SG committee members swing for the fences with fee proposal, Administration committee members expect rejection

Carter Mudgett and Julia Croston

Fiery speeches and stressed-out faces flooded the Student Affairs Conference Room Wednesday afternoon as the Student Fee Assessment Committee finalized their proposal, a tense debate that ran for the better part of two hours. 

The Problem

The UNF Counseling Center proposed a $0.43 increase to their fee to help bring the center into compliance with the International Accreditation of Counseling Services (IACS) standards. Under the current standards, the IACS requires a minimum of two Full-Time Employee (FTE) staff for every 1,000 to 1,500 students, an amount the Counseling Center says they do not have. 

As the Counseling Center stands at the time of writing, they do not meet that standard and also say that their “$3.27 fee-based budget is not sustainable over time.” View their full proposal here

With an estimated 424,000 credit hours projected for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, this $0.43 increase to the Counseling Center’s fee would give them an additional $182,320 to work with. 

Shown right to left: Vince Smyth, George Boston, John Grosso, and Scott Bennett listen to a committee member discuss a proposal. (Carter Mudgett)

Of course, the simple solution would be to just raise all the fees, effectively increasing the overall student fee. However, that decision must come from the state level and is not an option the committee has. 

From the get-go, every committee member on Wednesday voiced their strong support for raising the Counseling Center’s fee as many members called the situation dire. 

The Debate

The overarching question that begs an answer: Where does the money come from? The committee seemed to settle on two options:

Option 1: Lower the Athletic fee, currently $19.53 per credit hour, and raise the Counseling Center fee, currently $3.27 per credit hour

Option 2: Lower the Activities and Services (A&S) fee, currently $10.18 per hour, and raise the Counseling Center fee

Originally suggested by Student Advocate George Boston, lowering the Athletic fee quickly garnered the support of the other Student Government (SG) members on the committee. 

“Given the stigmatization of mental health, and everything that has occurred in the past and if we’re pro-growth, it is going to be an issue that is going to have to be addressed. I think this is the perfect moment to address it,” Student Body Treasurer Mikhaela Alforque told the committee. 

To remove the proposed amount of $0.43 from the Athletic fee would drop their revenue by $100,000 according to Boston, who said he has “full confidence in the Athletics team” to make do with that alteration because “Athletics has the ability to bounce back” with other revenue sources. 

In actuality, the true cost of the $0.43 cut to the Athletic fee would cost the department $182,320 found by multiplying the $0.43 by 424,000 expected credit hours for the fiscal year 2022-2023. 

Student Advocate George Boston opens the discussion, suggesting that the Athletics fee be reduced to allocate more funds toward the Counseling Center. (Carter Mudgett)

Administration members of the committee joined the discussion to mention how the university has already committed $300,000 in the past few weeks toward the Counseling Center, setting in stone how they are “very committed” to solving the issue. Reorienting the committee, Alforque plainly said how there are 300 students on the Counseling Center’s waitlist that need immediate help. Scott Bennett, Vice President of Administration & Finance voiced his agreement and asked, “Why don’t we take it out of Student Government?” 

Met with a strong dissent from Boston, the Student Advocate called the argument that SG should “bailout” the Counseling Center unfair, explaining how the A&S fee is specifically in place to promote events and services for students. 

Bouncing off comments made by other SG committee members, Boston claimed that the services provided by Athletics are “pretty nonessential” when compared to the Counseling Center. 

Student Body President Selma Besirevic said that while she can see both sides, the student fees in question are ones that students themselves are paying for. 

“This building, these chairs, these tables, everything,” are being paid for by students, according to Besirevic. “[…] we give too much of a damn dollar to look at this and not say we want someone else to contribute aside from us for once,” she closed. 

“It is not on the students to do this,” Boston added. “Administration needs to foot the bill this time.”

Administration committee members said that they agree, with chuckles from various members of the public in attendance, but at the same time said nothing is guaranteed. 

Proposing a philosophical question to the committee, Jay Coleman, Vice President of Data Analytics, asked if the SG members would support a raise to the Counseling Center fee while keeping the other fees stagnant, effectively raising the overall student fee amount. 

Committee members listen to Scott Bennett’s opinion on the matter at hand. (Carter Mudgett)

“That’s not going to fly up the chain either. […] I could be wrong,” Coleman acknowledged, “but I think it has just as much chance of flying as increasing fees.”

Seemingly reaching a stalemate, SG members and administration members of the committee ran circles around whether or not the fee should be reallocated from A&S or Athletics. 

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

Nearly two-thirds of the way through the meeting, Senate President Pro Tempore Andrew “AJ” Likosar shifted gears and voiced their support for a $0.05 to $0.10 decrease in the A&S fee, appearing to split off from the rest of the SG members in attendance. The Senate Pro-Tempore has been a strong supporter of mental health advocacy since originally joining SG. 

Senate President Pro-Tempore Andrew “AJ” Likosar gives their revised opinion on the fee reallocation proposal. (Carter Mudgett)

A $0.05 per credit hour increase, while not as significant as $0.43, would contribute approximately $21,000 toward the Counseling Center. 

“Since it seems, at least from what I am understanding, that athletics has little to no chance of going through, I would like to see something small taken out of the A&S fees in support of the Counseling Center,” Likosar said. 

Boston believes the Counseling Center would not be able to accomplish enough to solve their problems with a $0.05 increase, aside from minimally boosting some salaries. In response, Likosar reiterated their dedication to prioritizing counseling, believing that other students would readily agree to decrease the A&S fee. 

“If I were going to exchange a couple of events for 6 therapy sessions, I would be very happy with that trade if I were a struggling student,” Likosar shared. 

The other members of SG advocated for A&S fees, emphasizing the importance of events to increase student engagement on campus and further bolster student’s mental health. Boston reorientated the committee’s focus toward the idea of taking money from the Athletics fee rather than the A&S fee. 

“Athletics has other means of generating revenue. $0.05 taken from Athletics […] I’m sure they’ll manage […] I’m sure they’ll be able to raise $20,000,” Boston explained. He believes a decrease in A&S fees would be difficult to overcome. 

Closing out the discussion, Besirevic once again jumped in to give her opinion on the Counseling Center and the importance of A&S fees at UNF. 

“The Counseling Center is a conductor, all they do is conduct, not all they do, but their entire service is to conduct therapy sessions to help students, to better their mental health,” she said, “while the A&S fee is here for innovations, entrepreneurs, all these initiatives to get these events going.”

The Decision

With the end of the debate in sight, the committee quickly approved the proposed SHS, Transportation, and Health Promotions fees in a succession of 8-0 votes. In their original proposal requests, the Athletics Department requested that their fee remain the same while the Counseling Center asked for a $0.43 per credit hour increase.

Narrowly passing with a 5-3 majority vote, the committee agreed to raise the Counseling Center’s fee by $0.05 and decrease the Athletics fee by $0.05. 

Senate President Pro-Tempore Andrew “AJ” Liksoar explains a point to the committee as Jay Coleman and Mikhaela Alforque (left to right) listen. (Carter Mudgett)

Members of SG, Selma Besirevic, Johnny Grosso, George Boston, Mikhaela Alforque, and Andrew “AJ” Likosar, along with Hicks Honors College Dean Jeff Chamberlain voted in agreement with the change. Administration members Scott Bennett, Jay Coleman, and Vince Smyth voted against the decision. 

What’s Next?

The proposal will be reviewed by UNF Interim President Pam Chally and, if accepted, sent to the Board of Trustees (BOT) to be reviewed and implemented. If rejected by either the Interim President or the BOT, the committee will reconvene to create a new proposal.


For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected].