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FIU Department of Campus Life makes power grab, seeks to control SGA

BY William-Jose Velez

The Florida International University Department of Campus Life has made a power grab for the total control of the Student Government Association and its agencies. The move was brought into light after Student Government Council - Modesto A. Maidique Campus Vice President Alex Castro filed a writ of certiorari with the SGC-MMC Supreme Court seeking to have the Elections Board enforce the current Elections Code as last reformed by the Senate during the Fall 2012 semester. Several candidates noticed that in the information sessions the Elections Board arranged, an out of date Elections Code was being provided and cited by the board, despite the changes enacted last semester. This prompted Attorney General Richard Moran to contact Elections Commissioner Charles Peretti asking him to “enforce the NEW elections code because that is the law under FIU.” 

As a response to the writ and to Moran’s email, Peretti sent an email to Chief Justice Sebastian Larrazabal in which he stated that in an effort to expedite the court’s consideration on whether to hear the case, he was providing two documents that he alleged justified the Elections Board’s actions in ignoring the laws passed by the senate. The first document is a university policy which states that internal procedures of the SGA shall be approved by the Board of Trustees of FIU. Since the BOT has not approved the latest elections code reforms, Peretti argues that this invalidates them. The second document is an undated document, characterized by Peretti as “official university policy”, which lays out the policies of the Department of Campus Life, stipulating as Peretti cites in the email, that advisers “reserve the right to make all final decisions concerning the council, agency and/or bureau.” This provision, according to Peretti, provides the SGA advisers with the authority to order and dictate SGA policy, contrary to what the Attorney General had indicated in his email.

 

THE LAW

The issue at hand brings into the spotlight the question of how much power the university and its staff actually have over the Student Government Association. While originally established by the Board of Trustees, the SGA actually derives its powers from state law, specifically Florida Statute Section 1004.26, which establishes the structure, powers and role of student governments in state universities. The law does not provide for the approval of internal procedures by the BOT, nor for the absolute authority by advisers or other university officials. This would suggest that the FIU BOT policy requiring SGA’s internal procedures to be approved by the BOT, approved in 2002, is in conflict with state law.

Another issue arising with Peretti’s claims is the fact that the Board of Trustees has never even considered the SGA’s internal procedures for their approval. Pawlitics conducted an investigation of the board’s minutes for the last 10 years, and not once since 2003, have SGA internal procedures been up for approval. In fact the only mentions SGA receives in all 10 years of minutes is the welcoming of new presidents and mentions of SGA’s approval of fee increases. This fact effectively undercuts the commissioner’s argument, since that means no elections code has been approved by the BOT, not the old or new one, effectively rendering the Elections Board decision to enforce the old as an arbitrary choice based on a selective enforcement of the university’s policies by the Division of Student Affairs and the Department of Campus Life. In addition, it appears to be a flagrant violation of the SGA Constitution, SGC-MMC Statutes as well as the Fall 2010 Williams v. Elections Code Supreme Court decision in which it was determined that the Elections Board lacks the constitutional authority to make new laws, as they are doing by selecting which law or parts of the law to enforce and follow.

 

CAMPUS LIFE’S ROLE

The Department of Campus Life, currently under the direction of Interim Director Jose Toscano, who also serves as an SGA adviser, seems to be having the leading role in this controversy. By directing the Elections Board to choose to follow an old elections code, or even a hybrid of the new and old elections code, Toscano and SGA adviser Michele Castro seem to be overstepping their roles and directly conducting processes reserved for SGA officials as established by Florida Statutes. While Peretti calls the campus life policies document which allegedly provides Toscano and Castro with the power to dictate policy, as official university policy, the fact is the document does not appear on the university’s official policies database and lacks the formatting OUPs have. It is unclear when these campus life policies were written, but the use of the words bureaus and agencies, names only enacted during the 2011-2012 term, suggests these are recent policies.

The possible timetable of events, coupled with Toscano’s troubled history as adviser, constitute a subtle but deliberate power grab on behalf of the Department of Campus Life to completely control SGA and its affairs.

