The Federacion de Estudiantes Cubanos [FEC] rejoiced Wednesday afternoon after an overwhelming majority of Student Government senators voted in favor of their maintaining a senate seat.
The recommendation to remove FEC’s seat came from the SG Supreme Court who ruled against them five to one at a hearing that took place April 10, 2002. Every three years student organizations represented in the senate must appear before the Supreme Court to have their seat reviewed.
“The court felt that the needs of this organization were not compelling enough to substantiate a continued organizational senate seat,” said Silia Herrera, Chief Justice to the Supreme Court.
Herrera said that the court believed the senators representing the school, year, or residence of a particular group could continue addressing the needs of this constituency, and that the Council of International Students and Organizations [COISO] could also represent their interests well.
Other supreme court justices agreed.
“To promote unity and equitable diversity on campus, there is no need for FEC to have distinct and unique representation while other ethnicities are content with COISO representation,” said supreme court justice Wilson.
Justice Makowski, who offered the only dissenting vote, argued that: “COISO is a conglomerate organization that cannot possibly meet the specific needs of Cuban Students on this campus.”
“If we look at where we stand now-America in 2002-removing FEC from the Senate would serve absolutely no purpose,” said Makowski. “It would be extremely near-sighted to vote to remove this seat.”
FEC representatives said that COISO is an umbrella organization, FEC would be the thirty-fourth group involved, and there would be no hope of adequate representation.
In a compelling speech given at the meeting, senator Mike Holt representing the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Community, pointed out that if FEC should come under the umbrella of COISO, other smaller organizations within COISO would run the risk of being misrepresented because the Cuban population comprises an overwhelming majority and would overpower other organizations.
Other justices argued that FEC claimed to need the representation in the senate mainly for funding purposes.
Vice President of FEC, Cristina Arriaza, said that arguments made by the FEC senator defending their position were taken out of context and misinterpreted by the justices who used their points to argue in favor of removing them from the senate.
“We never said that our sole purpose in senate was to get money,” she said. “This is an option that we have but that to this day we haven’t used.”
Arriaza said FEC was very happy with the result of the meeting.
“It is unjust to have such a large population of students, such as Cuban Americans, be underrepresented in the senate,” she said. “We encourage other organizations to get a seat in the senate- but they have to fight for it!”
Arriaza explained that any undergraduate student organization that is duly registered, receives funding from a mandatory fee source, and demonstrates a substantive need of representation that could not be met otherwise is able to obtain a seat by a two-thirds vote of the senate.
Over the past three years the FEC has grown into an important student organization that currently holds between 40 and 50 members.
Arriaza said that FEC won first place in the “Hurricanes Help Home Town” event, which means they had the largest number of participants involved in proportion to the total number of members in the organization.
The FEC has also promoted activities like Three Days of Cuban Culture and participated in Homecoming winning several awards.
“We do not just represent the Cubans in our club,” Arriaza said. “We have an open door policy and we put on activities for the entire community.”
President of FEC Roberto Castro said he was very happy they were able to keep their seat.
“This is very important because we represent so many minority communities,” he said.
“I think the senate made the appropriate decision,” said Holt. ” I congratulate FEC for their success.”