New bill may eliminate student-elected voice from the Board of Governors


Gov. Rick Scott could have the power to appoint a student of his choosing to serve on the BOG.


By: Matt Head & Rebecca Ely, OTV Station Manager and OTV News Director


The Florida Student Association might lose its voice to Gov. Rick Scott if members of the Florida Legislature in Tallahassee have their way.

A bill filed Jan. 10 would allow Scott to appoint a student to serve on the Florida Board of Governors, rather than a student body president appointed by his FSA peers. The bill, House Joint Resolution 931, was filed by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, and Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee.

“The language of the bill basically attempts to change the Florida Constitution and give appointment power to the governor,” said FSA Chairman Michael Long. “Is it money-driven? I would say, “no.” Is it very politically driven? I would definitely say, “yes.”

Long represents students from 10 of the 11 Florida public universities by serving on the board. The FSA is comprised of student body presidents. Florida State University is not a member and is behind the bill.

“If you’re not a member of FSA, you won’t be considered for chairmanship and wouldn’t be in a position to be on the BOG,” said UNF Vice President of Governmental Affairs Janet Owen. “They [FSU] could remedy that by joining the FSA.”

Scott currently appoints 14 members to the board, with the faculty and student representative positions being elected.

Long said students electing their peers have a greater ability to represent themselves than someone like Scott. The process would become too political and the schools with larger enrollments could benefit unfairly, Long said.

“[It’s about] having a republic process where students elect a leader for the students to determine among themselves the best student leader to represent their interests and their constituency,” Long said. “It’s very clear that the students have a much greater ability to do that than a governor who is probably not talking to students.”

Long said Scott appointing a student representative would damage the credibility of the position because he has no connection with any of the students.

Sen. Gaetz, according to the Tampa Bay Times, cites the membership fee for joining the FSA as the driving force behind the creation of the bill. He said he wanted to avoid what he called a “pay-to-play” situation, since you have to be a member of the FSA to be elected to sit on the board.

Emails seeking interview requests or statements from Gaetz and Montford’s offices were not returned as of Jan. 17.

A very similar bill was introduced last year, also backed by FSU and Sen. Montford, but did not pass in the House or Senate.

This year’s version of the bill also figures to be in for an uphill struggle to pass in the House and Senate, Owen said.

“It seems to me that it wouldn’t have a lot of legs for a couple of reasons,” she said.

Since there are 10 universities represented on the FSA, it’s unlikely their constituents would vote to eliminate the association’s, and therefore students’, say in electing a student representative, she said. Even if the bill passes both the House and Senate, it would require a 60 percent affirmative vote by the State of Florida to be implemented as a Constitutional amendment, she said.

Long made headlines last year after his public debate with state Sen. J.D. Alexander at a November board meeting. Long said Alexander was pushing the USF Polytechnic campus split so it could the 12th public university in the state. The students did not support the split for multiple reasons, Long said. He says issues like the University of South Florida Polytechnic split justify having the FSA and their seat on the board.

“I think the other members of the board of governors realize as well as I do that you lose the credibility of the position that way because it’s not about representing students anymore,” Long said. “I think it will be more about representing your own university because you are not chosen by your peers. You don’t know what’s going on at the other university campuses. You don’t have a connection with the other presidents.”

Greg Parlier contributed to this report.



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