Matt Lauer loses job after sexual harassment accusations

(image courtesy of David Shankbone CC BY 3.0)

TAMPA—“Today” show anchor Matt Lauer joined the constantly-growing list of celebrities ousted from their jobs Nov. 30 after being accused of workplace sexual misconduct.

After NBC fired Lauer, more accusers came forward, just as they did when Harvey Weinstein’s alleged misconduct went public. The online publication Variety published a story about Lauer that reporters said took months to investigate. The article details accounts from multiple women, beyond the first complaint NBC says it received.

Fellow “Today” show anchor Savannah Guthrie and coworker Hoda Kotb reported Lauer’s firing on-air the morning that news first broke.

CNN noted that this is not the first time women have reported news of a colleague being fired after sexual misconduct allegations. People praised Guthrie’s composure and display of raw emotions.

Others criticized Guthrie and Kotb for not focusing on the women who came forward. Some even accused the cohosts of being aware of the alleged misconduct.

In the days following Lauer’s firing, more women have come forward, and videos have emerged showing Lauer acting inappropriate toward women on the “Today” show.

Lauer released a statement Thursday saying he feels “embarrassed and ashamed,” and is committed to “repairing the damage” he inflicted. He did say that some of the allegations and reporting of his misconduct is “untrue,” but offered no further clarification.

According to multiple news sources, Lauer and his wife, Annette Roque, have lived apart for years. In 2006, Roque filed for divorce, but ultimately did not follow through. The couple has three children together.

While people criticized Lauer for the behavior women accused him of, some defended him. Geraldo Rivera, a well-known reporter, tweeted about the scandal on Wednesday.

He also wrote that women should have to report harassment within a certain time period. Rivera apologized later that day after receiving backlash from people who claimed he victim-shamed Lauer’s accusers and victims of sexual harassment.

Some people think that Rivera’s mindset mirrors that of many people across the United States who do not believe sexual harassment is a serious problem.

Another controversy that arose from Lauer’s firing involved President Trump. Trump’s complicated history with sexually inappropriate remarks is no secret, but some believe he is guilty of more than inappropriate statements. An op-ed in the LA Times asked why Trump has not been held accountable for the sexual assault accusations against him.

Twitter users wondered the same.

Trump himself commented on the accusations about Lauer, but did not mention anything about his history of being accused of sexual misconduct. Instead, he continued to attack media, as he has done several times in the past.

Lauer has not made a statement about any of the individual accusations at this time, and his conduct is still under investigation by NBC. The company will reportedly not pay out the rest of his $20 million dollar per year paycheck.

 

Saint Petersburg votes re-election in mayoral race

 Voters elected incumbent Rick Kriseman to be mayor of St. Petersburg by a slim margin on Tuesday.

According to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections, Kriseman won 51.64 percent of the vote. His opponent, former mayor of St. Petersburg Rick Baker, received 48.36 percent of the vote. Fewer than 2,000 votes separated the two candidates, both of whom have served time as the city’s mayor.

Kriseman campaigned with a platform that supported clean energy and LGBT equality, while openly criticizing President Donald Trump. He also emphasized his commitment to reducing crime and improving infrastructure.

Baker’s campaign also focused on reducing crime and making St. Petersburg more environmentally friendly. His campaign website’s “blueprint” also showed his desire to improve public schools, bring more jobs to the area and revitalize the downtown district.

On paper, both candidates seem to agree on most topics—but they certainly did not act like it. Baker, who was the city’s mayor from 2001 to 2010, repeatedly criticized Kriseman’s administration, blaming it for St. Pete’s “sewage crisis” which was worsened by Hurricane Irma. Kriseman called out Baker for not openly opposing Trump.

While the office is nonpartisan, political parties still play a major role. Kriseman is a Democrat and Baker is a Republican.

A columnist at the Tampa Bay Times advocated for Baker to speak publicly about Trump. For John Romano, the writer of that article, knowing a candidate’s political ideology is crucial when deciding who to vote for, and knowing whether Baker supports one of the most polarizing people in America could have swayed voters.

Kriseman embraced his political affiliation. He received an endorsement from former President Barack Obama, and made national headlines last year with his viral tweet about President Trump.

While people criticized him for the tweet, he ultimately proved that being partisan in an increasingly politically divided nation can be advantageous.

Other Democrats won seats across the United States on Tuesday, leading one Washington Post journalist to label it the “Democratic wave.”

Local politicians congratulated Kriseman after his victory.

Kriseman won despite the fact that the Tampa Bay Times, the most popular local newspaper, endorsed Baker. The Times traditionally recommends Democrats, and some have questioned the newspaper’s motive for recommending Baker.

