USF student activists follow up with student govt. leaders on demand that tuition rates be frozen

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The students reiterated their four demands that they wanted redress on. They are:

1- that tuition rates be frozen for the Fall 2012 semester
2- Establish a policy that Board of Trustees' metings regarding finance that affects students can only occur when a quorum of two-thirds of students exists on campus during the fall and spring semesters.
3- Establish a union neutrality clause and card check clause in any contract negotiated with food service vendors on campus to insure good working conditions and wages for the students and community members they employ.
4. Include a clause in contracts with any food service vendors on campus to include a commitment for 20% real food by 2020, including food that is locally-based, fair, ecologically sound, and humane.

Although there were nearly as officials from the university present as there was last week, other than Dean of Students Kevin Banks, the discussion was exclusively devoted to the students speaking with each other and realizing that they had more in common than they had in dissent.

USF students have seen their tuition increase 15 percent in the past year a pretty dramatic increase. Student Body President Matt Diaz admitted that he voted to raise tuition while on the Board of Trustees earlier this year, but urged the activists not to judge him. Dressed in coat and tie and looking quite establishment he said, "Don't think that being suited up (that) I'm part of this one percent, because I'm a student as much as you all are."

Diaz told students that because of state budget cuts to higher education of 20 percent, if there hadn't been those increases, "There would have been a lot of tightening of the belt."

Students on both sides then came to realize that that the common enemy wasn't the other, but the state Legislature. Senate President Hassouneh said that though he agreed that tuition shouldn't be raised, the alternative isn't really acceptable.

"Do you want to shut classrooms down? Do you want to fire faculty, do you want to raise student to faculty ratio? I mean we're already poorly rated on all of those statistics."

SDS member Trevor LeBlanc raised objections to the salary increases allowed to school president Judy Genshaft. At $475,000, she is one of the highest paid presidents in the nation. "Is there not a way for administration to make a shared sacrifice, with the faculty, staff and students to try to offset this?"

Hassouneh said he had asked that question himself, but said that Genshaft has been somewhat of a rainmaker for the school. "She's an asset," he said.

The USF student body government has already scheduled a bus trip to Tallahassee on January 26, and members of SDS said they would work on getting their members to be part of that trip.

Regarding getting a quorum of students to be present when discussions of tuition rates are discussed,
Senate President Hassouneh said that is something that was very possible. He said previously the reason why the Board of Trustees had voted in late May or early June (when students were home for the summer), was because the state Legislature, which sets some of those rate hikes, doesn't end their session generally until early May, and state law says the rates must be voted on before July 1.

As far as the two other measures regarding university staff on become organized and having a plank on insuring that locally produced food is sold on the campus, the student government officials said they couldn't answer those questions, but would inquire about them and get back to the SDS activists.

USF student body officials hear and respond to SDS demands
  • USF student body officials hear and respond to SDS' demands

Nine days ago, a group of student activists at USF, calling themselves Students for a Democratic Society (in conjunction with a nascent Occupy USF group), marched through the Tampa campus before meeting with a group of top administrators of the university to demand that a 15 percent tuition hike not go into effect next semester.

The meeting involved over 50 students and around 9 administrators, and lasted for an hour and a half, with the student activists saying they would be back this Friday to hear the school's response to that and three other demands.

That follow-up meeting took place Friday morning inside the Marshall Center, but it wasn't nearly as highly charged. This meeting involved students mainly talking within each other. A group of 4 SDS members presented their demands to Student Body President Matt Diaz and the Senate President of Student Government, Khalid J. Hassouneh.

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