Given this is my final column for the summer, I wanted to go over everything that went wrong in the way Student Government handled juggling Newell Hall and Library West. Well, perhaps not just everything that went “wrong;” maybe also things that make you go “hmmmm.”
Back in 2012, the Student Body president pitched the idea to renovate Newell Hall into a “library without books.” Now a “library without books” sounds about as nice as a “restaurant without food” or a “puppy without a soul” but whatever. The Gainesville Sun took note with headlines like “Library without books is on UF ‘wish list’” and “Plan for old building is electronic library.” Fast forward to 2018. Suddenly, we’ve made a complete 180 and argue that our SG dollars shouldn’t go toward libraries and Newell Hall is just a study space.
So once Newell opened and we realized we were a bit short on cash, we went and switched over most of our funds from funding Library West’s overnight hours to funding Newell. We talked it over with the provost’s office, and they agreed to fund a study in which they would pick up the tab of funding 24/5 Library West hours while we continued to fund Newell. “We do realize that students need to have a say in this matter," said the Student Body president at the time.
Now, students may have had a say in the matter, but did anyone listen? The survey portion of the study showed an overwhelming preference toward keeping Library West open 24/7. “You spoke, and we listened. Using the data from this survey, as well as the 24/5 pilot program this past Fall, we have worked with the provost to secure funding for Library West to be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” said a man who would become Student Body president in a video posted on our SG Facebook page. What he didn’t say was that this was just going to be for the second part of the study. In fact, the video omits any mention of a future study, which is certainly cause for suspicion.
So when SG put out the announcement that overnight hours were finally going away (now that the study was over), people were pretty pissed. I suppose part of it might have been the accompanying graphic, which could be described as “one-sided” or “inaccurate.” Either way, they didn’t properly cite the data and SG wouldn’t provide a link to the final study, so that wasn’t very nice.
Then SG thought it’d be really cute to shift some of the blame on the provost, saying that “The Provost’s Office made their decision based on the data collected,” even though the point of the entire study was that SG could make a good decision. The last page of the study literally says “this data is provided so that Student Government can make informed decisions about its future support for overnight study space in either or both facilities.”
SG claims its hands were tied due to a lack of money, but then they got a $400,000 budget increase, which they used on other things even though at the point in the year we got the increase, it wasn’t too late to hash things out with Library West. So yes, we really could have had two 24/7 study spaces on campus during the Fall/Spring, but the powers-that-be saw differently, so that sucks.
Last week, I pointed out two things in my column. First, that the link on our website to the amended fiscal year 2018-19 budget was broken: “404 - File or directory not found.” Second, I highlighted a couple instances of what some folks could call egregious overspending. I took those numbers from a report called the Docutraq Transparency Report, which shows the amount of all the Student and Travel Activity Requests submitted and is updated every month.
Not too soon after, the link to the budget was fixed. The link to the transparency report? “404 - File or directory not found.”
Questions, comments or concerns? Email me at [email protected].
Zachariah Chou is a UF political science junior and Murphree Area Senator. His column focuses on Student Government.