Candidates face off in first presidential debate

As the current Student Government (SG) administration prepares to step down at the end this semester, presidential candidates offered their critiques of President Cesar Hernandez’s tenure during their first debate Thursday night.

During the debate, which was moderated and broadcasted on air and online by Bulls Radio, candidates were asked to give their opinions on how well SG currently utilizes on-campus resources.

Melissa Leddy, a junior majoring in marketing and finance, said during the debate that SG should focus more on creating a relationship with students.

“Everyone knows about (SG) because we have a really great marketing program here,” she said. “Some things that we need to better utilize is, although students are aware of our (SG), they don’t necessarily know more in depth, like the details: where the money is being spent, what different programs we’re starting to push up here.”

She suggested using Facebook to connect with students and gauge their opinion through polls.

“That’s one of the most popular media outlets,” Leddy said. “Students are constantly on Facebook.”

Jason Funes, a senior majoring in biomedical sciences and philosophy, said SG should focus on funding parts of campus that help students with their academic pursuits.

“I’m very passionate to the tutoring centers and the writing centers,” he said during the debate. “Those are intricate and vital entities that explicitly handle student academic needs, in which I feel in this point in time are being underfunded, have limited resources and this is an integral part of what we need to promote student success. Institutions like the Library being able to stay open for longer on multiple floors is a big issue.”

He said using Blackboard to post main events and issues would help SG communicate with students.

“When (students) immediately log on they can have that information accessible,” he said.

Matthew Diaz, a senior majoring in philosophy and political science, said there are many resources that students are not aware of – and it’s SG’s job to educate them.

“I absolutely recognize that there are under used resources here,” he said. “There’s a ton of them that (SG) and the University have not gone out, educated the student body.”

He said the Bull Runner tracking system should be advertised more.

“That’s something that (SG) got last year and that a lot of students may not know (about),” he said. “They can track the Bull Runner and know exactly when their bus is going to be at their stop and know how full it is. There are also sustainable options that students don’t know about like carpooling – that if you sign up for it you get a special tag where you can park up near buildings.”

Jason Prado, a junior majoring in business management, said students should also know about the Guardian911 system, which tracks registered students when they cross campus at night, contacting the police if it takes them longer than usual to reach their destination.

“Late at night when (students are) walking on campus there’s not good lighting in certain locations and sometimes the blue lights that you see on campus that are permanent may not be in good locations they may be further away,” he said. “So that … blue light system that we implemented and isn’t really talked about enough is really important for campus safety.”

Candidates were also given an opportunity to discuss their respective platforms.

Prado said he is focused on traditions and sustainability at USF.

“When new buildings are built (on campus), we need to have green aspects and green elements in those buildings,” he said.

Diaz said he is focused on improving student life with “Total Bull Movement (TBM)” – his campaign slogan.

“TBM is an effort to unite the student body and empower our students so that we are able to enhance student life on campus, and enhance the traditions here,” Diaz said during the debate. “We came here to have the best four to five years of our lives – or however long it takes to finish college. It’s those traditions and those experiences that you’re going to remember for the rest of your life.”

Funes said he’s not sure if the University’s focus is “directly on our student body,” and said he was “borderline appalled” by USF’s 48 percent graduation rate and 21 percent four-year graduation rate.

“My emphasis is to make sure you (students) have the resources to succeed in the classroom,” he said. “All of you are here to go to school.We want to enjoy our time here. But at the same time the student body president is to be on your side … as a member of the Board of Trustees (your job) is to represent 46,000 students.”

Leddy said part of her platform includes accommodating residents.

“We used to be a commuter campus and recently we made it a requirement that freshmen live on campus their first semester here,” she said. “What we need is to extend Marshall Student Center hours, extend the dining hours and extend Bull Runner hours.”

All presidential candidates will participate in a final debate, which will include vice presidential candidates, on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Marshall Student Center Oval Theater.

– Additional reporting by Alissa Jones