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Candidates talk safety, transparency in debate

Published: Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Updated: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 01:02


Speaking over the crowd of students in the Marshall Student Center’s Beef ‘O’Brady’s, three students met Monday evening to argue their cases for why each should become the next student body president.

As more than 100 students gathered in the noisy restaurant, candidates Brandi Arnold, Jean Cocco and Danish Hasan discussed their campaign points in the first of two debates, this one sponsored by Bulls Radio. 

The less than 45-minute debate focused primarily on issues of safety and transparency at the university, but also included topics of school pride and student involvement.

Cocco, the current chair of the Student Government (SG) University, Community and Government Affairs committee and a senior majoring in political science and international studies, made the case for the importance of increased campus safety based on hearing about nine women who he said reported sexual assaults to the Center for Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention in the past three weeks. 

“That’s not acceptable for us Bulls to allow that to happen,” he said. “And so what I want to do, in terms of safety, is ensure we work with our local, state and federal officials to promote safe awareness on campus — to ensure that our dorms are safe, that out apartments are safe, and our community is safe.”

He suggested implementing this by creating SG safety committees.

Hasan, a staff writer for The Oracle and a freshman majoring in biomedical science, emphasized the need for safety both on and off-campus based on recent crimes taking place in the surrounding area, suggesting action through USF’s SAFE Team.

“Whether it be on campus or at the housing off campus, with all the incidents that have taken place in the recent past, we would like to have a more secure and more safe environment for our students,” Hasan said. 

Another important topic discussed was having more transparency in SG, a topic all the candidates agreed on. Cocco recommended providing students more specifics and accountability for student fees.

“What is a tuition differential,” Cocco said. “What is a green fee? What is a tech fee?  What is it that we’re paying for? We need to be more aware of what it is that we’re paying for, be transparent on how we’re paying for that.”

Hasan reiterated the message by highlighting the purpose of Student Government on campus.

“If there’s transparency and accountability, the students are going to instill their trust back into Student Government,” Hasan said. “If there’s a direct communication between student government — the people in charge — and the students, then events will be catered to what the students want and everything at USF is going to be catered to what the students’ needs are.”

Arnold, executive director of the Campus Traditions Board for the Center for Student Involvement and a junior majoring in business management and communications, stated safety and transparency were going to be main aspects that she will focus on during the campaign.

“One thing that I believe, that I’m really focused on, is truth and honor — what this university is about,” she said. “I’m going to do that through our tradition and that’s going to correlate to our spirit.  Making sure here at the University of South Florida, we’re getting what we pay for, we’re getting the advancements, the opportunities, everything that our tuition is actually going towards and making sure your four or five years here are really memorable.”

In one questions, candidates were asked what they could be added in the university’s ten-year strategic plan. Arnold advocated more coordination with university administration.

“I believe that our ten-year plan really needs to focus on President Genshaft’s ten-year plan,” she said. “I think that we need to be together in working with the administration. One thing that she focuses on, what I truly believe in, is making sure that Tampa’s community is in sync with the USF community, making sure the community is backing us in everything we believe in.” 

To boost student involvement on campus, Cocco mentioned the sense of pride and culture fostered in Gator Country at the University of Florida. He said students need to foster that same sense of unity at USF, a goal he desired to see in the next 10 years.

A football stadium for USF would be nice, he said.

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