SDS formally demands tuition freeze from USF administration
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11/19/11 Josh Holton
WMNF Drive-Time News Friday

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SDS member Dani Leppo presents her demands to USF administration and student government members.


photo by Josh Holton

Members of the University of South Florida administration say they were relieved to see that only five people from Students for a Democratic Society attended a meeting in the Marshall Center this morning. SDS at USF said they want a more diplomatic approach in their ongoing demands for a tuition freeze.

Last week about fifty members of Occupy USF protested tuition hikes in front of Judy Genshaft’s office. Today Kevin Banks, assistant vice president and dean for students joined a panel of top members of student government in listening to the group’s demands this week.

“You know, when we first met with them it was a little more igniting and so some of the language that they were using in terms of the 1% verses the 99%, and again I know that some of that was for show and for rallying and everything but it’s just refreshing to hear how they really want to work towards our solutions. They want to be about change that’s going to affect the students positively. We were anticipating more students to be here but you know, it is what it is, and it is getting towards crunch time and we understand that. So we’ll take whoever comes and we’ll work with them.”

Fine arts major and SDS member Trevor LeBlanc said the group approached the panel with four demands.

“Basically our first demand was a freeze in tuition heights for fall 2012. The second was to have two third’s of students present on campus when the administrators and Board of Trustees make major financial decisions that regard the students. The third was to include a neutrality clause and card-check clause in the contract that the University’s negotiating with the food service vendors. The fourth was to try to incorporate 20% fairly ground local food in the food on campus by 2020.”

His fellow SDS member Dani Leppo read those demands to the panel, and demanded that administration make a shared sacrifice to mitigate the proposed 15% tuition hike.

“These tuition increases will have a catastrophic effect on the diversity including first generation students, black students, Hispanic students, and working class students mostly. Our demand is to put pressure on the state government to fund education by pledging not to raise tuition. We need to cut over HUD and trim the fat and by asking administrators on campus to make a shared sacrifice with the faculty, staff, and students who have been sacrificing for years.”

Student Government’s Senate President Khalid Hassouneh suggested that without the hikes, other members of the University community could suffer more.

“Well you say that’s great, but all your doing is raising tuition on students and robbing that money right back from us. You’re putting it towards roads, highways, or in the state legislators’ budget. It doesn’t make sense. At the same time, you can’t come out and say well we don’t like the tuition increase so therefore we don’t want to raise tuition because we all share that idea, and trust me if it was up to us there would not be a tuition increase. I doubt the administrators in the room would be pushing for a tuition increase. The problem is, without the tuition increase what do you want to do with the University? Do you want to shut classrooms down, do you want to fire faculty? Do you want to raise the faculty to student ratio? We’re already poorly rated on all the statistics. Do we want the integrity on the University to suffer?”

Last week Florida’s Board of Governors approved new, higher, so-called market rates for some graduate programs that were requested by USF and four other state universities. Complicating those tuition increases, SDS member LeBlanc pointed out that USF President Judy Genshaft’s salary is an example of imbalanced cost cutting.

“Why if we’re on the tail end of tuition prices do we have one of the highest paid presidents?”

The Senate President, Hassouneh, and other members of the panel agreed to join students in bringing these concerns to Tallahassee, where they say the state budget for education is playing the largest role in this controversy.

“I think they have very reasonable demands, very interesting. I think the first two which related to tuition and how they wanted to be included in the process are very reasonable and should be expected. It should be expected. I’m excited that students are actively getting involved. As I said earlier, out of the three in a half years that I’ve been here this had been the most active student body that I’ve seen yet. I’m really looking forward to seeing the fruits of their labor come to be.”

SDS’s LeBlanc believes that the University administration is genuine in their proposal to join bus tours up north to ask Governor Rick Scott to prioritize the education system.

“We’re going to take it to the state legislator and we’re going to tell Rick Scott that this is ridiculous. He’s hurting the future of the state by harming education like this because one of our core beliefs in that education should be accessible to everyone no matter what kind of background their from. You know, with these kinds of actions happening that’s becoming more and more out of reach for a lot of people.”

Hassouneh has invited SDS to meet with student government on November 29th, where they can take academic and budget concerns directly to the provost.

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