This controversy regarding the university’s role inside SGA’s internal affairs stems back to last year’s elections, and even further to Toscano’s handling of adviser responsibilities. In April of 2012, then Vice President of Student Affairs Rosa Jones opened the door to the university openly intervening in SGA affairs in subversion of state law, by reverting a Supreme Court decision and effectively appointing Laura Fariñas as SGC-MMC President, despite fraudulent elections. That action constituted the first official and open move by university officials to control SGA, but it followed years of subtle attempts to do the same by Toscano, often in defiance of university rules.

THE HISTORY

In October of 2010, in a much publicized incident at the SGA Intern’s Retreat, Jose Toscano in his capacity as SGA adviser, sought to punish certain students for violating a nonexistent university policy regarding leaving a university function, by seeking to remove their pay as SGA officials. The move was stopped by the university’s Human Resources department since it violated state law. On a related incident, Toscano was involved in asking Senate leadership to resign based on the same nonexistent policy. The now interim director has also been known to tell SGA Senators that he had the power to remove them from office without reason or process, a statement in clear violation of state law, which establishes that to do so, SGA’s internal procedures must be followed, but one that now appears to be validated by the new Campus Life policies.

If the new rules were enacted by Toscano as Interim Director, it would be a continuation of the pattern of behavior previously noted, which is especially noticeable during elections. Because of the time consuming and sensitive nature of the elections process, involvement of the university staff is significant, and Election Commissioners tend to follow their advice without question, even when state law is clear in the powers it gives the SGA, a tradition now followed by Peretti.

THE IMPLICATIONS

Following the precedent established by Rosa Jones in appointing Fariñas, and now by Toscano in enacting rules giving him and other advisers supreme control over student funded entities, the autonomy and role of SGA could be fundamentally altered. Legally speaking, SGA allocates and approves the budget of the Activity & Service Fee fund, which funds all of campus life’s operations, the student centers, recreation centers and student organizations. If university officials are allowed to continue interfering in SGA affairs without due cause, and often in violation of state laws and university rules, the very point of a student government is defeated, with every action taken by it proven to be an exercise in futility. This string of actions opens the door to the administration directly allocating the budget of the A&S Fee, a power they legally do not have, especially when SGA officials are not standing up and questioning these moves, and in some cases, owe their positions to administrative involvement.

This turn of events seems odd in a university that describes itself as student centered, but the inaction of the BOT or President’s office in these issues portrays an FIU more interested in retaining absolute control over SGA and its $12.5 million budget than in following the law, its internal procedures, or its own pledges of believing in the capacity and quality of its own students.

In the meantime, the elections process continues under a Commissioner counseled by advisers who “…would prefer to focus on the timely execution of this year’s elections to the benefit of the Panther student body…”, perhaps even in contempt of the laws of that very same Student Body.

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SGC-MMC Supreme Court grants certiorari on Castro v. Fariñas, will hear case March 18

In an email to the Student Government Council - Modesto A. Maidique Campus Vice President Alex Castro and former Housing Senator Dean Williams, Supreme Court Chief Justice Sebastian Larrazabal informed the two petitioners in the case against administration appointed President Laura Fariñas and Senator Vanessa Martinez that the court has decided to grant certiorari. Granting certiorari is not a judgement on the claims of the case but rather just the willingness of the court to hear the case. In the email Chief Justice Larrazabal explains the reasoning behind the court’s decision to hear the case on March 18, 2013, more than a month after the writ of certiorari was filed, due to several limitations such as Spring Break and the ongoing Budget hearings.

The court also reviewed the petitioner’s special requests, denying all but one, specifically the request for submission of amici curiae. The other requests involved Larrazabal’s recusal, the non-implication of FIUnite, the party of which Williams is Chairman, a request for review of evidence before the hearing, the use of Williams as an authority on the intent of the laws mentioned and a request for a subpoena of records.

Once the hearing is held, the Court will then deliberate and have ten business days to issue a ruling that could remove Fariñas and Martinez from office. 

