Flagler administration needs wake-up call

By Matthew Boyle | mboyle@flagler.edu

It’s 6:16 on a Monday night and Chuck Riffenburg is talking on his cell phone on the front steps of the Proctor Library again.

Unlike other students, though, Riffenburg is talking business. Even though he finally got the Flagler College administration to approve his Hunger Initiative project, he still has to do all the legwork.

Riffenburg’s Hunger Initiative is a rarity at Flagler in that it’s actually getting done. Other student-proposed projects die early and die often. They barely ever make it past all the administrative roadblocks, for better or for worse.

He spends several hours a day working on the Hunger Initiative project and has since he proposed it midway through last semester. He puts about the amount of work a full-time job requires.

Flagler’s system of student government and student-run projects in general is set up for failure. If the administration wanted its students to make a difference, Riffenburg wouldn’t have had to spend 30 to 35 hours a week for 3 months to get the groundwork set for the Hunger Initiative.

Take SafeRide, for instance, another program that’s just as good as dead in the water. Last year’s Student Government Association president, Kaitlyn Mairs, proposed that the college provide transportation back to campus from different areas around town in an emergency.

Mairs never got SafeRide done. What a surprise?

This year, SGA Vice President Sara Brown is “responsible” for the project. Different projections for SafeRide have a basic program in place over two years from now.

Brown won’t talk on the record, because “nothing is set in stone.” Until someone comes on the record and tells the student body SafeRide is going to happen, it’s just another myth.

SGA President David Matulewicz thinks the administration suppresses student-proposed projects.

“We don’t have any ability to actually do anything,” he said. “Someone can veto [a project] at every level of it [the approval process]. When you have four, five or six layers of veto power, how is anything supposed to be done?”

Matulewicz may be right, to some degree. But, even when the administration agrees with something, students can’t get it done. The major issue with the administration is that it’s highly inefficient.

“It’s so difficult because there’s so many different parties involved,” Riffenburg said. “You have to bring everyone in before you can make anything concrete.”

The administration wants to ensure students are responsible and don’t make mistakes. But I think Flagler’s bigwigs need to let students make their own choices and either screw up or succeed.

“Maybe if we were sheep, this would be a wonderful shepherd of a college,” Matulewicz said. “But I’m not a sheep.”

Stetson University of DeLand, Fla., a small private institution with roughly the same size student body as Flagler, allows its student government to disburse all student funds. If Flagler allowed our SGA to distribute student organization funds, you might actually be able to get something done.

Stetson’s SGA President Akeel St. Jean said his internal SGA budget is $28,000, almost three times more than Flagler’s entire SGA budget of about $9,500, internal and external. St. Jean said Stetson’s SGA has a “significantly higher” budget for distribution to non-SGA student organizations.

Why doesn’t Flagler’s administration allow our SGA to distribute student funds?

“There’s a handful of people at this school who just feel that students cannot be responsible for their own education,” Matulewicz said. “There are people in key positions who don’t care about students.”

“The student government [at Stetson] weighs in and has a vote on new faculty,” Matulewicz said. “The student government [at Stetson] can vote to change rules.”

The answer to all Flagler’s power problems is simple: give students the power to make choices, start programs and projects and disburse all student organizations’ funding.

The end result is a win-win for Flagler’s administration, too.

If it works, administrators look great and can claim the success as their own. If it doesn’t, shift back to the way it is now and blame all the problems on the sheep.

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