Presidential ticket Jessica Asunsion, along with running mate Tony Caldwell, went head-to-head with opponents Barclay Harless and running mate Garin Flowers Wednesday night in the first of three debates, where a variety of topics including parking and housing increases, as well as campus safety, were discussed.
The Residence Hall Association (RHA) hosted the debate.
Moderator and Supervisor of Elections, Devin Lee, allowed the RHA three questions to start the debate and then opened the floor to questions from the gallery. The RHA got the ball rolling by asking about the “commuter” label USF has as well as the housing and parking rate increases.
Caldwell said his ticket fully supports the housing increase because they feel the money will enhance student life on campus.
“We support it because we do want people to get more for their money,” he said. “The more money that comes into the school, the more students get back.”
Harless said that he lives on campus and felt more student input could’ve prevented such a high increase.
“What we would’ve liked is for students to be able to vote for it,” Harless said. “This is not a small increase. I sympathize with the students.”
When it came to parking rate increases, neither ticket said they had an easy answer to the problem.
“We’re trying to find a happy medium,” Harless said. “Those that are paying for the garages are not seeing results. Why are we building in anticipation (of a future parking problem) when there is already a need?”
The Asunsion/Caldwell ticket took another approach, calling the increase and subsequent parking issues a “necessary pain.”
“We probably sell more permits than we should,” Caldwell said. “It is a pain, but it’s something we have to deal with. Unfortunately parking and traffic will always be a problem at USF.”
The tickets had different solutions to questions posed about increasing safety on campus.
The Asunsion/Caldwell ticket said it wants to work on the blue light system, while the Harless/ Flowers ticket talked about expanding the police force.
“USF has one of the lowest student-to-officer ratios in the state,” Harless said. “I don’t want to buy cameras or blue lights, I want to buy police officers.”
Throughout the night, the room filled with supporters of both tickets and a sprinkling of others including student body President Frank Harrison who said he is supporting the Harless/Flowers ticket.
“I’ve worked very closely with Barclay, I’ve also worked very closely with Jess when we were in senate together and last year with the Greek Week concert and I’ve seen her leadership in other areas and I’ve seen Barclay’s leadership in other areas of campus,” Harrison said. “Even if you believe they are the on the same level in leadership ability, the same level in leadership aptitudes – what is fundamental to your success as a student body president is the institutional knowledge of Student Government that you can not obtain unless you serve in an executive leadership position, such as senate president.”
The second debate will be held in conjunction with the Black Student Union tonight in Room 132 of the Phyllis P. Marshall Center at 5 p.m.