USFSM students pose before their trip to Tallahassee.

USF System students unite for ‘Day at the Capitol’

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: November 05, 2015

SARASOTA, Fla. (Nov. 5, 2015) – Tallahassee was awash in green and gold Tuesday as more than 200 USF students showed up to take part in the annual Student Government Day at the Capitol.

Teams of students clad in Bulls garb roamed the Legislature to chat with lawmakers about themes important to universities statewide, but in particular USF. Joining them on their rounds were USF System President Dr. Judy Genshaft and USF Sarasota-Manatee Regional Chancellor Dr. Sandra Stone.

Much of the dialogue focused on the millions still needed for USF’s proposed medical school in downtown Tampa and funding for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs at USF’s Tampa campus. But some issues important to regional campuses also rose to the top.

Alex Benishek, student body president at USFSM, said he raised two issues key to the Sarasota-Manatee campus: proceeds from the sale of the bookstore property to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport and the Capital Improvement Trust Fund (CITF).

USFSM is urging proceeds from the bookstore sale go to the campus instead of a statewide fund. On the CITF issue, student government members want flexibility to bond the monies within the trust fund.

The CITF, which fluctuates from year to year, is based on fees paid by students. It’s supposed to be used to finance student-supported projects around campus. This year, the fund contains about $600,000.

Instead of directing that money to a relatively small project, Benishek says Student Government members and others are hoping to bond the money to build up an estimated $9 million nest egg over 15 years. The money then would go toward construction of a $20 million student union building.

“You can’t really build a lot with $600,000, but with $9 million you can make a real difference,” he said.

Benishek, who made his third appearance at annual SG Day at the Capitol, said he raised the bonding issue with Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, who expressed interest in the idea. He also brought up the bookstore-sale issue, which also elicited support.

“He was very passionate about that,” said Benishek, who met with Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, and other Florida lawmakers as well.

“We have a very good relationship with our local legislators,” Benishek said. “Our legislators have been nothing but supportive of USF and we wanted them to know that we appreciate their efforts.”

Of the meetings with USF students, Boyd said: “So glad to see USF students at the Capitol this week. Bright and talented future leaders for Florida.”

Benishek said that overall the meetings went well. Of the 200-plus USF students who visited the Legislature, 37 came from USFSM – enough so that each student group included at least one USFSM student. The students rode up on a charter bus Monday and returned Wednesday.

“It was nice to stay overnight,” business student Marina Rambo said of the trip. “We were able to wake up refreshed the next day when we met with the legislators. Students from the other campuses drove up at 3 a.m.

“You saw a lot of USF colors up there,” she added.

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