The Marshall Student Center (MSC) filled with over a hundred students Thursday night to hear Student Government (SG) presidential nominees Ryan Soscia and Moneer Kheireddine debate over issues ranging from the idea of raising fees to build an on-campus stadium to student representation in SG.
Moderator David Payne started with a topic that’s been popular around campus over the past few years: an on-campus football stadium. While both candidates said they were in support of building a stadium, Soscia argued against a fee increase to pay for it.
“I agree that we do need an on-campus stadium and those plans are already in the process,” he said. “Yes, the school is deciding whether we need a fee increase. My answer to that is absolutely not. Until we can get our spending under control within Student Government, there is no absolute reason I would advocate for increasing student fees. That being said, there's other ways to fund this.”
Kheireddine argued in favor of an increase in the Activity and Services (A&S) fee for more than a football stadium.
"Every single department on this campus is struggling right now,” he said. “They always consistently need more funding and more resources … because of how long it's been since there's been an A&S fee increase, I really do truly believe it is time for us to have an increase … to revamp the upgrade on the entirety of the student body experience.”
When it came for the topic of the tobacco-free campus policy, the two candidates agreed that in order to take a stance on the ban they needed to have a better idea of the overall student opinion on it.
Payne also asked about the concern that the student body doesn’t feel connected with SG and how the candidates would address this concern.
“That is the biggest problem with Student Government,” Soscia said. “Yes, I have a bullet point list of ways we can improve the school but the main point of this movement of being heard is that students are involved in the process. We have advocacy counselors. We’re going to get students face-to-face with administrators.”
Kheireddine used the chance to push one of his platform points: the idea of revamping the MyUSF app.
“One of the biggest points on our platform is the revitalization of the MyUSF app,” he said. “What we want to do is ensure throughout the application that there's an opportunity actually on the app where you can see every single college and every single representative so you can scroll through and see who your representative is and their contact.”
The candidates expressed an interest in better representing the graduate students on campus. Kheireddine discussed hiring a graduate student to serve as a liaison between SG and the graduate student population. Soscia mentioned a similar position that would be filled by an undergraduate due to concerns over a graduate student being able to support himself or herself on 20 hours a week.
Both nominees supported the idea of continuing to fund the Student Green Energy Fee, which is up for a vote by the student body during the election. Additionally, both emphasized the fund’s use for solar panels to power the campus.
They mentioned continuing some of the current policies and programs including the syllabus bank created by current Student Body President Chris Griffin. Soscia also mentioned the need for funding for the Share-a-Bull bike program and Kheireddine included updating the Canvas app to make it easier for students to use.
When it came to the process of allocating A&S fees, the two had differing opinions.
"I think currently the A&S Recommendation Committee does a great job," Kheireddine said. "Do I think it could be made it a bit simpler? Yes. How we would go about doing that is probably just working on better standards that we have in place … We (need) to make sure that we're not just going around to one or two people but that we're keeping in contact with all student organizations and making sure that they understand. I think having personal conversations is the way to go."
Soscia's opinion was that the process needs to be re-examined and reconsidered completely.
"There are problems," he said. "The fact of the matter is that funding is not equaitable. Black organizations on campus do not get the funding that other organizations do. The way the system is set up does not benefit engineering organizations. Most of what they do is travel and what we fund is materials and pizza. We need to look at the funding process, we need to look at how student organizations need to operate, we need to completely revamp the structure."
When the debate turned toward international students and how the candidates plan to address the community’s need, Kheireddine brought up that his running mate, Shaquille Kent, is an international student and therefore has an idea of what struggles international students face. Soscia discussed one of his platform points of organizing career fairs specifically for international students to help them find jobs.
The duo also discussed how to make SG representative of student veterans. Soscia brought up making a diversity council that would include student veterans as well as international students. Kheireddine also talked about bringing these students into SG to give them a stronger voice in SG.
In conclusion, the candidates were asked what, if elected, they'd want their impact on the school to be.
“I want to be able to walk away from Student Government one year from now and know that not only did I try my hardest … day in and day out to ensure every single piece of our platform was accomplished,” Kheireddine said. “I want to walk away knowing that the entirety of our student population felt represented, they felt honored, they felt as though we truly reached out and truly cared about every single one of their opinions.”
Soscia took the chance to discuss a topic that he said probably wouldn't come up again, which is sexual assault on campus.
“We have students who have to sit in the same classroom as their aggressor. That's a terrible thing,” he said. “During my first week in office, I'm going to talk to administration. I'm going to make sure that issues like this get the funding that they need … make sure that we are protecting our students. That's the most important thing. And if administration won't listen, then as a president of over 40,000 students, I will have Channel 13 News out here every single day until this issue is resolved. There will be change here. The students will be heard.”
The second debate will be held Wednesday and feature both members of each ticket. It will be in the MSC Ballroom and start at 7 p.m.