Student Senate to vote on panther statue

Analicia Haynes, Managing Editor

The Student Senate will vote on a potential “panther statue” at its meeting Wednesday. This proposal was met with some debate when it was originally introduced.

During the Student Senate’s Feb. 7 meeting, several senators expressed concern regarding the rationale behind the statue and how it will be paid for.

The statue will cost $3,785.

“Just overall, if we assume a total enrollment of about 5,000 (full-time, undergraduate students) that are paying the full student fees, it would equate to about 55-75 cents per student, and that would be 75 cents out of the $2,917 total paid in student fees,” said Executive Vice President Derek Pierce, adding the total amount of student fees for a year based on a 15-credit-hour schedule.

The student government receives a budget from the apportionment board that is allocated from student fees.

This year, the student government budget was $50,000, said Zac Cohen, the student vice president of student affairs.

Pierce said there was $13,000 left over from the original $50,000 budget for this semester, but some of the expenses are fixed and not left to the Student Senate’s discretion. He said they also wanted to make sure there was enough money for the senate committees to do different projects, like the Prowlin’ with the Prez series and Lobby Day travel expenses.

Pierce said the cost of the statue will be covered by money that was left over in the student government budget, such as the $2,600 that was left over from student speaker of the senate Will Outzen’s scholarship and another $1,400 that was saved on First Night T-shirts.

But Pierce said they still have to ask the Apportionment Board, the entity that distributes student fees to student government, the Student Recreation Center and the University Board, to ask for funds for the statue’s commemorative plaque, base and concrete pad for the statue.

However, at the last Student Senate meeting, some senators were still in disagreement with the statue.

Student Senator Antonio Valdez called the statue a “frivolous purchase,” saying at the last meeting that given the budget impasse that ended last year, the decision is driven by pride.

“I’m just saying that there could be some backlash from students,” Valdez said.

Pierce and Cohen said they think the reason for the negative feedback is a result of people not knowing what the money student government receives can be used for and not understanding where their money goes in the first place.

“We can’t donate money to any individual or any academic department or organization, and we cannot give it to housing, and we can’t do it for scholarships because there are already separate fees and ledgers for that,” Pierce said, referring to the budget restriction imposed on student government.  “(Students) don’t take the time to dive into the numbers and understand it, so I’d say it’s kind of a lack of knowledge.”

Cohen said several senators also shared similar concerns with the way student fees were being paid, but said after presenting a breakdown of the fees and how the budget works last Wednesday, it made sense to them.

“Most people’s attitudes realized that this was the right decision,” Cohen said. “Informing them let them see it from our point of view.”

Pierce said they were able to put the cost in perspective for senators, saying that $4,000 does not go a long way.

However, student senator Patrick Delgado said his concern for the statue is that the Senate is doing it for school spirit, something the university does not seem to have.

“I think if a statue is required to build school spirit, I think we need to work on something else. I think school spirit is only going to be brought up if it’s there in the first place,” Delgado said.

Cohen said school spirit is not something that will pop up. Rather, he said, it is something that takes time to build.

“It’s little things like having a panther statue that slowly build (school spirit) up, and students start to take more pride in their school,” Cohen said.

Pierce said they have to start somewhere when it comes to building school spirit and that is why they want to invest in a statue.

“If not (the statue), what better idea do you have,” Pierce said.

Pierce said the student activity fee is something that is supposed to benefit students and therefore establishing something such as a scholarship would not offer a good return on the money put into the fee.

“Even if we were allowed to create a scholarship it would be robbing Peter to pay Paul kind of concept so they’re getting no benefit for their money,” Pierce said. “Just to put it in perspective…the student activity fee for the year is only $303.84 which covers all those various fields and they already currently pay $378.24 to the grant-in-aid fee which is strictly scholarships and so they’re already funding other people’s scholarships and financial aid.

He said the statue offers a return for all students because at least they could stop by it and see it on campus rather than paying another fee and not seeing any tangible outcome.

Analicia Haynes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].