Conflicting statements defined Wednesday’s student body presidential debate, as the six candidates argued many key issues, including an on-campus football stadium and Student Government (SG) transparency.
The debate, held in the Oval Theater before an audience of about 150 students, was the final SG presidential debate before elections start Feb. 27 to March 1. The Oracle takes a look at some of the major talking points of the debate.
Building a new football stadium
Alan Ethington, a junior majoring in economics, said he would like to tear down Greek Village and move Greek housing off campus, before advocating for a student fee that would allow USF to use the property to build an on-campus football stadium in its place.
Omar Rodriguez, a junior majoring in history, said he agreed with the idea of creating a new stadium.
“Building a new stadium is part of our platform as well,” he said. “We need to start
talking to the Board of Trustees, to President (Judy) Genshaft. We need to utilize our resources here. … We need to build the funds through alumni so that whenever they graduate they want to donate to this university.”
Yet candidates Christopher Cano, a graduate student majoring in public administration, and Brian Goff, a junior majoring in biochemistry, were against raising student fees to build a stadium.
“I’m not in support of a new fee – the burden is already too much,” Goff said. “We need to find a way for donors to fund this. We need $7 million per year to make an on-campus stadium. We need sponsors.”
SG Senate President Khalid Hassouneh, who was at the debate, said he questioned the timing of the stadium debate.
“The question is, at a time of budget cuts like this, at a time when the state is saying we want to cut USF $128 million total, is this really the time to talk about a football stadium?” he said.
Sarah Pollei, a junior majoring in biology, said she would continue her ongoing commitment to sustainability if elected.
“As a resident assistant, I have pushed for recycling bins in residence halls, which has happened, and I have pushed for ashtrays in our residence halls, which has happened,” Pollei said.
Cano said “sustainability is all about protecting the future and saving money.”
“By the end of my term next year, we’ll make sure every building here will have sensors in it. If there’s no one in the room, those sensors will turn the lights off and regulate the AC,” he said. “We want to make sure your money is being used wisely.”
However, former SG Sustainability Officer Joseph Michalsky said it would be hard to solve USF’s money problems entirely through renewable energy projects.
“The funding exists. Funding-wise, it’s completely feasible,” he said. “The only limitation is the question, ‘Is that the sole answer?’ and the answer is no. No amount of renewable energy projects are going to completely offset the money that we are going to lose because of the decrease of the state government funding.”
Upon taking office, Ethington said he would propose that the president have access to USF’s mass email listservs to better inform students.
“I feel that there’s hardly any transparency,” he said. “The minutes are posted and we can read what’s going on, but at the same time, we don’t know what the budget rates are. I’m not asking for numbers specifically, but at the same time we don’t know what direction or where our money is really going. With a $1.8 million endowment some money can slip through the cracks.”
Goff said that serving as SG attorney general this year allowed him to increase SG transparency by changing paper records to electronic records.
However, Hassouneh said such records had already been available in the USF Library in Special Collections by a request from Genshaft two years ago.
“Goff impeached Senator Pro Tempore Matt Diaz at the time based on the fact that he couldn’t find some of these documents that should have been found in the Library,” Hassouneh said. “I will give him enough credit to say he did it this year, but already for two years, the Library has been moving toward that.”
Every candidate said they would improve marketing and communication to better reach students. Christina Hughes, a senior majoring in economics, said it’s a matter of getting out there and talking with students.
“There are plenty of senators in the College of Arts and Sciences, (for example),” she said. “We need to get senators out there. I am a representative and I make sure I always introduce myself and let them know (I’m here to represent them).”
Rodriguez, who is a member of Lambda Upsilon Lambda, said better communication is possible through better organization.
“It’s just a matter of communicating with the organizations you’re involved in,” he said. “Basically it’s about having your day mapped out, knowing what you’re going to do and doing it.”