By appointment only

Owl Radio got a new station manager this month. FAU’s official radio outlet will now be led by Arash Farsi, a former DJ who was fired during the spring semester after he went on the air and campaigned for candidates from Boca campus Governor Alvira Khan’s Red Team.

Farsi beat out John Sheats, the station’s engineer who had the endorsement of the outgoing station manager. So what happened? The decision to appoint Farsi was made by Alvira Khan – the same woman for whom he campaigned. Khan won her race for Student Government Governor of the Boca Raton campus and, in a complicated set of procedural moves, appointed Farsi.

The move so outraged the Owl Radio staff that they’ve complained to the Boca Student Senate and to the University Wide Council, which consists of FAU’s senior SG leaders. So far, neither body has taken any action, but they may be hearing more about Gov. Khan’s moves – she has also sparked controversy within the Night Owls, the late-night escort service on the Boca campus.

While many of SG’s power struggles affect no one outside the second floor of the University Center on the Boca campus, Gov. Khan has already caused a stir only a few months into her term. Her supporters say she’s simply shaking up agencies that need to be reorganized. Her detractors accuse her of playing the worst sort of politics.

Gov. Khan has also upset the staff of the Night Owls. One of largest Boca SG agencies, Night Owls runs golf carts staffed by trained escorts, who accompany students around campus late at night. At the same time that Owl Radio was looking for a new station manager, Night Owls needed to appoint a new associate director.

According to their own longstanding rules, the Night Owls select someone from within their own ranks. But Gov. Khan said that those rules weren’t fair – the new associate director must be chosen in “open interviews” to allow any student to apply, and insisted on holding them herself, against the Night Owls’ wishes.

This conflicts with what Gov. Khan has said in defense of these recent controversial appointments – that since she is able to appoint whomever she wishes to these positions, she isn’t obligated to hold interviews at all.

Khan insists that promoting from within only encourages student leaders to build their own cliques. “What I think we need to do is break down this mentality that they’re a kingdom – you have a little kingdom and you run it . . . just because someone has been there for two years does not mean that they have the right vision or the right experience.”

But just as she did with the radio station, Khan appointed someone to the Night Owls without any previous experience – and with political connections to herself and her political party, called the Red Team.

Khan appointed Shawn Benyo, the Red Team’s candidate for student body president, who lost last semester to Blue Party candidate Ancel Pratt.

Some disgruntled SG agency leaders say Gov. Khan’s words of fairness ring hollow. Mitch Kamp, the outgoing Owl Radio station manager, predicted a week before Gov. Khan’s decision that she would appoint Farsi, the less experienced candidate, to replace him.

“We don’t want to have the [Student] Government controlling us and putting their friends in charge of the station because their friends are politically loyal,” Kamp said. “We want people that are neutral and that can work as objectively as possible.”

But Kamp and others say Gov. Khan hasn’t been neutral or objective – and neither has the Boca Student Senate, which is supposed to be a check and balance to the Governor.

The Boca Senate currently has a majority of Red Team members, and they have approved all of Gov. Khan’s moves. For instance, control over Owl Radio was ensured when her Chief of Staff Farid Hamidzadeh sponsored a senate bill changing the statutes that govern the station. Senators passed the bill with minimal discussion.

John Sheats, the station engineer and the interim station manager at the time, couldn’t believe the bill passed so quickly.

“I was a bit shocked, because it never occurred to me that the senate would just railroad this bill through without consulting any of the people it concerned,” Sheats says. “I really think it is extremely irresponsible for senators to vote on issues they are not familiar with.”

The new statutes essentially allow Student Government full control over the process, especially the Governor, but – and this is where it gets confusing – the old statutes allowed her the same thing. However, there was another set of statutes that were waiting for approval when Gov. Khan took over. Those rules stated that a “selection committee” would choose the radio station’s manager, with Gov. Khan being only one of five votes.

