The race for student body president proves to be more competitive this year. With USF facing a possible $31-million budget reduction, the stakes are high for those competing to be the next student voice on the Board of Trustees.
Issues that candidates want to address include the Bright Futures scholarship program, the Phyllis P. Marshall Center renovations and the accessibility of Student Government.
One issue on candidates’ minds is the Marshall Center expansion plan. The project, which would break ground in 2004, is estimated to cost about $29 million for the first phase. An estimated $1.50 per-credit-hour increase and a $20 flat fee are expected to begin in August to pay for renovations. The fee proposal would partially rest on the next student body president because the BOT must vote to approve any fee or tuition increase.
Here is a look at the candidates (in alphabetical order) and their platforms:
Mike Berman, a senior majoring in finance, and Ronda Bostick for vice president:
As president of the SG Senate, Mike Berman has been involved with such issues such as the Marshall Center expansion plans and the fight to keep the Bright Futures scholarship funds alive.
“We’re going to continue to call the legislature and talk to them one on one to let them know what our purpose is,” Berman said. “If they change Bright Futures, there are a lot of students who might not go to school.”
Berman said it is natural for tuition to increase, but he said USF has to make sure if there are increases, services improve as well. He said a 12.5 percent tuition increase is not reasonable.
“We want to make sure if they are going to raise tuition rates that students see more benefits from it, and the increase needs to be done in a reasonable matter,” Berman said.
When it comes to making Student Government more accessible to students, Berman said he and Bostick will have an open-door office policy.
“If Ronda and I are elected, we would have a specific period of time where we would be in our office to talk to students about the specific issues they need help in,” Berman said.
Regarding the Marshall Center expansion, Berman said USF is in desperate need of a better student union.
“The Marshall Center is too small for our needs. Students not only come to school to study but to experience the campus environment,” Berman said.
Bijal Chhadva, a sophomore majoring in computer engineering, and Candice Wild for vice president:
Chhadva said he is against recommending the two fees for the Marshall Center improvements because they would be a burden to some students, but said renovations would help USF attract more students to the university.
“The problem with renovating the Marshall Center is that the project might consume a lot of money,” Chhadva said.
When it comes to Bright Futures, Chhadva said creating more need-based scholarships is not necessarily fair because there are some students with good grades who may not qualify because their parents’ income is high.
Chhadva said an increase in tuition is going to affect many students who are barely managing to pay tuition and could cause some students to drop out if they can’t afford such expenses.
“With less than 10 percent of the student population voting for Student Government last year, we can see the lack of knowledge from the rest of the students when it comes to elections, whom they want to represent them, and the issues that are at hand,” Chhadva said.
Chhadva, along with his running mate, freshman Candice Wild, plans to implement an electronic daily newsletter.
“This announcement would inform USF students of what is going on campus to make the whole student population more aware of the issues,” Chhadva said.
Omar Khan, a senior majoring in political science, and Ryan Morris for vice president:
“Right now, the Bright Futures funds are certainly under attack because of the budget cut,” Morris said.
Khan, along with Morris, has been in contact with education commissioners throughout the state to raise awareness among high school students and their parents.
“Even though their class size is being reduced, it would be something they would have to pay for later if the Bright Futures funds are messed with,” Morris said.
Khan and Morris said they would support a tuition increase to protect the university’s degree programs.
“We don’t want to see degree programs drop, or their budgets, because when that happens, students transfer to another school,” Morris said. “The 12.5-percent increase is going to affect mostly those students that pay college out of their own pockets.”
When it comes to Marshall Center renovations, Khan and Morris are in support of the project.
“We feel the benefits that it would bring the university are worth the money,” Morris said. “The Marshall Center, as of right now, is too small to effectively accommodate the number of students we have here on the Tampa campus.”
Khan and Morris said most students are not aware of what is going on in Student Government.
“We want to get out there to the students and motivate them to get more people involved, starting with orientation,” Morris said.
R. Chase Razabdovski, a sophomore majoring in business management, and Jorge Rodriguez for vice president:
Razabdovski said he supports the renovation and promotion of the Marshall Center, but not at such a high cost to students.
“We believe that there should be other sources of revenue to increase the student union area,” Razabdovski said.
USF could face a $31-million budget reduction while the Bright Futures scholarship program may adopt strict requirements for new recipients.
“I would support the continuation, at any cost to the state of Florida or the university, of the Bright Futures Program because of its chance to improve students’ lives through education,” Razabdovski said.
When it comes to the 12.5-percent tuition increase proposal, Razabdovski said he would not support any tuition increase that is unjustified. However, Razabdovski, along with his running mate, Jorge Rodriguez, said they understand inflation usually requires an increase.
Razabdovski said they plan to make Student Government more accessible to students through different programs, such as the growth of Greek life and a better unification of different clubs and organizations at the university.
“USF’s biggest concern should be to unify the student body by improving school spirit, to keep better communication with student government, and getting people out to the community and getting the community onto the campus,” Razabdovski said. “Getting students and the community better involved with each other would help students find jobs closer to school.”