One local news publication questioned the newspaper’s integrity after discovering that a member of the editorial board wrote the foreword in Baker’s upcoming book.

After Kriseman won the election, he tweeted a thank you to those who supported him, and promised to uphold his campaign promises.

Kriseman is the 53rd mayor of St. Petersburg.

 

Trump threatens the media on Twitter

President Trump speaking at a rally. Courtesy of Pixabay.

President Donald Trump recently tweeted a threat to revoke broadcast network FCC licenses, which could be a cause for concern for media organizations.

It troubles news sources and defenders of the First Amendment that Trump is attacking a fundamental democratic right even though he does not have the power to revoke FCC licenses, and the FCC does not license individual networks, according to their website.

Trump repeatedly criticized the media while campaigning for president, and his attacks have only increased since taking office.

One of his most affecting comments came in February, when he declared the media an enemy.

How did it come to this?

The media has conducted itself as the fourth estate for centuries. Which means, ethically, it must act as an objective party that keeps checks and balances on the government by always reporting the truth, according to the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics.

According to the Constitution, the president and Congress has to take an oath of office before representing the country. It states they must support and defend everything in the Constitution. Which includes freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Two promises.

Two separate entities, swearing to act on the public’s behalf.

So, who is following through?

A recent Reynolds Journalism Institute poll shows that about two-thirds of the public are either likely, or very likely to trust the mainstream media.

A CNN poll from August found that three-quarters of all Americans do not trust the majority of information that the White House releases.

Since Gallup began polling Americans, the highest rating of confidence  was in 1976 when 72 percent of Americans trusted the media. The public’s trust in the media has steadily declined since 2007, and it dropped heavily in 2015.

However, recent trends indicate that the public has begun to trust the media again, according to the Reynolds Journalism Institute poll.

The Pew Research Center says the highest rating of trust in government (from 1958 until 2017) was in 1964, when 77 percent of Americans reported that they could trust the federal government.

However, trust in government dipped under 20 percent during the Clinton and Obama administrations. Sudden peaks or valleys in these confidence ratings generally occur after a scandal or national event, such as Clinton’s impeachment and 9/11.

The public does not overwhelmingly trust the government or journalists, which should be a concern because the public is the most important audience for each of them.

What does Twitter think?

Both Trump and the media has critics and supporters when it comes to Twitter .

Regardless, the public is consistently going back and forth about whether the president, or the media, is justified.

Unfortunately, there does not seem to be an end in sight for the war between Trump and the media.

ESPN recently suspended one of its personalities, Jemele Hill, for tweeting about the NFL’s national anthem protest.

Trump targeted Hill. He tweeted about ESPN and the NFL dozens of times in response to the anthem protests and her tweets.

But, Hill has also previously criticized Trump.

The fighting continues, and the low jabs on both sides will probably not help matters.

Trump and the media have gone back and forth several times. Infographic by Katie Ebner.

Help from local hurricane relief group extends to Puerto Rico

TAMPA— Members of the community have united to form Decentralized Response, a grassroots response coalition, in the wake of the environmental and economic devastation caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Decentralized Response previously operated under the title Irma Decentralized Response. The name was changed when the group’s relief effort extended beyond hurricane Irma.

Volunteers have supplies sent to a three-bedroom house in Tampa that they call the hub.  They store goods there and distribute them statewide.  The group is even planning a relief trip to Puerto Rico.

Pictured left is one of the rooms in the response hub. The whole house holds a variety of relief supplies that volunteers distribute in the hurricane relief packs. Photo credit: Decentralized Response Facebook Page

Dezeray Lyn, a woman who assisted in the formation of the response group, discussed the group’s main mission, where they’ve been and where they’re going.

“We are here to feed and supply anyone in the community who needs it,” Lyn said. “We also traveled to Apopka, Immokalee and the Keys to give the community there assistance.”

Lyn is also a co-founder of Mutual Aid Disaster Relief.  According to the Facebook page, MADR is a grassroots network with a mission to provide disaster relief based on the principles of solidarity, mutual aid and autonomous direct action.

Members of MADR and other activists began mobilizing, as the threat of Irma loomed, to help those in need before, during and after the storm. They formed distribution teams to take hurricane packs containing food, water and hygiene products to refugee families days before Irma hit. The group was a saving grace for those trapped in the rain and high winds.

“We received a call to our relief line from someone trapped in the storm,” Lyn said.  “They were stuck on the side of the interstate, and the police said the winds were too high to send anyone to help them, so we sent our people to pick them up.”

Mostly, the poorer communities were without water and power for extended amounts of time after Irma passed. Decentralized Response provided those neighborhoods in need with water, food and even generators, in some cases.

