida Student Association. Its history is not. The issue revolves around the student member of Florida’s Board of Governors. It’s a 17 member board overseeing the state’s university system. One member is a university student.

“The student representative on the Board of Governors is the president of the Florida Student Association- which is an association of all student body presidents from the universities.”  Says Florida Senator Bill Montford and co-sponsor of the amendment.

Since 2003, the Florida Student Association president has had a seat at the table. But Senator Montford sees a problem with the selection process.

“If the student body president of a university decides not to pay dues and not to be a member of the Florida Student Association then that particular president of that student government in that university would not have an opportunity to sit on the board of governors.” Says Senator Montford.

Yes, the association formally required universities to pay dues. But last February, the group changed their constitution so no financial restrictions stopped a university from participating. Prior to that change, Florida State University was the only public university not paying dues and therefore not having a say.

“So currently all the universities are participating in the FSA’s activities. So there is no pay-to-play scenario. There will be no pay-to-play to scenario in the future.” Says former student association president Michael Long.

During the last session, the Florida Legislature tried to pass a bill giving Florida’s Governor the power to choose the student member on the state university system’s board of governors. That’s when the association decided to no longer require dues. But some say the state should never have given the association a seat at the Board of Governors in the first place.

“I just don’t think that any private company outta be in our constitution in Florida. It was a glitch that this private company was included in constitutional revisions and higher education authority and so we’re just fixing that glitch.” Says Florida Representative Matt Gaetz and co-sponsor of the amendment.

So this Amendment takes the Florida Student Association out of the Board of Governors. And its replacement would be the Council of Student Body Presidents. The council doesn’t currently exist, but if passed, amendment 12 would require the Board of Governors to create the council.

“It’s solely a mechanism to insure that Student Body Presidents are able to get together and determine what student serves on the Board of Governors without having to join a private lobbying company.” Says Representative Gaetz.

But others say a council with the sole purpose of selecting a student member would make it entirely too difficult to represent the whole student body of Florida.

“I can tell you as a student representative: It’s a daunting task. You’re there to represent the voices and interests of 330,000 students. For me, I don’t know how I wouldn’t been able to do the job.” Says former student association President Michael Long

A spokesperson for the Florida Board of Governors says it doesn’t have an opinion on the amendment and refused to comment. Long believes the amendment is unnecessary. He says the association does the job well. Both Senator Montford and Representative Gaetz say while the amendment would smooth out the selection process, if it didn’t pass, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

For more news updates follow Thomas Andrew Gustafson on Twitter @tandrewgus