MIAMI — The way the student representative on the Board of Governors, the body that oversees Florida’s public universities, is chosen could change if voters pass Amendment 12.
Under the proposal, a new council of student body presidents from all 12 universities would be created. The chair would become the student representative on the Board of Governors.
Critics of the amendment contend it would create an unnecessary and redundant new board. Currently, the chair of the Florida Student Association, an advocacy organization made up of student body presidents from all 12 universities, is the Board of Governors student representative.
Until this year, colleges and universities had to pay dues in order to have a representative with the Florida Student Association. Nearly all did, with the exception of Florida State University. That led to concerns that not all students were being fairly represented, and that some student body presidents weren’t being given a chance to have a seat at the Board of Governors. FSU rejoined the group after the dues requirement was dropped.
Michael Long, a past chairman and current student body president at the New College of Florida, said that with all universities represented in the Florida Student Association, there is no need to create another, similar board.
“One of the greatest things about the Florida Student Association is that it ensures equal representation on the board itself,” he said. “It ensures that the student representative is always informed and aware of the issues at every single campus, not just theirs.”
Long was a vocal critic of the Board of Governor’s decision this year to let the University of South Florida polytechnic campus become a separate institution. Polls showed a majority of USF students and faculty opposed the split. Long doesn’t think the bill is a result of his opposition, as it was first filed in 2011, but he believes it did gather steam as a consequence.
“I do believe because I ruffled some feathers and upset some people and possibly made them question whether a student should be on the board, I added some political momentum to the bill,” Long said.
Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, one of the sponsors of the bill, said he disagrees it will create a redundant board. Calling the organization a “private lobbying body,” he said the FSA could decide to change its laws in the future and require dues again.
“It shouldn’t be in our constitution,” he said of the FSA.
He also contested any notion the bill was politically motivated, noting his own opposition to the USF Polytechnic split.
Like all amendments, the measure will require 60 percent approval to pass.