Each year the Black Student Union hosts one of three debates that are notorious for putting presidential candidates in the hot seat, and this year’s was no different.
Nearly 50 students piled into Room 132 of the Phyllis P. Marshall Center Thursday night to hear presidential candidates debate a variety of issues, mostly pertaining to student life on campus.
Presidential ticket Barclay Harless and running mate Garin Flowers squared off with opponents Jessica Asuncion and running mate Tony Caldwell on issues such as campus safety, campus life and the structure of each ticket’s potential governing bodies.
The evening struck a high note when a student, who called himself John, referred to the Harless/Flowers campaign as using student body president Frank Harrison and vice president Faran Abbasi as their “whipping boys,” calling the ticket “disingenuous.”
The student also said Harless was not shouldering enough of the blame for mistakes that have been made during his term as senate president.
Harless said that while he has maintained the position of senate president, he has been more than willing to accept responsibility for any decisions that he has aided in making. However, as senate president, he is only a “representative” of the senate’s majority opinion.
Harless’ ticket wasn’t the only one under fire, though, and within minutes of his response, Asuncion and Caldwell were questioned about their choice of the Wellness Center initiative as their main platform.
The questioning student asked why they chose to back an idea that is already in the works when services such as the Counseling Center are in need of more help. The student then told the ticket, “You don’t have the power to get that done.”
Caldwell defended his point by saying he and Asuncion only back the idea because they intend to “get the ball rolling.”
“If a donor can’t be found to back (the feasibility study), then we would support spending $100,000 to put it in motion.”
In an effort to combine Student Health Services, the Counseling Center and the Recreation Center, USF has been working on a plan to revamp the entire system and house all three under the same roof. So far, no proposal has been made pertaining to a time frame or what the building would look like. Before any building project may begin, the University must run a feasibility study to get an idea of cost versus usage.
Both tickets were questioned on how they would improve student life on campus and sustain existing traditions as the University moves into another chapter of life with a new student center on the way.
“What we need to do is provide the right funding for organizations such as the Campus Activity Board, BSU (and) Homecoming so we can put on the proper programs to start the new traditions or carry the torch on traditions that have already been brought upon us here at USF,” Flowers said.
Caldwell then said that his ticket plans to make students more aware of activities before they happen.
“What we want to do is along with the Note-A-Bulls – the actual letter that goes out to your e-mail – what if you don’t check it and you forgot that basketball is going on or something like that, then obviously what you want to do is you want to have other reminders,” Caldwell said. “So what we want to do is once a week, when they come out on Monday, is put up some posters – maybe throw about 10 of them up around campus – so you can get little reminders of what’s going on around campus.”
A major point of contention for students was campus safety, and both tickets said they have big plans for renovating safety procedures.
The Asuncion/Caldwell ticket is running on a platform that would renovate the existing blue lights around campus, while the Harless/Flowers ticket advocates enlarging the University Police force.
“Currently, 13 out of the 55 lights are not functioning, so that’s about 25 percent of them and they have the idea of replacing or revamping about 80 percent of them,” Caldwell said. “It’s on a daily basis that these things are being used.”
Harless said that not all the blame for lack of safety should fall on SG, but that if he won they would work in conjunction with SAFE Team and Safety Patrol to make the campus more secure.
“By becoming a student at this University, you are placing responsibility in Student Affairs for your safety while you are on this campus,” Harless said. “They are currently dropping the ball. Once again, we have one of the lowest student-to-officer ratios on this campus. We need the police department to move more away from traffic violations and more toward prevention and arrests.”