SGA considers merging campus councils, despite student protests

Michelle Marchante/News Director and Milagros Viquez/Contributing Writer

A merger between the Student Government Council at BBC and the Student Government Council at MMC may be on the horizon, despite BBC students’ fervent protests.

The proposed change, discussed during a student-comprised university-wide constitutional committee on Tuesday, Nov. 28, would unite the two different governments together under one president instead of two.

If approved, the changes would be for next semester’s election season, but wouldn’t be fully implemented until summer or fall 2018, according to Leonardo Cosio, SGC-BBC president.

Under the proposal, both MMC and BBC students would be eligible to run for president and would have two vice presidents, one from MMC and one from BBC. The government would also have only one judiciary branch and one senate comprised of both MMC and BBC senators. Eight out of 40 senate seats would be guaranteed to BBC students and four would be guaranteed to MMC students.

These changes, according to the committee, would act as a checks and balances system to keep the executive and judicial branch accountable. Besides accountability, merging the two different government branches together into one Student Government Association makes sense, as both campuses are one school, said Krista Schmidt, SGC-MMC president and one of the committee members.

“…This might sound different and new, but we’re not reinventing the wheel,” Schmidt said in the meeting. “…We’re one of the few [universities] that have multiple student governments…but we’re one FIU together so we want to start acting like one.”

Other members of the committee include Larissa Adames, SGA coordinator and advisor for BBC and assistant director of Campus Life at BBC; Jamie Adelson, BBC chief of staff; Cosio, BBC president; Cooper Eisinger, MMC chief justice; Joshua Mandall, senator for the School of International and Public Affairs and the chairman of the Rules, Legislation and Judiciary Committee; Meredith Marseille, BBC vice president; Jerome Scott, coordinator in Campus Life and SGA advisor; Jose Sirven, MMC vice president; Jose Toscano, director of MMC Campus Life.

The committee, Cosio said to Student Media, was created by Larry Lunsford, vice president of Student Affairs, to look at and revise SGA’s Election Code for a smoother election process. However, the committee has decided to look at and revise other SGA documents such as the Constitution and the statutes as well. The reason for the revisions, Cosio said, is because of how “contentious” MMC elections have sometimes gotten.

This past election cycle was no different, with Schmidt’s candidacy questioned after her original vice president was disqualified. Her appointment of Sirven was also questioned.

About 50 students attended the meeting, some of them former SGA members. Most disagreed with the committee.

Nimeha Milien, a senior majoring in hospitality management, voiced her disagreement during the Q&A session. While she likes the idea of unity, she’s worried BBC will be underrepresented.

“…MMC has more students, BBC has a less amount of students, like it’s totally different and I just feel like I don’t really agree with the whole-in-one-thing because I feel like BBC will be less represented because most of the people will be coming from MMC and our voice will not be heard,” Milien said. “And we do not have the same problems because of our location and how many students we have…”

However, unlike previous BBC and MMC presidents who disliked each other, Cosio and her are friends, Schmidt said, so while there is more communication between the two governments, it’s not possible for BBC to have equal representation with the current SGA structure. Schmidt herself is the only president allowed to sit in the Board of Trustees. But under the new SGA, there would be a possibility for a BBC student to become president and sit on the board.

Cosio said he understands the concerns students have as BBC does have a different “vibe,” but it also doesn’t have the same representation, which is why he supports the merge.

“…This came out of the discussion of elevating our presence as student government at a u-wide [university-wide] level, so we feel like we’re not [currently] accountable to ourselves and to the student body at the end of the day, which is who we serve. We feel like we don’t do them justice by not expanding our u-wide role,” Cosio said during the meeting.

Another student questioned the legitimacy of the meeting. Prior to the Q&A session, committee members were revising the SGA Constitution for the potential merge. The revision, according to Tonie Jean, SGC-BBC former speaker of the senate, made it seem as if the change was already decided, without student input.

But those revisions are suggestions, according to Schmidt, and is what the committee believes will improve BBC life.

“The idea to unify both Student Governments is one that is meant to give BBC more access to the resources that the MMC Student Government does,” read Schmidt’s statement to Student Media. “We want to be able to give both campuses the same amount of attention and the same voice. We believe that one representative of the FIU Student Body would achieve this.”

Schmidt also spoke with students individually after the meeting and was able to give them a better understanding of the concept, according to her statement.

Sergio Molina, former SGC-MMC supreme court chief justice and a senior majoring in finance, attended the meeting and while he agrees that most of the SGA documents are contradicting, he’s surprised there is no discussion of letting the student body vote on the change.

Students at the meeting brought up how difficult it was for BBC to communicate their problems with administrators, such as Lunsford, and Medina doesn’t believe this is because of SGA’s structure.

“If their problem is that they can’t get some of their concerns from the BBC campus to the level of administrators like Lunsford, then either the president of the BBC campus is not doing a good enough job at getting an audience with the administration or the administration is not doing a good enough job at being receptive to meeting with these officials,” Molina said.

And if the “axis” between BBC and administrators is MMC’s president, then they need to work on improving communication, according to Molina, instead of merging the two governments.

The committee has until Friday, Dec. 8, for a decision, but students such as Mitesh Addhate, the SGC-BBC Comptroller and a graduate student in the Global Strategic Communication Creative Track Master’s program, feels expediting a decision is the wrong step, especially during finals and without giving students enough time to respond.

Addhate graduates next semester and while the change won’t affect him, he’s still worried about the future for BBC students. SGC-BBC, he said, has a “legacy” to do what is best for BBC students.

“What is the reason why they are rushing this major, major change?” Addhate said. “We don’t feel like rushing is a good option when it comes to make changes on a bigger scale.”

Cosio said he believes the merger is the best move for BBC currently. However, he agrees that the timeframe is too accelerated and plans to request an extension.

BBC will be holding a town hall meeting Monday, Dec. 4 from 3:30-5 p.m. in WUC Room 221. MMC will be hosting an open forum Wednesday, Dec. 6, from 6-8 p.m. in GC 355. The next Constitutional Review Committee meeting will be held Monday, Dec. 4, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in GC 150.


Featured Image by Nicole Malanga/PantherNOW

About the Author

Michelle Marchante
Michelle Marchante is the 2018-2019 Editor-in-Chief of PantherNOW. Majoring in broadcast journalism, she lives and breathes web, print, radio and TV news 24/7. You can connect with her on Twitter @TweetMichelleM

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