Dezeray Lyn is featured to the left helping with the delivery of goods to citizens in the Florida Keys. Photo credit: Justin Garcia

Lyn and activists also traveled to Apopka and Immokalee to provide relief. Apopka residents found themselves without power for many days in their small, farming community. It was loosely estimated that 70 percent of the citrus crop was lost during the storm.

Immokalee was hit harder by Irma than many other parts of Florida. More help was needed, so the Coalition of Immokalee Workers worked hard to receive and distribute goods. The town of migrant farmers didn’t have power for weeks and lost a major portion of their crops. Some even lost their homes.

Relief efforts continue.  However, the aid priority of Puerto Rico and other islands has made itself apparent.  The Decentralized Response crew is gearing up to make a trip to the devastated island.

“We are leaving on a weeklong trip to Puerto Rico on October 12,” Lyn said.

Their goal is to help people in need after hurricane Maria. They will distribute relief goods that are being collected in a shipping container before the trip. It should be there when they arrive.

This is a donation flier from Decentralized Response that lists the products needed to be collected and distributed to the victims of the hurricanes. Photo credit: Decentralized Response Facebook Page

Members of Decentralized Response feel that state efforts are not enough considering the destruction in Puerto Rico.

“We must demand that they do more, but also help as a community however we can,” Lyn said.

 

 

 

No one knows how to handle NFL protests

TAMPA – NFL fans are torn between their political and sports allegiances after President Donald Trump called on teams to fire players who kneel during the national anthem.

Unsportsmanlike conduct?

Trump tweeted dozens of times about the NFL and its players over the past few weeks. His comments come after several players from multiple teams decided to kneel during the national anthem to protest racial inequality.

One of his more controversial comments came when he spoke in Alabama.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, say: “Get that son of a b—- off the field right now,” said Trump.

Same story, new players

Anthem protests in the NFL are not new, however, the movement has grown since last year. It started with quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who kneeled to protest police brutality. Now, Kaepernick no longer has a job in the NFL, and several other players have decided to take a knee or lock arms during the national anthem.

Travis Bell, an expert in sports media and professor at the University of South Florida, believes that the anthem protests have recently become a bigger deal because of Trump’s involvements.

“I definitely think that the flashpoint for this bringing it into the mainstream conversation is because of the president’s involvement in it,” said Bell.

What did he call us?

Several players took offense to Trump’s comments, and the following Sunday, players continued to protest. Some teams’ owners joined the players on the field to show solidarity.

Even Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who supported Trump during his presidential campaign, disagreed with Trump’s comments.

Any excuse to burn jerseys

When Lebron James left Cleveland, fans burned their James jerseys. When James left Miami, fans burned their James jerseys (again). When the Celtics traded Isaiah Thomas to the Cavaliers, fans burned their Thomas jerseys.

This love for burning jerseys has seemed to spread to the NFL, as many fans have filmed themselves burning jerseys of players who have decided to protest during the anthem. Fans also burned season tickets, hats and other memorabilia. They even went on Twitter and started #BurnTheNFL, which encourages people to no longer support the NFL.

Just play football

People who disagree with the protests often say that sports and politics should remain separate, and that politics are ruining sports. Many others, however, would argue that there is not a clear divide between sports and politics.

“People always want to hold sports as some separate, fun, social entity, and we don’t want to politicize things, and when politics gets involved in the sports arena, it sort of clouds that popular notion that sports is sort of just this untainted space, and clearly it’s not,” said Bell.

Others choose to take a knee

While some fans have been burning their jerseys, others have been applauding the players for taking a stand on what they believe is an important issue. Supporters on Twitter started #TakeAKnee to show solidarity with the players who protest.

NFL short on options

As the NFL remains busy trying to keep its name out of headlines, it has failed to find a solution to either the player’s protests or people’s protest of the NFL. This may be because they do not have many options.

According to Alan Balfour, an expert in employment relations and union-management relations, it is not in the NFL’s best interests to force players to stop protesting, no matter what rights they have or do not have guaranteed in their contracts.

“I doubt that anyone will treat this as a contract issue,” said Balfour.  “It is perceived by everyone–players, owners and fans–as a moral issue. If the contract permits, owners could force players to stand or face discipline.”

Balfour does not believe that will happen.

“Invoking the contract would only polarize matters worse and expand the range of disagreement,” said Balfour.

He does, however, point out that NFL teams are within their rights by not signing Kaepernick, whether those reasons are related to his performance as a football player or not.