The case continues to be a point of controversy in the current administration. Fariñas’ only expressions to date were in a response to The Beacon where she states that “I am disappointed that Vice President Castro did not bring these claims to my attention in September but instead, spent valuable time writing a 90 page writ regarding purchases of $120 that were signed off by University Officials and ultimately given to students. This is a poor use of his time as Vice President and an FIU student leader (sic) and I think that he should reconsider and re-prioritize where his time and efforts are going.” 

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Writ of Certiorari Filed against SGC-MMC President Laura Fariñas

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Student Government Council - Modesto A. Maidique Campus Vice President Alex Castro and former Director of Governmental Relations Dean Williams have filed a writ of certiorari before the SGC-MMC Supreme Court upon a grievance asking for the removal of appointed President Laura Fariñas and Senator Vanessa Martinez due to charges of nonfeasance,misfeasance and malfeasance of duties. Specifically the charges surround the circumstances regarding the position of the Comptroller, previously held by Valeria Espina. Espina resigned in unclear circumstances last November, and the position had remained vacant until recently. 

In an email sent Friday February 15 at 4:58pm to Chief Justice Sebastian Larrazabal, Castro submitted the writ along with documentation supporting his case against Fariñas and Senator Martinez, in her role as chair of the Senate’s Internal Affairs Committee. 

THE ALLEGATIONS

The case against Fariñas and Martinez focuses first on the management of Activity & Service fee funds upon the absence of the comptroller, based on several provisions from the Student Government Association Finance Code. Among the claims are allegations of failure to follow proper procedures for the approval of budgets for each line item in the current A&S fee budget, failure to follow proper procedures for the disbursements of A&S fee funds, failure to report on the status of the government’s finances, failure to provide the legally mandated seminars to student organizations on A&S fee fund management among others. Combined, Castro and Williams present 8 violations of Florida Law, SGA’s Constitution, SGA’s Finance Code and the SGC-MMC Statutes. 

For Fariñas, the nature of the allegations stems from the absence of a Comptroller, and an alleged failure on her behalf to ensure the proper following of the several provisions of law. The petitioners stipulate that taken together, all violations constitute mismanagement of A&S fee funds, one of the main roles of the Student Government Association. Based on these allegations, Fariñas removal from office is requested based on what the petitioners see if the necessary and requisite foundation of several acts of nonfeasance, misfeasance and malfeasance committed by the president. In Martinez’ case, the allegations stem from her alleged failure to appropriately hold the executive branch of the government accountable, in regards to having public documents readily accessible. In the supporting documentation submitted by Castro is a chain of emails between him and Martinez, in which Castro requests a series of documents. After requesting a time extension Martinez replied and sent part of the documents requested. The missing documents form part of the claim against Martinez, in what is described as “failing to maintain adequate public records.”

Should the court grant certiorari and hear the case, Fariñas and Martinez would have to present evidence of their compliance with the reference laws, which would amount to proof that they followed all proper procedures as legally required, if such documents exist.

THE EVIDENCE

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The 17 page writ is accompanied by a 37 page pdf file of evidence compiled by the petitioners which includes emails requesting public records, emails between Castro and Fariñas, Senate compliance documents, Council for Student Organizations agendas and minutes, as well as several expenditure forms showing the lack of the Comptroller’s (or President’s) signature.

As part of the documents, there are several tense email exchanges between Castro and Fariñas, with the vice president claiming three attempts to get the president to assign him official duties in the administration. The at times awkward exchanges go in line with what has been perceived mid-Fall semester as the fall out between the two former running mates, through a series of events including Fariñas efforts against Castro’s scholarship proposal, as well as Fariñas’ firing of her former campaign manager and former chief of staff Philip Koenig.

The evidence presents a stark picture in terms of the day to day administration of the Activity & Service fee fund in the offices of the Student Government Association. While the usage and expenditure of the fund is monitored by Campus Life Advisers as well as by the Activity & Service Business Office of the Division of Student Affairs, these two entities tend to overlook SGA law and focus on university regulations. Should the allegations bear true, it would imply that proper records are not being kept, student funds are being disbursed without the proper signatures, and there aren’t proper accountability mechanisms in place.

