Candidates gear up for runoff

They have both served as student government senators. They both have Web sites dividing their platforms into five areas of concern. They both received more than 1,000 votes in the general election, with just 18 votes separating them.

Despite all their similarities, it is the differences between student body presidential candidates Bijal Chhadva and Brandon Faza that will take the forefront this week.

With a runoff election to determine USF’s next student body president just two days away, the two remaining tickets may look to further distinguish themselves from the other. Both candidates think their in-depth platforms give them an advantage.

“I think our platform caters to all students at USF,” Chhadva said. “We are aware of the problems faced by different student groups and have plans to address all student concerns. We want to give all students the attention they should expect from the people who are here to represent them.”

On the other side, Faza said “I think one thing that sets us apart is that if students look at our platform, they’ll see that our platform encompasses most of the other candidates’ platforms. One thing that may set us apart from Bijal is that we are very prepared in the case that we are lucky enough to get elected. That includes having a plan for every item in our platform. I think Bijal is a great candidate and will do a very good job if he wins, but we are trying to appeal to students with our preparedness and careful planning.”

Faza’s Web site divides his platform into five pillars: SG Outreach, Accountability and Communication, the USF Experience and Student Concerns, Academics and Bull Pride. Similarly, Chhadva’s Web site splits his campaign into five areas of concern: Student Services, Parking, Academic Affairs, School Spirit and Student Awareness. In addition, Chhadva wants to lobby the State Legislature for equal funding among Florida’s state universities, a goal he left separate of the five categories.

Both candidates said they have learned from the terms of past presidents, but their approaches are different. Chhadva said he has paid special attention to the successes of past administrations while Faza said it is the mistakes of former SG officers that he and running mate J.P. Murphy have taken note of.

“Some of the things — a lot of the things actually — that a lot of former presidents have done have been very effective,” Chhadva said. “I’ve talked to a lot of past presidents, and I’ve learned from things they’ve done well — things like keeping promises, putting in the work and dedication into the position, and I think it will make a big difference for me in office if I get elected.”

“JP and I have already prepared our executive budget. Last year something (student body president Omar Khan and vice president Ryan Morris) had a little trouble with was creating an executive budget because it is a long and difficult process, and they actually had to ask for an extension from the senate,” Faza said. “That was a mistake anyone could have made, so it’s not an attack on Omar. But we learned from his mistakes and hopefully our first day, if we get elected, will consist of simply turning our budget in to the senate and getting right to work.”

Something Chhadva said he has to offer students that Faza may lack is free time. Chhadva earned 56 credit hours in spring 2003, summer 2003 and fall 2004 terms so that, if elected, he could lower his course load to six credits per semester next year and still graduate.

“I think a lighter course load will make a huge difference if I win,” he said. “Since I’ve already taken a lot of classes, I’ll have more time and dedication. I’m not questioning the commitment of anyone else, it’s just a fact that I won’t need to overload my schedule, which will give me more time to work for the students.”

The candidates also seem to have slightly different views of what the president’s primary responsibility is. Chhadva’s campaign is based around lobbying at the state capitol and fighting for state funding, while Faza stresses creating a responsible, professional image for students among university and state education leaders.

Faza described himself as being personable, an attribute he said is vital to being student body president, and said his demeanor is possibly his greatest strength.

“I am able to be professional, and part of the duties of being student body president is representing students in front of faculty and trustees and representatives. Being professional in that setting is important. I can be funny and can relax when I am being a student; I can be a leader when a job needs to be done,” Faza said.

Chhadva and Andrew Aubery led all tickets in the general election with 1,102 votes, up from the 143 votes Chhadva received in 2003. However, Chhadva doesn’t think either fact will play a major role in the runoff.

“I don’t think having run last year has given me any advantages,” he said. He also said winning the general election didn’t give him an advantage because of the number of voters and because the results were so close.

Both candidates said narrowing the pool of candidates to two does not change campaign strategy.

“I think students who voted for us like our platform and like what we have to offer, so we don’t want to go away from that,” Faza said. “We just hope to go out there and convince even more students.”

The candidates offered similar attributes when asked to describe personality strengths that made each qualified for the presidency.

“An unwillingness to quit, a true passion for the university, great vision for student government, leadership ability, determination and honest desire to help the students, all put together with J.P.’s leadership and experience make us the best team for the job,” Faza said.

Chhadva, on the other hand, kept his response short and simple.

“I never quit; that’s all there is to it. When I say I am going to get a job done, I get it done. Students can trust me,” he said.