“I have always said, back when this was just about Colin Kaepernick that boycotting him as a potential employee was well within the individual rights of every owner and his employability would depend, not on his ability to help a team as a second-string quarterback, but on what he, or anyone, can contribute to attendance, merchandise sales and the TV contract,” said Balfour.” The obvious answer was his contribution is negative.  I can understand why no team or owner wants him–he will hurt the bottom line and, believe me, this is a business.”

Therefore, if any owner refused to sign a player because of his political views, he/she would be well within his/her rights.

Additionally, NFL viewership is down 11 percent from last year, according to Nielsen ratings. Bell points out, however, that this could be for a number of reasons, including the discovery of traumatic brain injuries occurring from playing football. Bell believes it is too early to tell how the protests have affected the NFL’s brand, but that it could negatively impact the NFL’s business in the future.

“I definitely think there’s some potential for fallout, but I don’t think it’s going to be you know, an immediate drop off the cliff,” said Bell.

Americans stand divided

While people have been vocal on social media, what’s trending on Twitter does not always reflect how most Americans feel. CNN and USA Today both conducted polls to find out how the public truly feels about the protests.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

This quote is normally attributed to the philosopher Voltaire, but it was actually written by his biographer, Evelyn Beatrice Hall. It seems that Americans seem to agree with this sentiment. While players may not have the constitutional right to take a knee, most Americans believe that they should not be fired for their beliefs.

Some veterans have echoed this idea as well, and they argue that the reason soldiers fight is to protect democracy. It is not unexpected that people living in a country that touts freedom of speech in its First Amendment disagree with Trump’s comments. Most people would not want to be fired for their political beliefs, though it is not against the law for employers to do so.

Even if the majority cannot agree on kneeling during the anthem, perhaps it is a small victory for Americans to agree on the principle in the Constitution. Or, perhaps this agreement is not a reason to celebrate. Balfour believes that Americans may not be equipped to handle these discussions.

“Thomas Jefferson’s fear of the tyranny of the majority is, I believe, well-founded,” said Balfour. “I don’t observe the current public being very good at thoughtful consideration of disagreement.”

Polls show US divided over Trump’s policies

TAMPA –Donald Trump. For some, this name sparks pride in the United States of America. For others, it sparks shame.

To examine why his name is so divisive, we can look at the dozens of polls taken each week about a variety of important political topics. These topics include health care, taxes, immigration, military and climate change. There is not only a divide between political parties in the U.S., but also between the American people and the president.

Polls can help people understand the nation’s consensus, and they are an important feedback tool for politicians. Additionally, they can help dispel preconceived notions of what different groups of people believe in. The following poll results demonstrate how people’s thoughts about what certain groups believe in may differ from what they truly think.

The only thing that seems certain is that there is a gap between President Trump’s policies and what Americans want.

Trump’s approval rating has consistently slipped since being sworn in, and he has the lowest approval rating of any president in his first year. However, his reactions to the recent hurricanes that hit Texas and Florida have improved his approval rating.

A president usually enjoys a honeymoon period for a few months after he is elected, which boosts his approval rating. This has not been the case for President Trump. This could mean that his approval ratings will only continue to drop.

Even when the American people do agree on a topic, the president is the one who disagrees.

Trump recently moved to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which is a program that allows undocumented immigrants under a certain age to stay in America for an extended period of time. This decision, if Congress does not pass a bill to replace DACA, could lead to the deportation of hundreds of thousands of young immigrants in America. Most Americans, across political parties, believe that DACA recipients should be allowed to stay.

Graphic created by Katie Ebner

This may seem surprising, considering Trump’s winning platform that boasted he would be tough on illegal immigration. While people do want stricter border control, only 37 percent of Republicans believe that undocumented immigrants should be deported.

Earlier this year, Trump reinstated the ban on transgender people serving in the military. While Trump received support for this ban from military officials, polls suggest that the public disagree with him. An overwhelming 68 percent believe that transgender people should be allowed to serve in the military.

Over the summer, Trump withdrew from the Paris climate accord. He believes that doing so will help the American people and save jobs. Climate change is another topic of discussion that divides Americans. Twenty-nine percent of Americans supported withdrawing from the agreement, while 46 percent opposed withdrawing.

While Americans have historically disagreed on these hot-button topics, it is odd that even Republicans disagree with some of Trump’s policies. Of course, his approval rating among Republicans right now is 85 percent, demonstrating that although some members of his party disagree with Trump on certain issues, they still believe he is doing a good job overall.

It can be discouraging for Americans, who may already feel alienated, to see that there is so much division among political parties. Even before political parties, people disagreed, but this election left people feeling more divided than ever. Perhaps this is what George Washington warned us about.

 

27-Year-Old Muslim Running for House District Representative

Following Republican Dan Raulerson’s resignation from the House of Representatives, a special election to find someone to fill his seat is scheduled for Dec. 19. While much of the focus for these types of elections typically incline towards the Democrat and Republican candidates, a surprising third-party candidate might mix things up.