ON THE COMPTROLLER

The issues surrounding the comptroller position started back in November 2012 following the resignation of Espina. Sources tell Pawlitics that the resignation happened quietly and an official announcement did not happen for weeks. During this period of vacancy, Pawlitics was unable to find any evidence of the executive branch promoting the vacancy through its website. On its Facebook page there is one post from January 9, 2013 alluding to open positions, but as publishing time the link provided did not list any positions and had been presumably changed since then. When asked if the vacant position had been promoted, Castro responded by saying that “the applications were not well promoted because the position is being used as a political weapon by the President.” 

This response was prompted following the rejected nomination of Daniel Gomez as Comptroller during the January 21, 2013 Senate meeting. Gomez was Fariñas’ choice for the position out of a total 4 possible applicants. The Senate however decided to reject the nomination. Senate Speaker Giovanni Castro for instance told Pawlitics he believed “that the senate wanted someone a bit more qualified due to the closeness towards budget dates.” Gomez had previously served a brief stint on Fariñas cabinet as head of Panther Rage, the spirit group. Following Gomez’ rejection by the Senate, Fariñas nominated her then Chief of Staff Freddy Juarez, who was afterward promptly confirmed by the Senate. Juarez is not mentioned and is not a part of the writ brought on by Castro and Williams. 

These incidents confirm the tension inside the Fariñas administration which has come to light during Senate meetings with public disagreements between the president and the vice president, a stark difference from just a few months earlier when Fariñas and Castro ran on the same ticket through the scandal plagued 2012 SGA Elections.

THE GRIEVANCE

The grievance as filed, extensively covers all possible contention points, and seems to go beyond that by including issues such as the possible consequences of a ruling in favor of the petitioners and the involvement of the new FIUnited party of which Castro is a presumptive presidential candidate, and Williams its founding chairman. Should the court side with the petitioners and remove Fariñas, Castro, per Article IV Section 5 of the SGA Constitution, would assume the presidency and have the subsequent power of appointing a Vice President. Another topic covered in the grievance is the extent to which Castro himself could be held liable of the accusations being made, seemingly to preempt any argument made by the defendants. Castro and Williams content that as Vice President, Castro has fulfilled all of his constitutional and legal responsibilities, and even requested to assist with the issues at hand but was rebuffed. 

The writ of certiorari also argues against the possibility of having the Campus Life advisers being implicated in any mismanagement of the A&S fee fund. They argue that for the advisers to fulfill their role, the President and the other appropriate officials must have fulfilled their respective responsibilities before the blame could be shifted elsewhere. The inclusion of such an argument is peculiar, since as university employees outside of the Student Government Association, the Supreme Court would lack jurisdiction over the advisers.

Whether the advisers would take part in a hearing of this case is unclear since the court has not indicated whether it will hear the case. 

RECUSAL OF THE CHIEF JUSTICE

The petitioners also make a special request for the recusal of the Chief Justice based on two factors, namely their doubt that he could be impartial and what the petitioners deem as the “general failure to ensure the proper administration and operation of the Court.” The impartiality doubts stem from the fact that in Fall of 2012 a writ was filed against Martinez, and the court denied certiorari, refusing to hear the case, a decision the petitioners contend was wrong, and may have been due to what they call a social greek relationship between Martinez and Larrazabal. An online search shows that Larrazabal is what is known in greek circles as Martinez’ “big brother”, which is “an active member of a fraternity or sorority who serves as a mentor to a new member, guiding him or her through the new member program and initiation.” The second charge against Larrazabal is then based on the fact that Castro had previously submitted a writ of certiorari which did not receive a response from the court within the legally established period. Whether the court will accept this request is unknown until they respond to the writ itself.

The writ is completed with a series of requests, including one for a subpoena of records, that seeks to ensure the availability of all relevant evidence. Castro and Williams explain that the request is made because of their uncertainty, despite their best efforts, that all documents were made available to them. 

As of publishing time, there is no response from the court, which according to SGC-MMC Statutes, must respond within 10 days to the petitioners. Once that occurs, and if the court grants certiorari, a hearing date would be set in which the petitioners would present their case and evidence, and the defendants, Fariñas and Martinez would also do the same. 

