At Tuesday’s SGA meeting, President Pooja Shah and Vice President Nathan Farnor discussed their concerns for the FOCUS Act.
The executive committee is concerned that the FOCUS Act will silence the voice of students at various colleges and universities in the state of Tennessee.
“We have a representative on that board, a student representative, which we will have the opportunity to help choose that individual,” Farnor said. “The problem is that currently, that individual will not have a vote. Meaning, they officially have a seat at the table, but they have duct tape over their mouth and can’t talk or vote on any matters. So in my opinion, that’s not exactly fair for students.”
Farnor believes since students will be greatly impacted by the board’s decisions, it is important that the student representative be a voting member of the board.
“As a university with roughly 15,000 students, I feel like students should have a voice since they make up a mass majority of our campus,” he added.
Shah and Farnor urged the senators to write to legislators to get an amendment passed that gives the student representative a vote.
“So, if that is something that [the senators] are even remotely interested in, if you’re interested in your voice being heard, I’d highly recommend you put your name on that paper,” Farnor said.
“If you’ve never lobbied before or never emailed, it’s not hard … we’ll help you with it.”
FOCUS is an acronym for Focus on College and University Success, which is a bill that was signed by Gov. Bill Haslam on July 1, 2016. The act grants six public universities in the Tennessee Board of Regents system to form their own governing boards.
After nominating eight members to the board last October, the board was confirmed on Feb. 13. The board will meet for the first time on March 24, 2017.
Farnor believes that this is a serious issue.
“This is the first time we will ever be self-governing and the fact that students don’t have representation or equal representation is disheartening,” Farnor said. “So, the bill that we are pushing for, essentially will change that and allow students to vote.”