27-year-old, Ahmad Hussam Saadaldin, a Muslim, Mass Communications graduate of the University of South Florida (USF) is running as a non-party-affiliated candidate for the House District 58 special election. This isn’t an impromptu decision for Saadaldin, who has been interested and involved in politics for much of his young life.

“I was intending to run for this district next year, but the Republican resigned and it prompted a special election,” said Saadaldin.

During his time at USF, Saadaldin was heavily involved in activism and politics. He was the president of Students for Justice in Palestine. He was also one of the original founders of the divestment effort on the USF-Tampa campus, which asks USF to dis-invest from companies that violate human rights, such as the private prison industry, and those that harm the environment. These sentiments are not forgotten by him in his political agenda.

“We want to divest from oil companies,” said Saadaldin, reiterating one of the main focuses of the divestment effort on campus.

Saadaldin is consistent with a liberal agenda regarding his stance on other prominent issues.

“I’m running on ‘The Three E’s’: education, economy and environment,” said Saadaldin.

He wants to keep public money in public education, raise the minimum wage to $15, and put in policies that can help the environment and prevent climate change, such as transitioning from non-renewable energy to renewable energies.

Comparing himself to other political candidates, Saadaldin aligns himself most to Bernie Sanders.

“I’m like Bernie Sanders on a much more local level,” said Saadaldin. “I want to incorporate his universal health care policies on a local level, in the state of Florida.”

On Sunday, Saadaldin and a group of volunteers went knocking door-to-door in an effort to increase the public knowledge of his campaign and gain more voters.

“We have to inspire people to the polls,” said Saadaldin to his band of canvassers. “A special election means that not many voters are going to come out; if we can get more people to the polls…we have a real chance.”

Canvassing team lead, Mack Williams, explained to volunteers how to use the app Ten More Votes for canvassing.

His target demographic is registered independent voters, whom he tracks through the app Ten More Voters. He admitted that, though the app has its kinks, it’s effective in determining who he would have most luck contacting and tracking who has already been contacted.

An issue Saadaldin has with the current system, and something that prompted him to run was the manner in which most political candidates who receive money from big corporations ended up being controlled by those same companies. He felt that this interfered with the integrity of the candidates as well as who they were going to fight for, should they win.

“(My campaign is) not taking any money from the corporations – not today, not ever,” said Saadaldin. “So you can be sure that we’re going to represent the issues and the people, not the powerful.”

Following the 2016 presidential election, there were critics who credited the electoral loss of Hillary Clinton to third-party voters who cast their ballots outside of the two main political parties, Republican and Democrat. Saadaldin doesn’t see that as the issue.

“We need people to run outside of the two-party system because we need more options,” said Saadaldin. “If we don’t do this now, we’ll never do it, and we’ll never actually make change.”

The young adult recognizes that his youth is something that separates himself from most candidates, but he sees that as a positive quality.

“Age means nothing,” said Saadaldin. “We have to live on earth longer than these people representing us. If you want change to come, you have to bring it yourself.”

 

Featured image courtesy permission to use by Nick Armero

USF students rally in support of DACA

TAMPA – Dozens of students showed up at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza Thursday in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, commonly known as DACA.

Jose Flores (left), Stephanie Garza (center) and Michelle Joseph (right) hold signs made for the DACA rally at USF while attendees talk in the background.

In 2012, former President Barack Obama issued an executive order that prevented deportation of children under the age of 16 who immigrated to the United States illegally. While DACA is not a permanent solution for those who are eligible to apply, it gives them more time to work or receive an education in the United States. According to Pew Research Center, an estimated 790,000 unauthorized immigrants have been protected under DACA.

Last week, President Donald Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, announced that the administration will end the program in six months. As of now, no new DACA applications will be considered.

Trump’s presidential campaign focused on decreasing the number of immigrants to the United States, along with deporting those who are not here legally. Almost immediately after being sworn in, Trump began to follow through on his promise to be tough on undocumented immigrants.

Since the DACA announcement, congressional Democrats have been scrambling to make a deal in order to protect DACA immigrants from deportation.

Sign made for the DACA rally at USF.

Many DACA recipients are now in college, and they fear that they may be deported before being able to finish their education. Stephanie Garza, one of the organizers for the on campus DACA rally, explains why Session’s announcement is personal for some USF students.

“We know that here at USF, the estimate is between 70-100 DACA students are part of the USF community,” said Garza.

Several organizations helped plan and support the event, including College Democrats, Mi Familia Vota, For Our Future and UndocUnited. Students like Jose Flores who participated in the event wanted to show the Trump administration that college campuses support DACA students.

