SG president-elect made promises he can’t keep

Regina Kaza

SG president-elect Robert Huffman can’t change as much he’d like due to FAU’s contracts and master plan. Photo by Charles Pratt.

Robert Huffman will start his term as Student Government president in May, but some of his campaign promises are already dead in the water.

During their campaign Huffman and his vice president, April Turner, told students they would try and get a shuttle route between campuses, keep food costs low, and get Greek housing at FAU.

As SG president and VP, those things aren’t up to them. While Huffman can use his presidential power to tell the Board of Trustees what students want, contracts and FAU’s master plan doom some of his ideas from the start.

This past month Huffman and Turner told students they want to keep food costs low and bring healthier options to campus. According to Assistant Vice President of Financial Affairs and University Business Services Stacy Volnick, prices aren’t up to the students or even FAU. Private vendors like Wendy’s and Starbucks determine their own prices. As for meal plans, FAU doesn’t negotiate prices with Chartwells. Their 15-year contract states how much meal plan costs can be raised.

“For someone to promise no increases on meal plans,” Volnick said, “That’s not something they can promise.”

Huffman and Turner also want to push for healthier food options. “It’s just simple things we can tackle and start working towards. We need healthier options on all campuses,” Turner said. “It’s something we’ve been battling for a long time and we really need to push on the right people to get it done.”

But Business Services beat them to it. Based on an online survey done this semester, FAU will open 3-4 food venues with salads and organic options. “It will have some kind of frozen yogurt venue, a salad bar and other healthier options that will be freshly prepared,” Volnick said.

Business Services has monthly meetings where students can talk to administration about the campus’s food choices – not only the SG president. Volnick said no SG members have come to talk to Business Services directly about these issues.

Another one of Huffman and Turner’s concerns is transportation. To help ease the current parking situation in which students can’t find open spots on campus, they want a shuttle system that will take students from campus to campus.

“If we can figure out a way to have a transportation option, to go from Davie to Boca, or even Jupiter to Boca,” Huffman said. “I think that will also be an option that would help ease the parking issue and also the transportation between campuses.”

According to Assistant Director of Parking and Transportation Keith Totten, this route is not in FAU’s transportation plans, and can’t be funded through the university budget.

“The cost of adding additional shuttles and drivers would far outweigh any available funding. Please remember the current shuttle system is designed to assist with our current parking system,” Totten said.

But there is one thing the SG president can do about parking, Greek housing and improving student advising. He can vote on these issues as a chair on the Board of Trustees, who makes the final decision on these issues. Still, that’s one student vote out of 13 board members.

Even with that vote, things like Greek housing are already decided on. Part of FAU’s master plan is getting Greek housing on campus by 2015.

Some of Huffman’s promises like building and keeping traditions, don’t involve votes or contracts. These are things he can get done. This past year, Huffman has promoted the Owl Prowl and Rat’s Mouth tailgating, while Turner worked on the Homecoming committee.

“We have great traditions, we just need to educate people about them,” Turner said. Huffman and Turner plan to keep building traditions at FAU by telling incoming students about FAU’s football cheers and chants at orientation and attending sporting events.

“Just educating the students when they come in, and educating people when you can,” Turner said. “Orientation is great; that’s a great place to walk in and say, ‘This is what we do at football games. This is how we cheer at basketball games, we can’t wait to see you at these events.’ Just building on those traditions and keeping them going is key.”

Besides trying to get students to football games, Huffman hopes to talk to the other student governments and improve communication between campuses. “I think we did a decent job this year,” Huffman said referring to himself and current SG president, Ayden Maher, working together. “But I think communication can always improve between campuses and even between people on your own campus.”

In his two terms, Maher made promises that didn’t happen. During his 2011 campaign, Maher promised hammocks on the Boca campus. This idea ended up being denied by administration because of safety concerns about people falling out of them.

“We tried, and that’s what matters: going and trying to do what you said and trying every avenue to accomplish the goal that you set out to do,” Maher said.

Promises likely to succeed:
-Continue building traditions
-Make Student Government more popular
-Improve the Student Union
-Improve communication between campuses

Promises likely to fail:
-Start a shuttle route to take students from campus to campus
-Keep food on campus at low prices
-Help get Greek housing
-Keep housing costs low