The Campus Recreation department and Office of Multicultural Affairs stand to get more money next year under a spending plan tentatively approved by Student Government leaders last week.
But The Crow’s Nest and Student Government itself would see the largest budget cuts.
At issue is the $3.3 million that USF St. Petersburg students are expected to pay in Activities and Service fees during the 2017-2018 school year. Each student pays an A&S fee of $25.63 per credit hour or $307.56 for a full-time student in a semester of 12 credit hours.
Slightly more than half of the $3.3 million goes to help fund the University Student Center, which opened in 2012. The rest is allocated by Student Government, which was scheduled to meet Monday, April 3, for a final vote.
The plan will then be sent to Laraine Ruiz, the student body president. After her approval, the budget will be sent to Dwayne Isaacs, director of student life and engagement, and then Sophia Wisniewska, regional chancellor of the university, for approval. The senate has delayed a decision which tightened the deadline for the approval process.
Under the tentative spending plan, the biggest increase would be for Campus Recreation, which was allocated $575,450 in 2016-17 and stands to receive a budget of $682,082 in 2017-18.
Campus Recreation runs the fitness center in the SLC, staffs and maintains the sailing center and the Coquina Club, including the pool. It also oversees the intramural sports offered on campus which includes dodgeball, volleyball and kickball.
“Let’s see if this investment pays off next year.”
Greg Haverlock, campus recreation director, declined to comment on the Student Government budget process but told The Crow’s Nest he is confident the Coquina Club, which will be renovated this summer, will receive what is necessary for its operation.
He said the money will cover the operating expenses for the new facility, including staff, maintenance and security of equipment.
Another winner under the proposed spending plan is the Office of Multicultural Affairs, which got $103,500 this year and stands to receive $111,806 next year.
The Office of Multicultural Affairs is one of the most active organizations on campus. It hosts events and provides activities and workshops that promote diversity and inclusiveness.
The organization is responsible for many campus activities including diversity week, the black history showcase and USF St. Petersburg’s participation in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade.
Javier Gonzalez, the coordinator of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, said he hopes to use the increased funding to add more diversity training for members of the organization to improve social events that it hosts for students and faculty.
The office’s budget may increase the most in its operating expenses for the MLK Day celebration, which will include float rental, updated banners, beads and supplies. Gonzalez said the office also plans to offer a more fulfilling experience for the students involved and the community that attends the celebration.
A loser in the proposed spending plan is The Crow’s Nest. The campus newspaper was allocated $50,155 this year and requested $52,153 for next year. Instead, it is set to receive $42,648 — a cut of $7,507 or 15 percent.
“Not everyone is ready to take such a big pay cut.”
Devin Rodriguez, the paper’s editor-in-chief, said Student Government budget officials led him to believe virtually every student organization would be cut next year because of an overall decline in A&S fee money.
In the spirit of cooperation, he said, The Crow’s Nest offered to print fewer papers each week and stop sending editors to the annual convention of the Associated Collegiate Press, which typically draws 1,700 student journalists and features workshops, critiques and prominent speakers.
Rodriguez said he was dismayed to learn that most other organizations stand to receive more – not less – money under the spending plan. He asked Student Government leaders to reconsider their decision before the final vote on April 3.
Albert Moreno is a student senator and the chair of the senate committee on appropriations, a group of senators who oversee the budget process. He said that many organizations lobbied for increases to their budgets. They told SG that more money would help them combat a decline in the student retention rate at USF St. Petersburg.
“Organizations say that they need the money in our reserve to keep students interested in USF and to keep them on campus,” Moreno said. “Let’s see if this investment really pays off next year.”
Students transferring or dropping out of USF St. Petersburg pose a significant problem for the university. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the six-year graduation rate is just 38 percent, a little under half of USF Tampa’s. The decrease in students re-enrolling in classes and graduating, instead opting to leave the university, decreases the funds available for SG to divvy out to organizations.
The reserve, Moreno explained, is money from a deficit account, or a reserve pool for A&S money that rolled over from the previous year. This conflicts with SG’s goal to cut all deficit spending by the 2020-2021 fiscal year, a goal it must meet under a constitutional amendment approved by the student body last semester.
“The Crow’s Nest is the only organization that put money back into the deficit while other organizations took from the reserve account,” said Moreno. “Not everyone is ready to take a such a big pay cut.”
Emilie Morris, the senate president, denied that the paper’s sometimes skeptical coverage of Student Government figured in the decision to cut its budget. She said she did not believe that any of the senators were retaliating.
“We went along with what The Crow’s Nest editorial staff recommended for printing cost and the training conference,” said Morris. “In no way whatsoever was this decision because of [The Crow’s Nest’s] coverage of Student Government. We at Student Government value the honest reporting and coverage they provide for our organization.”
Over the last year, Student Government has been plagued by turmoil, poor turnout in student body elections and budget problems — all of it covered by The Crow’s Nest.
When the 2016-2017 budget was approved last spring, it had a $93,511 error. That forced SG to cut the budgets of Campus Recreation and the Office of Leadership and Student Organization.
Then in August, SG president Ziya Kardas and his vice president — who had been elected without opposition — took “temporary” leaves of absence that lasted until they resigned six months later.
The mysterious leaves, which were never explained, apparently followed a dispute between Kardas and vice president Gina Rotunno that involved allegations of harassment.
This spring only 650 students voted in the SG elections. All 11 senate candidates were approved, but not all senate seats are filled, due in part to senators from the prior semester leaving office.
Student Government is the only other organization whose budget will be cut under the spending plan — from $220,521 this year to $186,905. It’s a drop of $33,616 or about 15 percent of its total budget.
SG’s budget helps run the Bulls in the Burg program, hosts events on campus and sponsors events for other organizations. In the proposed budget, SG set $45,000 aside in the student club and organization event fund, which will be spent as clubs and organizations ask for it.
The amount set aside for student wages within Student Government totals $75,105.
Late last week, David Thompson, the president-elect of Student Government, submitted a proposal seeking more money for Student Government in the spending plan. His proposal was scheduled for consideration on Monday.
Thompson said he believes that strong student leadership will increase the number and quality of the services that USF St Petersburg provides. He said that the hard work of SG helps encourage potential students to enroll and then remain at the university.
“I am hopeful that they hear me out,” Thompson told The Crow’s Nest. “I believe [student leadership] is vital to making a successful student government.”
1. Department of Student Life and Engagement: Oversees and financially advises departments primarily located in the Student Life Center. Helps advise SG, The Crow’s Life, HAB and OMA.
2. Harborside Activities Board: Plans and staffs activities across campus like Homecoming, Week of Welcome and USFSP Week.
3. Leadership and Student Organizations Office: Provides leadership learning opportunities, service learnings and advises student orgs.
4. Cash Flow Reserve: An initial investment in the reserve account (also called the deficit account) that can be utilized for emergency spending.
5. Clean Energy and Resource Conservation Commission: A sustainability fund that can be used to improve structures on campus and services offered.
6. University Student Center: Money paid to the USC to help fund staff and services. The USC hosts events, contains The Reef and student housing.
7. Administration Fee (6 percent): A fee that gets paid to the overall USF system administration.