Here she returns, Miss South Florida

Discussions of bringing back an age-old USF tradition loomed at a recent Student Government (SG) meeting. With SG presidential candidates primping for this week’s election, another pageant of sorts has been resurrected: The Miss USF Scholarship Pageant.

The Miss USF Pageant will allow young women to compete in a battle of beauty and brains. With the last pageant held in 2003, SG will host Miss USF 2008 in early April, but student body President Garin Flowers said they are still working out the details.

“We are really excited to possibly bring back one of the biggest traditions at USF and making it bigger than before,” Flowers said. “We hope that all of the pieces come together and it (goes) through.” He said SG hasn’t decided what the incentives will be for the women who participate or how much of SG’s funds will go toward the scholarship, but Flowers said SG thinks the idea will promote school spirit. Some of the past Miss USF winners have gone on to become advocates for causes. Former Miss USF Nicole Johnson won the 1999 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City. Johnson, a spokeswoman for diabetes and a diabetic herself, earned $20,000 in scholarship money from the national beauty pageant.

Erin Gardner won the 2002 USF crown and was dubbed an ambassador for USF by the Oracle. She lived up to the standards set forth by the judges – someone to serve as a representative for the University when serving the community. But the idea of traditional beauty pageants can come with many negative feelings toward the depiction of women.

Sara Crawley, director of Women’s Studies, said beauty pageants are problematic because they have always been a way to display the female body, rather than the competence, intelligence, humanity or contribution of the women who participate.

“If USF sponsors a tradition style pageant, the message to both women and men is that women are primarily to be put on display and that beauty is the ultimate reward for women,” she said. “It would be a step backward.”

Flowers said SG hasn’t decided what the women will be judged on or who the judges will be. Jene Sanders, a sophomore majoring in international business, said she’s glad the pageant isn’t just about beauty and offers a chance to contribute as a positive member of society.

“If it was just about beauty and there wasn’t a benefit, then I would say not, but since they’re offering a scholarship, it is a chance to help someone who might need it,” she said.

Other students, including Niraj Jani, a junior majoring in biomedical sciences, expressed similar feelings.

“I wouldn’t mind if they brought it back,” Jani said. “I can understand there’s always that stereotype that comes along with it, but if they’re offering scholarships, that’s a good thing.”