View Full Version : Sit-In Disputes USF's Security (Police)

10-17-2007, 03:56 PM
Sit-In Disputes USF's Security
By KEITH MORELLI, The Tampa Tribune

Published: October 17, 2007

TAMPA - About 70 University of South Florida students crowded the courtyard of the administration building Tuesday seeking more student money for campus security.

The group also called for an investigation of the student affairs vice president, who is in charge of spending on security measures.

'We feel that student safety is being compromised,' student government Vice President Faran Abbasi said during a short address.

Abbasi said the problem lies with Jennifer Meningall, the student affairs vice president who came under fire when a former employee sent e-mail criticizing her accounting practices as well as her interpersonal skills.

University officials said they conducted an internal audit of the $10 million student affairs budget and found no wrongdoing, but Abbasi called for an independent investigation.

He said the university is gaining national recognition with its football team and research programs, 'but it doesn't mean a thing if students on campus are not safe.

'Students on our campus do not feel safe,' he said, adding that a dwindling budget for university police and other safety measures exacerbates the problem.

He urged the crowd to walk to the administration building and sit on benches, at tables and along the fountains and planters.

'Do not block the walkways or the stairwells,' cautioned Justin Hall, student government chief of staff.

The students sat and chatted. Some read, others did homework. A tour for new students passed by and tour guide and USF student Daniel Halcombe told the dozen or so on the tour about the administration building. He paused as the protesters filed by them.

'I guess it's not a good day for a tour,' Halcombe said.

University administration officials and office workers stood outside their doors and watched the peaceful protest.

The money, generated by student fees, is administered by the student affairs department, and the students want a say in how it is allocated, said USF spokesman Ken Gullette.

'We want the students' voices to be heard,' Gullette said. 'We encourage this kind of thing. We support their right to protest. We will listen and we will discuss it.'

He said the administration is negotiating with the police union over positions and funding, and student government is not a part of those sessions.

Among the factors at issue are budget cuts ordered by the Florida Legislature. A consultant is studying campus safety and is scheduled to deliver a report in December.

Meanwhile, some students don't feel safe, said Nicole Randazzo, also a member of student government. Better lighting in parking lots and walkways would help, Randazzo said.

Fellow student Natasha Bui watched as the protest settled in late Tuesday morning.

'If this is what we have to do to get the attention, then we have to do it,' she said.

Reporter Keith Morelli can be reached at (813) 259-7760 or at kmorelli@tampatrib.com.