The court’s ruling could have a significant effect on the 2013 SGA Presidential race, with Castro already a declared contender, and Martinez mentioned as a possible adversary. An adverse ruling could also put a halt to the 2013-2014 budget approval hearings, currently underway.

If heard, this would be the Supreme Court’s first case this term, one that could significantly alter the political landscape in the upcoming elections, a possibility that seems to be becoming the norm at FIU.

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BREAKING: FIU Football Coach Mario Cristobal fired

In what has been described as a stunning and surprising move, FIU Athletics and Entertainment Director Pete Garcia has fired Football Head Coach Mario Cristobal. The move comes after a 3-9 season for the Panthers.

Reports first surfaced on Twitter, and were later confirmed on several articles from The Miami Herald, CBS Sports, NBC Sports and ESPN. Afterwards, in an statement to the university community, the dismissal was announced with the following message from Garcia:

“Today we informed Coach (Mario) Cristobal that a change was being made in the direction of our football program. I want to thank Coach for all that he has done to develop the football program over the past six seasons. We will now turn our attention to attract the very best candidate to fill the position of head coach. We will begin a national search immediately.”

The move is a surprising one, since Cristobal had been courted last year for positions at Rutgers and Pitt, and in the past month had been mentioned as a possible replacement for coaches at South Florida, Arkansas and Boston College.

As to who will replace Cristobal, there are no confirmed reports other than Garcia’s statement that a national search will begin. The Miami Herald has pointed to former UM Coach Butch Davis as a possible replacement.

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Tension rules in Senate Meeting because of Scholarship Proposal

In the Student Government Council - Modesto A. Maidique Campus Senate Meeting of November 19, 2012 the tension was evident as the meeting drew to a close. After filling several vacant Senate seats, the Senate proceeded to hear from Vice President Alex Castro on a proposal to create a new scholarship program.

Right before Castro was able to speak, appointed President Laura Fariñas proceeded to ask to make some comments before the presentation, only to be rebuffed. Castro then delivered a presentation detailing the specifics of the proposal which include the accounts from which the scholarship program would be created. In the presentation it was specified that approximately $62,000 would be used for the scholarships, drawing the Student Government, A&S Support and Agency funds, which collectively hold more than $2 million. 

After hearing from Castro, the Senate witnessed Fariñas approaching the podium to express her concerns and issues with the proposal, which focused mainly on the use of the Agency fund. Fariñas praised the creativity of the proponents of the measure (Castro) but alleged that they had not properly vetted the proposal with university administrators, since according to her, the Agency fund was one over which SGA lacks jurisdiction. There was an awkward moment, since as Fariñas spoke, the time for the Senate meeting ran out, at which point the Speaker notified her, to which she responded that they could adjourn the meeting but she would still finish her remarks. It was then that the Speaker adjourned, and together with the Vice President, left the Senate chambers as Fariñas spoke.

Whether Fariñas allegations are facts, or whether they correspond to a view of SGA being subject to the university’s control is still unclear. Pawlitics has reached out to the Activity & Service Business Office to clarify the matter and will update accordingly. 

Overall the incident was proof of the tensions running between the President and Vice President, a fact further confirmed in an email sent to the Speaker of the Senate Giovanni Castro by Vice President Castro, in which he qualifies Fariñas’ expressions as a “humiliating political stunt” meant to push a political agenda. The Vice President goes on to ask the Speaker to prevent similar stunts in the future, though what exactly he meant by this is unclear, as the Senate Rules of Procedure stipulate that the President has a right to speak before the Senate. 

Sources indicate that the animosity between Fariñas and Castro has been running for some months now, and that it has affected work at SGA, as was seen by the half-empty cabinet and recent firings.

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UPDATED: Chief of Staff Philip Koenig Fired

In a surprising and unexpected move, appointed Student Government Council - Modesto A. Maidique Campus President Laura Fariñas has reportedly fired her Chief of Staff, Philip Koenig, who previously served as her Campaign Manager during the fraudulent 2012 elections. Independent sources have confirmed that about a week ago, Koenig was fired for undisclosed reasons. A public records request for the complete cabinet listing of this year was made to Fariñas to confirm the firing, but instead of the list, we received the following:

"Thank you for your inquiry. Please refer to legal counsel for all public records requests."