For Our Future was one of the many organizations that supported the DACA rally at USF.

“We wanted to show that the community will organize and protect their own, and you know, just basically show that USF opposes the decision,” said Flores. “We hope that if other people follow in our footsteps, or, you know, we all come together, if other universities have their rallies too, together we’ll, you know, amplify our voices and we’ll be heard.”

The issue of immigration hits close to home with many people who attended the event.

“Personally, I know a lot of people who are immigrants, documented, undocumented, and you know, I see how their lives could change if something was passed, and how their lives are different than other people’s because sometimes they don’t have the same opportunities as those people,” said Michelle Joseph, who is with the organization Mi Familia Vota. “So, we’re here to support the passing of the DREAM Act, and that would mean that people would get to live normal lives kind of thing, not worry about whether they’re going to be kicked out of the country kind of thing.”

Different people spoke during the event, some of whom will be directly affected by the elimination of DACA.

“My favorite part was that some people felt empowered enough to go up and speak, even though they were not listed to speak, you know, they were motivated enough to come out and say a few words,” said Flores. “Each person that comes up and speaks up only adds to the slew of voices that are coming up, that are speaking out against this kind of you know, behavior, actions from the administration.”

Students were not afraid to show their disdain for President Trump with their rally signs.

DACA recipients will be in limbo until Congress decides if it is going to instate a new program to help young unauthorized immigrants. Some are trying to renew their DACA before the Oct 5. deadline set by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Applying for a renewal, however, does not ensure that they will be able to stay in the United States for the remainder of their DACA eligibility if Congress fails to create a new program.

For many, this is frustrating and alarming.

“If you’re not upset, if you’re not enraged, then you’re not paying attention,” said Flores.

A look behind the scenes of the ASRC committee

Mixed in with every student’s list of fees and tuition that get paid with mild griping is “Flat Fee A&S Tampa.” The Activity and Service (A&S) fee – which equates to more than $17.8 million this year — falls under Student Government’s jurisdiction. The funs are allocated to student organizations and offices on campus.

The A&S fee is paid by students each semester. The fee includes a flat fee of $7 per semester and $12.08 per credit hour each semester. If a student takes 15 credit hours in a semester, they pay $188.20 in A&S fees.

The A&S Recommendation Committee (ASRC) is fully equipped with 12 voting members. This includes six voting senators and two alternate members if one of the six isn’t able to attend a meeting.

Collectively, this committee goes over budget requests to fund parts of campus such as new equipment for Campus Recreation, furniture in the Marshall Student Center (MSC) and events for student organizations.

“The goal of ASRC would be to receive budget requests from things that are asking for A&S funding, to determine how they provide activities and services to students and to fund them for those activities and services,” Sen. Aladdin Hiba, who is starting his fourth term on the committee, said. “With the overall goal of making things better for our USF students, adding activities, adding services.”

The ASRC committee met Friday to vote on a chair – who is responsible for calling all further meetings – and a vice chair.

During the remainder of the fall semester, committee members go over practice budget requests in order to learn the rules and the process. Additionally, members are assigned to different departments and student organizations on campus that request funding to serve as a liaison between that group and the committee.

The larger budget requests, such as the MSC and Campus Recreation, are due in December for the committee to start reviewing when winter break ends.

“We want them to have them to us early on, at least relatively,” Hiba said. “Well before this deadline happens, we’ll be meeting with the departments. We’ll have people communicating with the departments to see ‘this is what the department wants,’ ‘these are things the department thinks maybe could be cut,’ ‘these are the directions the department wants to go in.’ We get a gist of that.”

The 2017-18 budget allocated $11.9 million toward these larger departments for activities and renovations that the committee felt would be beneficial to the student body. This is compared to the $10.8 million that went toward these departments in last year’s budget.

According to Sen. Saeed Sinan, who is also starting his fourth term on the ASRC committee, departments are coming up with more new initiatives to request funding for and it’s part of the committee’s job to determine which of those are worth funding.

“We don’t want to overspend and overallocate things,” he said. “Basically, we look to see if the impact was the best for the student body. Should we decrease that? Should we reallocate funds to a different entity or a different program within the department?”

Hiba said one of the hardest parts of dealing with the budgets is having the conversations about what areas or programs need to be cut.

“If we’re spending say $50,000 on something that 200 people go to,” he said. “Well, $50,000 is enough to fund 50 student organizations for a year. We have to make these judgments, these decisions. This is too expensive, it’s not impacting enough people.”

In comparison to the deadline for departments, student organizations have to submit budget requests by Jan. 26 for consideration by the committee. In last year’s budget, student organizations as a whole received $1.1 million compared to $1 million the year prior.

