By Mark Strom
According to Student Government Association (SGA) President Larry Liuzzo, the SGA is hoping to improve its image as compared to previous years.
“We’ve done a lot to try to kind of minimize the perspective of us being ‘bullies’ on campus in charge of the money,” said Liuzzo. “I think we’ve done a really good job this year of making it a lot more personable [and] a friendlier environment to be around.”
Liuzzo said nobody directly complained to SGA members about their conduct, however, they indirectly heard that people “weren’t happy” with about way situations were handled during senate meetings.
“At the very beginning of last semester, I said to my executive board that the way that we hold ourselves in the office during meetings will all trickle down in showing senators how we should act in front of everyone,” said Liuzzo.
He said last semester’s Week of Kindness and this semester’s Week of Hope were intended to “put a face to each issue” and to convey the message: “We’re all part of the same community.”
Liuzzo is not sure if there will be any more theme-week events this semester.
Liuzzo believes there has been a noticeable increase in student involvement throughout campus. “I don’t know the exact number, but we’ve had more clubs start up last semester than we have in the last couple of years,” he said.
Jumana Saleh, a graduate student working toward a master’s degree in food and nutrition and a representative of the Running Club, said, referring to SGA, “They were really nice and accommodating. They kind of led me through the steps that I was going to be going through, and now they know me by my first name, so it feels personal.”
Liuzzo said, “In order to be seen at senate, you have to apply for a funding request a week before” the meeting, after which the organization/club goes to the finance committee. This committee is run by Student Activities Trust Fund (SATF) Treasurer Cassandra Zullo.
According to Zullo, the request must be sent in by noon on the Thursday before the senate meeting. This allows the request to be examined during Monday’s agenda meeting at 1:30 p.m.
Zullo said the senate sees up to five clubs a week, and the SGA gets in touch with the organization/club to let its members know know to attend the financial committee meeting.
“Fin Com [financial committee] is pretty much just the start-out of trying to get all the little quirks and make sure their numbers are right [and ask] any questions that might come up ... so that when they come to senate on Tuesdays, it’s just easier for them,” said Zullo.
During Tuesday meetings, funding requests follow a standard voting procedure. An organization/club representative is asked to briefly introduce him/herself, as well as give a brief overview of the request.
Following this overview, the Senate Chair allocates two minutes for senators to ask any questions, then entertains a motion. A motion or movement is what the senators actually vote on (i.e., “I move to allocate this amount of money to this club.”)
In order for the motion to be voted on, another senator must second the request (i.e., “I second this motion.”) If the motion is seconded, the Senate Chair allows two minutes for the organization/club to ask the senators questions. After two minutes have passed, voting on the motion occurs, during which senators can vote in favor, in opposition, or choose to abstain from voting.
Liuzzo said decisions are based on whether the request follows required state guidelines and by-laws. These guidelines include the event being open to everyone on campus, and the allocated funding not being donated to charity.
“We keep our personal stances outside of our decision processes as best we can. We try to be as objective as possible,” said Liuzzo.
Zullo said, “No matter how big or small the request is, we treat each one with the same mentality. We want to make sure each request is open to the entire campus and that it is a good use of SATF money. When looking at a request, we do not judge by how much the request is, but [by] the content of the event.”
Senators can also vote to “table” a request, meaning the request is put aside until the next week. This usually occurs if there is not sufficient information for senators to make an informed decision. If this is the case, the organization/club is required to attend the next meeting with an updated request.
This occurred during last semester in regards to a $40,000 funding request from the Journal of Critical Thinking to host author Nicholas Sparks. The senators were concerned about the amount of money involved, and voted to table the request pending further information.
According to Zullo, the request was later rescinded by the club due to conflict regarding when Sparks could visit campus.
Tabling can also occur if a representative fails to show up at the Tuesday senate meeting.
According to Liuzzo, it is also possible for the president to veto a request, but he/she must provide a list of points as to why the motion is being vetoed.
As for repealing previously made decisions, “You can’t repeal a funding request unless there’s something that’s completely against the state or university guidelines,” said Liuzzo.
Amy Jones, a sophomore communication arts major and representative of the Community Service club, said, “Well, when I first went in [to the meeting], it was kind of intimidating because you sit at a panel, and you’re surrounded by people who know the parliamentary system a lot more than you [do]. But they were definitely very friendly when they asked the questions.”
Tori Dost, a junior sociology major and representative of the Community Service Club, said, “I agree. It was intimidating, but I think that’s a good thing because I’m friends with a lot of them, and it’s good to establish that professional barrier.”
According to Liuzzo, the budget for funding requests comes from various “lines,” such as a travel and conference line, to which money is allocated to fund requests pertaining to the relevant section. If the requests exceed the available funds, more money is allocated from SGA’s unallocated funding budget.
“If anything were to happen where we run out of money in our unallocated account, we have reserves that have enough money in them to get us through. [This] doesn’t mean we’re not keeping track of the budget, but we have the safety net if need be. But very, very, very rarely do we ever have to tap into it,” according to Liuzzo.
According to Zullo, SGA received $237,678 for the unallocated budget this year. Liuzzo said this amount differs “every year depending on student fees and how much we pay into it.”
SGA also has funding for its own use. According to Zullo, there are three lines for SGA’s personal use. The general line, which started with $12,627, is for office supplies, promotional items, permits, and other miscellaneous needs.
The Leadership Weekend line, which started with $6,000, funds the annual SGA retreat during the fall. It is during this retreat that Social Events Coordinator Scott Shea came up with the “You Rock, Rock.”
According to Zullo, “It [the You Rock, Rock] was to highlight someone who stood out to the previous person who had received it. It’s just a way for people on SGA get notice for great things they are doing.”
Zullo said, “We also get [funding] allocated for the All College Banquet that is held [on] the last day of classes. SGA is the one who puts everything together for it.” According to Zullo, the line has $10,400.
Liuzzo said there is an increase in the number of students seeking to join SGA. “I feel like I’m appointing a new senator every week. ... People are interested, and I think that’s great. The more the merrier.”
In order to join SGA, students can either be voted in during the fall and spring elections, or be directly appointed.
Liuzzo said, “It’s as easy as coming to me or any of the e-Board members [and] saying ‘I want to join SGA’. If there are open spots, the president can appoint them and [they can] be sworn in right on the spot.”
According to Liuzzo, in order to maintain a position in the senate, a senator must have office hours, attend the Tuesday meetings and join at least one committee.
“It’s not too much in the time commitment, but you know, you can take it as far as you want to go, basically. Get as involved as you want,” said Liuzzo.
He said he believes that, overall, SGA’s attempts at improving its image have been successful. “I am proud of the Student Government Association in its actions to bring the entire campus community together and to promote a friendly environment in which every student can feel proud to call FSU a second home. I am unbelievably fortunate to work with such dedicated and passionate student leaders and am grateful to serve this campus as the president of the student body,” said Liuzzo.