Usually, these type of requests are handled internally by SGA. Subsequently, we have made the request to the FIU Office of General Counsel and will update the story with the appropriate details.

Sources indicate to Pawlitics that the real reason behind the firing, was Fariñas’ intention of preventing Koenig from running for office in a ticket together with Alex Castro, the current SGC-MMC Vice President. As to why Fariñas would believe this would prevent Koening from qualifying for office is unclear, since rumors point to Castro running for President with Koenig as Vice Presidential candidate, a position that has no requirement for time served in SGA. Alternatively, the president might be considering a clause in the SGC-MMC Elections Code which stipulated that a previously removed official is ineligible from running. That clause however, is no longer in the Elections Code signed into law by Fariñas herself. 

This power move appears to be so that Fariñas’ protegé, fellow Alpha Xi Delta member, and current Lower Division Senator Vanessa Martinez can have a sure path to the presidency of the SGC-MMC next year in the 2013 elections. Whether Martinez will run, and who would form part of her ticket is unknown at the moment.

This turn of events marks a period of tension in the Fariñas-Castro administration in which the degree of animosity in the SGA offices is such, that allegedly, Castro is in possession of a recording of Fariñas in which she states she is not there for the student body, but for her organization (Alpha Xi Delta). The existence of such a recording is also unknown, but we have reached out to Castro for his reaction.

These incidents all point to a return of politics as usual in the student government of Florida International University. We will update this story as our requests are answered and new information comes up.

UPDATE: Pawlitics has obtained the list of current cabinet members, confirming Koenig’s firing. In addition, Vice President Castro has responded to our inquiry and has indicated that  the official reason for Koenig’s firing was for not following proper procedures when making a new hire. He also denies having any recording of Fariñas, saying the existence of such a recording is questionable. 

Castro also mentions the resignation of the Comptroller position, previously held by Valeria Espina

The text of his response is below:

"I would like to begin my position statement by clarifying that the allegations of me being in possession of a recording of President Laura Farinas is in fact false. But, whether a recording of the President’s alleged statement exists is questionable.

In regards to the firing of Philip Koenig, the official reason for his termination was due to the improper hiring procedure he conducted for the newly appointed Lectures Coordinator without the President’s order.

However, I was not involved in the process of termination. I was made aware after the fact. Since his termination, there has been no discussion as of yet for the replacement of the Chief of Staff and Comptroller, which you may or may not know resigned approximately 3 weeks ago.”

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Larrazabal confirmed as Chief Justice, Robillard out as Speaker

In what must certainly be an awkward turn of events for the Fariñas Castro administration, the day of the confirmation of former Arts and Sciences Senator Sebastian Larrazabal as Chief Justice of the Student Government Council - Modesto A. Maidique Campus, was also the one where the Senator Kristen Robillard resigned as Speaker of the Senate. Larrazabal had run against Robillard for Speaker, and lost by one vote cast by the SGC-MMC Vice President Alex Castro.

As Pawlitics reported earlier, the administration successfully maneuvered with the Supreme Court requirements in order to be able to appoint Larrazabal as Chief Justice, as a sort of consolation prize for the Speaker’s race he lost, directly because of the Vice President’s vote. The former requirements had been put in place at former Chief Justice Octavio Mella’s urging, with the support of several Chief Justices from universities across the state, during one of the last meetings of last year’s Senate. 

Sources tell Pawlitics that the Senate was told Robillard stepped down due to the fact that she did not meet the requirements for the office of Senator for the College of Education, which also meant she was ineligible to become Speaker. Following her resignation, Speaker Pro Tempore and Senator At Large Giovanni Castro assumes the role of Speaker of the Senate.

All of this has happened as the Senate is in the midst of reforming the Elections Code in a series of bills pushed by Vice President Castro, as reported by FIUSM. The extent of these bills is unknown, since as of the time of publishing this post, the website of SGA only shows 3 bills, and the last minutes available are from July 23, 2012. In an email, Vice President Castro indicated that “the Executive Branch is currently searching for a Webmaster to fulfill the responsibilities needed.”