“There’s around 300 to 400 to 500 student orgs that submit budget requests, and then the chair assigns a set amount of orgs per ASRC member,” Sinan said. “Then we meet with them based on the standards we decide in the fall semester. Then we go on to review each budget request separately.”

The committee allows student organizations to request funding for up to eight events per year and allocate $4 a head for food and event-related material such as tablecloths and decorations. This process was developed this past year. Prior organizations could get funded $2 a head per event and would have to request additional funding for other materials.

In an attempt to make the per-head funding system more accurate, SG purchased a card swipe system that can be rented out to student organizations. This allows for those in attendance to swipe their student ID to mark attendance and gives the organization as well as ASRC a better idea of how many students are attending events.

While most student organizations submit requests on their own, the ASRC committee has created counsels that group similar organizations – that each have a representative on the counsel – together to allow for better funding. Rather than funding each individual organization requesting money from ASRC, those that would fall into a counsel would request money from the counsel – that requested money from ASRC.

“We have a few dozen who use money completely differently from the way most organizations use it,” Hiba said. “Sports clubs are an excellent example because they don’t have events, they don’t need food, they don’t need money for the types of things we usually spend on organizations.

“What we’ve done is we’ve established the Sports Club Counsel whose entire funding paradigm is geared toward sports clubs. So, they can’t fund food and they can’t fund events in the standard sense. Instead what they fund for is primarily for team equipment that would belong to the team and for travel.”

According to Sinan, if a counsel does fund something that the ASRC committee normally would fund – such as an event – it can’t be funded differently than ASRC would. If the Engineering Counsel were to fund an event, it would still be required to fund $4 per head the way ASRC would.

A member of the committee is assigned to each organization to help work as a liaison between the organization and ASRC. What member of the committee represents what student organization is as random as it can be. Along with that right, ASRC provides a number of other rights to organizations.

“We give student organizations certain rights throughout the process,” Hiba said. “We give them the right to meet with an ASRC member, we give them the right to have their budget heard if they submit it on time, and we give them the right to appeal it to a different person if the person they met with the first time didn’t do a good job of representing them to ASRC.”

Committee members are expected to disclose any organizations they may have a bias toward or against to promote fairness. According to Sinan, all student organizations are viewed the same and go through the same process to help ensure fairness when allocating funds.

“The philosophy of ASRC is basically ‘We do not fund to better the organization or department’ because we are the custodians of the A&S fee,” Sinan said. “So, we are here to serve the students and better their experience here at USF because they paid it so we are trying to empower them.”

Immigration Under Trump Administration

As the American people prepare for the upcoming election, many are excited about playing a part in the democratic process. But for others, like first generation Mexican-American Paloma Narvaez, each day closer to the election is potentially one less she could have with her family and friends.
There has been a lot of discussion on both sides about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s proposed plan to combat people entering the country illegally. Many people, like Narvaez, who are close with numerous undocumented people in the U.S., fear for the future of the nation if Trump’s plans are put in place.
Narvaez spoke of a friend of hers, an undocumented graduate student at USF conducting research in chemistry.
“She can get deported when she’s doing so much good here,” the junior accounting major said. “How are we going to lose someone so valuable?”
Trump’s plan on his website includes building a massive border wall on the southern border of the United States, extreme vetting for entrance into the country and the ending of sanctuary cities. The majority of Americans who oppose Trump’s proposals believe they are unethical and go against what America stands for. However, Trump’s supporters believe his plan will be a way to crack down on crime and aid in the safety of our nation in the future.
Michael Varicak, a USF alumnus with a degree in business, said he has been a Trump supporter since the day he announced his candidacy. Although he is an independent voter, Varicak said Trump’s “lack of a Washington, D.C. filter” got him listening to what Trump had to say.
Varicak said in a phone interview that he believes the immigration process has to be reformed. He also said he believes that although Trump may not build the massive wall he has been describing, he will definitely strengthen border security as a whole.
“I don’t think it’s unethical to enforce a country’s boarders and security,” the recent USF graduate said. “Especially at a time when you have ISIS and other things going on.”
The most talked about aspect of Trump’s plan is building a border wall, and making Mexico pay for it. David Jacobson, Ph.D., a USF professor and expert on immigration, said he doesn’t foresee the wall happening as Trump has described to his supporters.
Jacobson said although putting up a wall is legal, it would be nearly impossible to get another country to pay for it without using coercive measures. Jacobson pointed out that these tactics would pose issues, especially since the two nations are so close.
Since Jacobson doesn’t see Mexico paying for the wall in any way, he added that if the U.S. were to undertake this task alone, it would be a giant expense.
“It would be an enormous cost,” Jacobson said. “It would involve a massive investment, so it’s not really feasible.”
Originally, another pillar of Trump’s plan was mass deportations of undocumented people in the United States as soon as he went into office. Jacobson said mass deportation would not work on a logistical or legal level.
“That’s not really practical to deport 11 million people,” Jacobson said. “Each individual has a right to due process. It just becomes much more complex to even think about that.”
Although Trump has softened his stance on that in recent months, Narvaez said many in her community and family do not believe his change of heart.
“The way he portrayed himself initially, we already know he has that bias,” Narvaez said. “What has changed from then to now to change his stance?”
Narvaez and her family have a lot riding on this election. The outcome will likely determine whether many of her family members can stay in America, or will be forced back to the small Mexican town of Mazamitla, the name of which she has tattooed across her forearm.
Narvaez said regardless of what Trump says or does going forward, she will never respect him after his comments claiming that Mexican immigrants are bringing drugs and crime to the U.S. at the start of his presidential campaign.
“That’s my family he’s talking about,” Narvaez said. “Those are people I work with and study with.”

