Colors of white, red, blue, green and yellow fill up the major pathways of campus. Buttons of the names of the candidates for the student body president and vice president election are clasped on fellow peers to show their support. Candidates travel to student organizations to try to solicit support as well.
With elections beginning next Wednesday and Thursday online, who are the four students running for student body president and vice president, USF’s highest-elected Student Government position? Competing for the job are incumbents Mike Griffin and Dave Mincberg and juniors Joe Nirenberg and Lakia Stewart.
With both tickets steering on opposite directions in some issues, all the candidates agree that the problems of budget cuts, Bright Futures, the vision of the students for their university and parking on campus should be a main focus of SG.
Griffin and Mincberg said their main principles are accountability and communication. Their slogan says, “Continuity breeds results.”
Nirenberg and Stewart said they have three main aspects for their platform: uniting all Bulls, discussing the plus/minus system and promoting academic freedom.
Griffin said the elimination of the Bright Futures scholarship for students in the summer has had an enormous impact at USF, yet students who are seniors and graduating will be funded.
“We lobbied so we could get money for the summer graduating seniors to have,” Griffin said. “Here at USF, we have to do the best we can to serve the students.”
Nirenberg said he realized that approximately $13 million was cut from the Bright Futures fund, but he is worried that the state government might try to cut it again.
“If they do it once, they can do it again,” Nirenberg said. “We want the state to know that we are against the cuts and that we don’t want that.”
During the state legislative session, the Legislature decided that the shortfall of Florida’s budget would impact many areas of education, including the Bright Futures program. According to the Florida Department of Education, funding will not be available for the 2002 summer term, but all eligible students will be funded for fall and spring. In the future, to receive funding, students must be “degree or certificate seeking in an undergraduate program.”
Mincberg said SG was very active this year in the state Legislature and with the Florida Student Association.
“We want to make sure USF gets the forefront on legislative issues, and that is one of the ways we saved Bright Futures for the summer graduating seniors. We need to find ways to deal with problems,” Mincberg said.
Nirenberg said he and Stewart are going to strive to make SG more accessible and visible to the students.
“There are a lot of students who don’t know or don’t care about SG, and we would like to change that,” Nirenberg said. “We want to change that you don’t just have approximately 1,500 students voting for elections on campus, but to get them more involved.”Stewart said she is also disappointed with the number of students who express interest in SG.
“Those numbers are not even 10 percent of the campus,” Stewart said. “That issue alone shows how SG is not reaching the students as it should be. There is always room for change, but there is a desperate need of change if only 1,500 students vote.”
Griffin said, as a marketing major, he feels that SG can be better advertised.
“We need to show the students that SG is here, where we are located,” Griffin said.
Mincberg said not only should the vision be concentrated on the present but also on future USF students.
“We need to make students understand the vision and to make things better than how we found it,” Mincberg said.
Another issue among concerns of the candidates was the parking problem.
Stewart said parking is another main goal for her and Nirenberg because it is such a big issue on campus, but she believes there are faster ways to alleviate the problem than building parking garages that will be finished in five years.
“How will the garage help in five years if the population on campus has doubled?” Stewart said. “Some ideas we have is rearranging the parking lots, having the shuttle buses have more frequent stops on ’10’ and extending the shuttle routes.”
Stewart said the plan of extending the route is already in place but still being worked on, and she wants to make sure the plan is executed.
Griffin said he and Dave would continue to work toward the construction of the new parking garages, as well.
“I have had meetings with Greg Sylvester about constructing a new garage this year,” Griffin said. “It is as simple as that. We are already talking about getting the second one going, as well.”
Griffin said there are a lot more parking spots this year than there was a year ago, especially after Castor Hall opened.
Additional spots were needed because of the opening, and gold staff parking on the south side of the Library was taken away, making it available to commuter students.
Yet, with all the similarities, come differences.
Nirenberg said there are also smaller issues that deal with one aspect of the university and those are issues that they can deal with in office, but it is the larger scale projects like parking and Bright Futures that he and Lakia want to take on.
“‘If you believe it, you can achieve it,’ is one of the aspirations we have for SG,” Nirenberg said. “If the students want something done and voice a concern, we will get it done. We will work for the students.”
Mincberg said he thinks that this year he and Griffin proved they have the ability to follow through with their promises and that there is only so much they could do in a year.
“With our experience, we have the opportunity next year to serve without a learning curve,” Mincberg said. “Without that learning curve, we can better serve SG next year if elected.”
- Contact Stefanie Green at firstname.lastname@example.org