The six tickets running for student body president and vice president met in a question-and-answer session Wednesday to introduce their platforms.
The ticket of presidential and vice presidential candidates Mike Mincberg and Christi Clements began by outlining for the 50 people in attendance a platform based around inclusion of a wider variety of students in the Student Government process. Clements said she wants to see USF’s reputation expand from being one of the nation’s largest universities to being one of its most successful. To do that, she said leaders from all student organizations need to become involved in SG to ensure there is a foundation looking out for the student body’s best interests. Mincberg proposed a council comprised of presidents from every student organization on campus to provide a forum addressing all students’ concerns.
Next, incumbent Omar Khan and vice presidential candidate Chris Jackson spoke about a campaign they said was divided into three categories: advocacy, leadership and representation. Khan, the duo said, has proven himself while in office in all three fields. His opposition to a proposal to bring standardized testing to Florida universities, Khan said, displayed his willingness to take a stand on difficult issues. The ticket also boasted drawing the highest voter turnout in election history last year, as 6.5 percent of students went to the polls. Jackson also addressed an SG senate he said was oversaturated. The senate seats 64 students, but Jackson asked “Why not cut that down to about 30 seats, and really get the cream of the crop as far as what students are there serving?”
Esque Dollar and Tameka Bradley described a platform they called “Back to the Basics,” saying SG has to lay a solid foundation to work from before making elaborate plans for the university’s future. Dollar said the current SG “doesn’t let the student body know what they are doing.” Dollar, proposing an idea other candidates mentioned several times during the evening, said SG should make better use of its advertising in The Oracle, including inserting a newsletter in the paper to better reach students. Dollar, the president of USF’s Black Student Union, said he would fight for minority students and would push for more minority faculty members at USF.
Bijal Chhadva and Andrew Aubrey laid out a plan based around lobbying to create equal funding for all of Florida’s 11 state universities. Chhadva said there is no viable reason for USF to continue to fall behind the University of Florida and Florida State University in state funding, and additional money could be used to create research opportunities for all undergraduate degree programs. The duo also expressed a desire to eliminate stereotypes on campus and said they would like to bring the entire student body closer together by gathering more input from all student organizations.
Presidential candidate Ricky Arias was not present at the debate in Cooper Hall. His running mate, Matt Camarco, said Arias was not told of the session until hours before it began. Camarco said he could not speak for Arias, but talked about his plans to provide better halls for students living on campus. Camarco also described a need for big changes in SG, saying it is important for new people to be brought in to eliminate the political problems that have plagued SG in the past.
The final speakers, presidential candidate Brandon Faza and vice presidential candidate J.P. Murphy, showed up 30 minutes late for the session, delaying the start time. Once there, they said their campaign was one of school pride and student outreach. Faza said SG needs to make an effort to increase awareness of its activities and get a wider variety of students involved, and stressed the importance of professionalism and integrity among SG officers as representatives to the faculty and administration.
All candidates were allowed a two-minute opening speech, followed by questions from the audience and then a 90-second closing statement. All the candidates used their closing remarks to tell students to make their voices heard by making educated votes on April 7-8.