On Oct. 14, Student Government (SG) will have the opportunity to lobby at Rally in Tally, a conference at the state capitol, along with representatives from other public universities in Florida. In a conversation with Spinnaker, Student Body President Selma Besirevic, along with SG Communications Director Bailey Bernard, revealed the plans for the event.
Rally in Tally aims to focus on three topics: Bright Futures, mental health, and sexual violence prevention. Several members of the SG will attend to have the chance to create change. At the beginning of the semester, President Besirevic created three councils to research and write legislation on each topic.
For Bright Futures, the goal will be to reinstate the recently removed textbook stipend and to remove the grandparent clause. Besirevic hopes working with other public universities at the capitol will show the legislators students are extremely passionate about Bright Futures.
“As a recipient of Bright Futures myself, it is vital, and I know it is completely vital to students. If it wasn’t for that I would not be here, and that means the world to me,” Besirevic shared.
Bright Futures included a $300 a semester textbook stipend for eligible students. Recently, the stipend was eliminated. President Besirevic and Director Bernard see this as a huge issue since students rely on this money to buy expensive textbooks.
The grandparent clause allows students out of state to be eligible for Bright Futures if they have a grandparent who lives in Florida. Ideally, Besirevic wants students from any state to be able to receive Bright Futures, but she recognizes this would take away from students who live in Florida increasing the already competitive requirements.
“If you have a grandparent in the state of Florida, even though you don’t live in Florida, you could be eligible for Bright Futures, which takes away from students in Florida in general. The requirements are already competitive, so including those students outside of state can cause students in state to not be eligible,” Besirevic explained.
Besirevic hopes Florida legislators will prioritize Floridians: “This is the state of Florida. Serve your Floridians. Serve your students.”
Next, SG will advocate for student mental health. Besirevic explained the wait time in the counseling center can be around two to three months. Students are unable to get the immediate help they need. Currently, the counseling center is understaffed and underpaid.
“[The counseling center is] struggling immensely, and that pains me as a student who is very big on mental health, and making sure everyone is prioritizing themselves and their happiness and their health in every aspect: physical, mental, emotional, social… I want to do anything I can,” Besirevic stated.
Besirevic and others at the conference will lobby for statewide telehealth specifically for students attending public universities. Last year, emergency orders in Florida supported telehealth as more people sought out mental health counseling due to the pandemic. Besirevic hopes to use the state legislation and statistical evidence of the rise in telehealth usage to support the argument that an accessible and effective mental health program is vital.
For the final topic, SG will lobby to mandate sexual violence prevention training in all Florida public universities.
President Besirevic wants this training to be similar to the required anti-hazing training. She believes anti-hazing training, while important, is not susceptible for everyone.
Besirevic clarified: “Not every student is involved in an organization… yet every student is required to take the module that requires anti-hazing. We should require that for sexual violence prevention as well…”
Besirevic believes sexual violence prevention is relevant and vital for everyone.
She explained: “As long as you are a person on this planet, you are susceptible to being involved with this… as a survivor, as someone who knew someone who’s affected in that, therefore, affected you and your relationship with them. It’s a very serious matter and we need to do something about this.”
“It’s all about being proactive instead of reactive. We want to be part of the change before it happens,” Director Bernard added.
On Oct. 16, SG will take selected students to participate in the We the Future Conference at FSU. The conference will be an opportunity for students to increase professional development and professional connections. SG has met with the students to help them prepare.
“I can’t wait to show Tallahassee what UNF has got,” Besirevic added.
Ultimately, Besirevic hopes awareness of lobbying and the conference itself will act as a catalyst for change and involvement on campus.
“I’m hoping with this conference and with this interview and showing what we’re doing with Rally in Tally… it will get more students eager to get involved and want to make change at the university,” Besirevic clarified.
On Oct. 8, the legislation created by the councils advocating for telehealth and sexual violence prevention training will be presented to the SG Senate for approval. The finalized legislation will be presented to state legislators at the capitol.
In the past, UNF has participated in “Rally in Tally” back in 2012, 2013, and 2014, aiming to fight for higher education as well as address local and statewide issues.
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