Author of “The Selfie Vote” Speaks Out About 2016 Presidential Election

Author and Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson stopped by to talk about polling, millennials, and what could seemingly be labeled the most interesting election yet. Here is her seven second take:

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Second 1: Anderson is a millennial herself, though she is hesitant to admit it. She carefully placed space between her age and ours while she spoke. Anderson never anticipated falling into her current line of work. A graduate thesis and a passion for Washington D.C. put her on the path of polling, political contributing, and a book deal among other endeavors. A strong voice for the millennial generation.

Second 2: As for her take on young voters, they care more than you think. Anderson recalled comments made that millennials are unreachable when it comes to politics. For Anderson these comments do not ring true. Instead she sees 80 million millennials, one force that can reshape an election.

Second 3: So how does one reach these lucrative voters? Anderson does not think that the Democratic party has hit the nail on the head just yet, frustrated with the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton campaign. Anderson referenced her frustration in the article Stop trying to make Chillary Happen. She recalled Clinton’s requests for young voters to “Pokémon Go to the polls” and explain how their student debt made them feel in three emojis or less. Anderson’s advice to Clinton:

“Quit trying so hard,” Anderson said. “Just be yourself.”

Second 4: As for the Republican nominee Donald Trump’s efforts, Anderson considered them to be either non-existent or counterproductive. Though, she did give a nod to Trump for being the more technologically savvy out of the two.

“The medium does not trump the message,” Anderson said. “No pun intended.”

Second 5: So how do the candidates tip the scale and reign in the millennial vote this year? Speak to young voters at the level they are currently at. According to Anderson, this includes understanding their moral lens, distrust of big institutions, adversity to labels and pragmatism.

Second 6: The real question is what does this election come down to? For Anderson, it is numbers and certain states. Trump needs 269 electoral votes to push the decision to the House of Representatives. This is easier said than done according to Anderson’s analysis.

“Trump needs everything to go right in that one narrow path to win,” Anderson said.

Second 7: In the end, Anderson is optimistic that Trump will not win this election cycle.

“Democrats fall in love,” Anderson said. “Republicans fall in line.”

Clinton does not have an easy fight either in Anderson’s eyes.

“Young women are not giving bonus points based on someone’s gender,” Anderson said.

This year’s election is up in the air, causing Anderson’s closing statement to never ring more true:

“Your vote matters.”

Election Day Voters

 

With only hours before the end of election season, voters are showing up to the polls to show support for their candidate. The Florida vote is one of the most important ones for both candidates.

“The ideology behind having the right to vote; I think it’s a privilege to be able to exercise that right,” Avery Thompson said.

With 29 electoral votes, Florida is a necessity for both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. However, neither of them had an easy run. Both campaigns were plagued with scandals. In fact, Trump announced his candidacy with a sound bite that haunted him on his run to the White House.

The most shocking political revelations came from the democratic side. Hillary Clinton spent most of her candidacy under FBI investigation. Aside from this, her campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails were exposed in 35 separated batches released by WikiLeaks.

Though Clinton fought to steer the attention away from her scandals, voters like Donna Kuntz remember.

“I’m sick and tired of the corruption in Washington,” said Kuntz, “No government and no one person should be above the law.”

For others it’s more about the candidate’s record, like Thompson.

“I just think [Clinton] is a more respectful, qualified candidate,” Thompson said.

Regardless of who is pronounced as the winner, it is important to remember that it’s up to us, as citizens, to work together to make this nation great. It’s not in the hands of Washington politicians to bring us together. We must, as a community, continue to move forward for the next four years.