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First SG presidential debate attendance pathetic

A YouTube video on Student Government’s 2009 Student Body Elections home page said, “I’m voting because $11 million is a lot of money.”

According to CNN, more than half of the Americans who went to the polls in November cited the economy as their focal point in selecting a presidential candidate. Not unlike taxes, a significant chunk of tuition money is in the hands of those elected to high office. Most people wouldn’t trust any random Joe with their money, so why is it that the voting populace at USF — which was very active in the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain — insists on remaining uninformed about SG candidates?

SG hosted its first presidential debate Monday at 10 a.m. in Room 2708 of the Marshall Student Center. There were seats for more than 100 — about 20 showed up.

Yes, it was 10 a.m. on a college campus and weekend parties may have kept some students in bed, but was it really too much to ask for 200 of the University’s 40,000 to attend the debate?

There’s only so much one can learn about a candidate from slogans, canvassing and campaign promises. Debate is one of the most thrilling arenas of politics. It requires candidates to think on their feet and often gives voters the truest image of a candidate they can get.

According to a Gallup poll in September, President Barack Obama, who had been tied with Sen. John McCain, shifted the margin eight points in his favor after their first
presidential debate.

The public is indebted to broadcasters for forcing it to watch debates on nearly every channel during election season. The media have allowed an inactive population to be informed about politics and have sparked some very strong emotions about the subject.

That’s the thing about politics — if people simply knew what candidates believe, it’d be hard for them not to have an opinion. Unfortunately for SG presidential candidates, no one is forcing voters to hear their voice.

Our nation is facing one of the toughest economic crises in its history, so it is understandable that Americans are adamant about finding out where their tax dollars are going. SG elections are no less serious.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a single citizen with an income of $24,000 — a realistic salary for a recent graduate — pays, on average, $2,880 a year in taxes. A resident undergraduate student taking 15 credit hours at USF pays $3,916.50 a year in tuition. This means students may be investing more in college annually than  they will pay in taxes after graduation.

The next SG presidential debate will be Feb. 23 in the Marshall Student Center from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. It will be a tragedy if the turnout is as pathetic as it was Monday.

This isn’t high school anymore. The student body president’s greatest responsibility is no longer figuring out where to hold the senior prom. Your elected representatives are in charge of $11 million  — you should probably know who they are.

Matt Ferrara is a freshman majoring in mass communications.