When the new rules passed through the senate, they essentially cancelled out the “selection committee” rules. Senate Speaker Michael Moore believes that the new rules will allow for political bias.

“The only people who are on the committee now is the Governor’s Chief-of-Staff, the Governor, and the Agencies and Programs Chair of the senate,” explains Moore. “I see this as unfair – it gives Student Government too much say and the ability to put a friend in the position over someone who is qualified.”

Even Student Body President Ancel Pratt wondered why the rules governing Owl Radio needed to be changed. He expressed his concerns via a memo to the senate, with specific questions regarding the change, including what justified it. The memo also asks why members of Student Government are given full authority to choose, over others who “may know more about the intricacies and needs of the radio station.”

The situation with the Night Owls isn’t nearly as complicated – but it may be more serious.

In the past, according to their own operating manual, the Night Owls have been allowed to select their own management out of existing staff, with input from both the administration and the police department. This time, the Associate Director was autonomously chosen by the Governor, then approved by the senate.

Night Owls Director Vitali Kniazeu felt that the process was clearly skewed in Benyo’s favor.

“It was obvious that they were friends, though they tried to act serious,” says Kniazeu. “It was a very relaxed atmosphere, like [Benyo] had the feeling that he already had the position, so why bother with the interview?”

“This is, in my opinion, improper procedure and illegal,” says Senate Speaker Moore. “The Night Owls had a completely different person in mind for the position, who has been with them for approximately three years, versus someone who has never worked for the Night Owls at all.”

In the case of the radio station, it seems that all avenues have been exhausted. Appeals to the senate fell on deaf ears until a committee was formed to look into the matter of Farsi’s prior infractions concerning the SG election.

While Farsi does not deny having a member of the Red Team on his show or playing its song, “Vote Red,” he does not feel that doing this was cause for dismissal. Members of the radio station explained to the committee that when Farsi did this, they had already informed all of their DJs that the only election-related programming would be a broadcast of the official debate, and that derogatory comments about SG officials would not be allowed.

This ad-hoc committee concluded that there was insufficient documentation on the events leading up to his dismissal, as well as on how management handled the matter, and so chose to forward his appointment as station manager to the senate for approval.

Interestingly enough, the senate representative present at the interviews for station manager, the sponsor of the bill changing the station’s selection process, and the “Red Team” member who was the guest on Farsi’s radio show are all the same person – Farid Hamidzadeh, Gov. Khan’s Chief-of-Staff.

Members of Owl Radio have also appealed to the University Wide Council, but it is unclear whether the UWC will be able to step in, as it is considered mainly a “Boca” issue.

While it seems now that Farsi is there to stay as station manager, the staff feels that they can be professional enough to work with him. The larger problem is how he was selected. At the very least, the radio station would like to see the selection process they endorsed return.

“It just doesn’t look good,” says Sheats. “It looks like [the Red Team] got elected and they’re hiring their friends and they’re not being objective about the hiring process.”

Gov. Khan maintains that these decisions were not a matter of friendship or party politics, and that the “Red Team” is just a means of maintaining the common goals and unity among her cabinet.

The outcome may be less bleak for the Night Owls, because unlike with the radio station, the associate director position was not appointed by the Governor in the past. They do not have rules in the Student Government Constitution, and so, believe that their own rule-book should be followed.

“The operating manual is what we ought to go by,” agrees Senate Speaker Moore. “I believe that a court case will come of this.”

The final outcome for the Night Owls is yet to be seen, but members are certain that the appointment will be a problem.

While these appointments may seem to affect only the students at the Night Owls and Owl radio, many people feel that it is a sign of greater problems on the Boca campus.

“It destroys the morale,” says Night Owls Director Kniazeu. “You can work really well for two and a half years and be left with nothing.”

Senate Speaker Moore concludes, “I believe that it’s pretty sad that we have a leader of our campus that doesn’t even know how her own agencies operate.”

“Nobody likes dirty politics,” says Sheats. “Especially when it happens to you.”