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Supreme Court requirements changed

The Fariñas-Castro Administration successfully pushed through the Senate a bill to amend the recently implemented requirements for the Supreme Court nominees which required all future appointees to be members of the Supreme Court. The Senate reportedly approved a measure that now allows for undergraduate students to become justices, but a majority of the justices must still be law students.

The exact language of the measure is not clear as it is not publicly available. We have submitted a request for the bill and as soon as it is received we will update the story with the details.

The exact language of the measure could affect who gets appointed into the Chief Justice position. Sources have indicated to Pawlitics that Senator Sebastian Larrazabal is likely to be nominated to the position, and is in fact the reason the administration pushed for the changes, in order to successfully nominate Larrazabal. The nomination of the Senator is widely viewed as a political payout, since Larrazabal lost his bid for Speaker of the Senate due to the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Alex Castro. Castro voted for Kristen Robillard, even when sharing his greek affiliation with Larrazabal.

Come Monday the Senate should receive what could possibly be Larrazabal nomination’s, successfully completing the administration’s plans. 

The change in requirements for the Supreme Court is a setback to the efforts of former Chief Justice Octavio Mella, who actively sought to implement the reforms that would have enabled only law students to form the court. Mella had received the support from Student Government Chief Justices across the state in his efforts to revamp the requirements. The main reason provided for the changes was a lack of applications, despite poor advertisement of the position. The real reason could have been the intention to appoint Senator Larrazabal.

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Unregistered student groups may now use FIU facilities

MIAMI, FL: In their June 19, 2012 meeting, the Florida International University Board of Trustees amended the Student Code of Conduct. Several revisions were made to the document including the deletion of ” the sentence indicating that student organizations are required to register before using campus facilities because this is no longer accurate.”

This amendment has various implications on the different student groups that have had issues reserving rooms and having events on campus such as the Coalition of Students for Reform and Occupy FIU. 

The referenced line was a major point in the cases regarding party registration referenced as Colesanti v. Patel et al, where the effect of non-registration was discussed, ultimately having the court ruling that registration for parties was impossible, which consequently implied the impossibility of using campus facilities.

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Board of Governors approves tuition increase, FIU now most expensive Florida university

ORLANDO, FL: The State University System of Florida Board of Governors approved tuition increases for all universities, including Florida International University, who requested and got the maximum legal limit of a 15% increase.

Campaign poster from Laura Fariñas in which she pledged to fight to keep tuition low.This increase in tuition at FIU was first approved by the FIU Board of Trustees, with the vote of the Student Government Council - Modesto A. Maidique Campus president Laura Fariñas, who sits in the BOT. Fariñas also reportedly lobbied for the increase before the BOG, despite a campaign pledge to “…take action in lobbying for the preservation of low tuition at FIU and in the State of Florida…”

In addition, the sole student representative in the Board of Governors, University of Central Florida Student Government Associate president Cortez Whatley, aggressively fought for tuition increases, particularly for UCF who was initially denied its request, as reported by KnightNews. Several members in the BOG were actively against tuition increase.

FIU has released a statement from President Mark Rosenberg expressing his disappointment in having to raise tuition once again, but expressing relief in that a portion of the revenue from the increase will be used for financial aid. FIU has said the increase will provide  ”$15.6 million in revenue to help offset the $24 million reduction in state funding FIU sustained this year.” The increase will go into effect for the 2012 - 2013 academic year.

UPDATE: Reports from the Associated Press show that with this latest increase, FIU will now have the highest tuition among all Florida state universities.

Appoint SGA President Laura Fariñas also reacted with the following:

"No one wants to pay more," Florida International Student Body President Laura Farinas said, but she added that she supports the increase. She said it’s necessary to avoid closing programs and laying off faculty due to cuts in state funding.

"It became very difficult for a lot of the universities to maintain and increase the quality and the integrity of the degrees that students walk out with," said the senior psychology major. "We value the quality of our degree."