Three Accomplishments in Three Weeks

We’re still less than a month into Student Body President Ayden Maher’s term, which isn’t a lot of time to judge someone by. A lot of students haven’t even met him yet.

But while regular readers will know I’ve already enjoyed ribbing him a bit, I’d also like to observe that — well, he’s acting oddly presidential. He’s done a few things already that set him apart from the two previous presidents I’ve covered, and I hope they’re predictive of a productive year.

1.) Regularly attending House meetings and staying in the loop with the rest of SG.

President Ayden Maher shakes hands with new representatives Fawaaz Diljohn (left) and Kiel von Minden (middle left) while others wait their chance at the May 28 House meeting. (Photo: Michael Trimboli)

While the SG Constitution only requires the president to present a report to the campus Houses once a month, Maher’s been to every Boca House meeting I’ve been to since a week or two before he became president-elect.

Neither of Maher’s predecessors met this constitutional responsibility which he is, so far, exceeding.

As Representative Dean Hasan commented last meeting, when’s the last time a president personally swore in new representatives?

2.) Relay to SG (and hopefully to students) upcoming decisions from the Board of Trustees that we should have a say in.

At last week’s meeting, he briefed the House on the BOT’s May 26 meeting, the first held since he took office (they occur roughly once a month) — this is something his predecessor Tiffany Weimar never did in my recollection, and which she was criticized for. I believe Abe Cohen before her did this only once.

President Maher stands with Armand Grossman from the Board of Trustees at his own swearing-in, back in April.

The SG Constitution is pretty vague about the expectations on this point (and most others), only calling for the president to “Represent the Student Body on the Board of Trustees of Florida Atlantic University.” Taken quite literally, this might just mean voting your heart at these meetings. But I think what Maher’s doing is more representative of the constitution’s spirit.

What he mentioned, by the way, was the tuition and fee hike which is expected to be approved at the next BOT meeting. He was pretty neutral on the subject, but informative.

“Come to the [June 23] board meeting and give your feedback,” said Maher. “I don’t want to tax students and burden them … but I do know that FAU has one of the cheapest tuitions in the state.”

Rate increases are nothing new; tuition goes up five or six percent every year. But this time is different. Recent state legislation allows for a one-time rate hike of up to 15%, which would cost the average student at least a few hundred extra bucks each semester. It’s like a three-year bump happening all at once. Good thing for students to be made aware of — in advance, instead of after the fact.

3.) “Be an advocate for the students.”

This was an official part of the platform for both of Maher’s predecessors, but something I never saw them do in any concrete way. It’s not in the Constitution at all, as obvious as it sounds — though one could argue it falls under the duty to “be the chief executive of the Student Body,” if you consider students shareholders; both previous presidents were business majors.

I saw Maher do this last week, quite vocally. When the discussion of restructuring student media came up, Maher claimed he spent three hours telling Associate Dean of Students Terry Menaexactly what I think.”

President Maher uses his hands to tell Student Affairs that it has been a very, very BAD dog. No biscuit for them, especially since none of the usual Student Affairs attendees showed up to the May 28 meeting. (Photo: Michael Trimboli)

If he told Mena like he told the House, then he probably made some of these same statements:

“The way it went down sucked, and the way Student Affairs handled [the firings] was terrible.”

“No longer will Student Affairs continue to make these decisions without students.”

If Student Affairs prevents UP ex-adviser Michael Koretzky from continuing to attend their meetings as a volunteer by having him arrested, “it would make a hell of a story.”

“This is our money, this is our media.”

He went on to add that Student Affairs has agreed to raise the salary for the new adviser position to $45,000 from $35,000. I’m not naive enough to think Maher accomplished that or even had a direct hand in it — that news came following criticism that the original salary was less than that of a newbie reporter at the the Sun-Sentinel. (And still not double our former part-time adviser’s salary for more than double the work, either.)

But visibly speaking out, taking an active role, and letting students know about it — that’s laudable.  I hope he keeps it up.

One other important constitutional duty of the president is signing legislation in a timely fashion. Weimar notoriously violated the SG Constitution both as president and governor on this point, often taking weeks to sign stuff for the House. (And she twice received a vote of “no confidence” for it.)

It’s too early to gauge Maher on this and other responsibilities, such as holding a public address for the student body in the fall. But these early indicators show some promise.

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