Rail-system contest will gather student opinions

About 51 percent of students who voted in the Student Government (SG) presidential elections are in favor of a one-cent sales tax increase that would finance a 45-mile long light rail system near USF.

That statistic caught the attention of the SG Department of Government Affairs (DGA), which decided to hold a contest to raise awareness of the system among USF students.

Contestants are asked to express how they feel the light rail will impact them as an individual, in their field of study, as a student in general, as a Tampa citizen or in any other way, said Brittany Elliot, SG press secretary.

Submissions can be in any form, Elliot said, including videos, essays or a conducted study.

Director of DGA Stefano Portigliatti said he hopes the contest will increase student support for the light rail system, which is projected to start at the intersection of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and Fletcher Avenue by 2018.

“It’s our duty to advocate for the light rail. So, yes, this is educating the students but, additionally, we are lobbying our commissioners, our county commissioners, city commissioners and other city officials for the light rail because we believe it is something that will not only benefit USF but the students,” he said.

The contest will choose three winners. First place will have their piece used in the upcoming county marketing campaign, “Moving Forward Hillsborough,” as well as a $500 textbook voucher. Second place will receive $100 in “Bull Bucks” and third place will get a USF spirit basket containing items donated by the campus bookstore.

The top 10 winners earn the opportunity to present their entries at an awards ceremony, where they can network with Rapid Transit officials and Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, Elliot said.

Prizes are financed by student-paid Activity and Service fees, and entries will be judged on their creativity, ingenuity, design and research quality.

Judges have yet to be chosen. However, Elliot said SG is looking to have a community leader, an administrator and an SG representative on the panel. Students majoring in engineering, public transit and the arts are also prospective judges.

Only students may enter the contest, and entries must be submitted by Friday. Winners will be announced April 27 in the Marshall Student Center Oval Theater at an educational public discussion on the light rail.