Force USF Student government to abide by Sunshine Law
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Edit: Thanks to Senate President Taha for providing the General Counsel's email and name. This will allow her to see the support we have.
During my time at the University of South Florida (go bullls!), I ran into issues with the lack of accountability and overall lack of producing records of meeting or minutes with my fellow colleague Katharine. Recently, I was tagged on Facebook in response to an article that was posted by the USF Oracle, the student newspaper, which stated that there were some senators who were against having a recording of the meeting made.
In this article, Gary Manka, the Director for Student Government Advising, Training & Operations went to state that USF student government is exempt from Sunshine Law, and then stated that he could not define whether USF SG was an agency of the university or not. However, the University of North Florida and the University of Central Florida both have their guidelines up on the web that state that their Student Government meetings are covered by the Sunshine Law by statute F.S. Chapter 286.011 (1). The Florida First Amendment foundation also states that meetings of this nature would be covered by Sunshine Law.
There is no reason why USF should have any special treatment in this regard. These are public meetings that anybody can attend. I have seen random people walk in off the street who have stated that they have no affiliation with the University, students walk in and out all of the time as well. For Gary Manka to threaten senators who are trying to record the meetings and with referral to Student Rights and Responsibilities is grossly inappropriate and a slap in the face to the transparency that student government needs and deserves. (link to student government news article enclosed.
As an alumni, this pains me severely given the previous issues that I have experienced with the lack of transparency with Student Government. I know that there are other Alumni that I graduated with that feel the same way. This kind of environment is not conducive to the betterment of the student body and must change. Aladdin Hiba, SG senator states that the meetings are subject to the two party consent rule, however as a public event, this is not the case. One cannot expect a reasonable level of privacy at a public event.
The following need to happen:
1. Gary Manka, Director for Student Government Advising, Training & Operations must re-familiarize himself with Sunshine Law and begin to enforce Sunshine Law. USF SG should follow the same guidelines as UCF SG and UNF SG, and not skirt around the law.
2. Senator Alladin Hiba and Senate President Amani Taha, along with Student Body President Moneer Kheireddine, need to enforce sunshine law and bring into consideration bills to mandate the recording and timely posting of videos of student government meetings.
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