At the final debate leading up to the Student Body Presidential Elections, some candidates were left speechless.
With voting beginning Monday, the presidential candidates and their running mates gathered at the Marshall Student Center Oval Theatre before 124 audience members Wednesday night for the final debate of the election before polls close Feb. 24, said Andrew Uhlir, supervisor of elections.
Current student body Vice President Spencer Montgomery moderated the event, and asked the candidates questions that tested their knowledge of topics spanning the inner workings of Student Government (SG) and the Board of Trustees, of which the next student body president will be a member.
Candidates had 30 seconds to respond to individual questions. However, some proved difficult to answer.
Jason Prado, a junior majoring in business management, knew that the salary of a student body president is $10.25 per hour – a little more than $22,000 per year – but was unsure about the workings of the Florida Students Association (FSA).
“I don’t know exactly what that entails,” Prado said.
FSA is a collection of eleven Florida universities, which advocates for state college students, said candidate Matt Diaz, a senior majoring in philosophy and political science.
However, Diaz, who was chairman on the Activity and Service Recommendation Committee (ASRC) in 2010, did not know how much the Activity & Service flat fee was.
“That flat fee is foreign to me,” he said.
Montgomery said the flat fee, which all students are required to pay with enrollment, is $7.00.
Melissa Leddy, a junior majoring in marketing and finance, said there were three seats on the ASRC, but there are five.
“There’s three main people (who have) guaranteed seats,” she said when asked about the question.
According to Montgomery, there are eight voting members and two alternate members.
Jason Funes, a biomedical sciences major and a philosophy major, did not know the head of the judicial branch, Lynn Kuznitz. He did, however, know the role of the Board of Trustees.
“Their mission is to improve the University in the direction they feel fit,” Funes said. “And being such, the Board not only consists of executive numbers, but also of student representatives.”
The debate was followed by an audience-fueled question-and-answer period.
Student body president Cesar Hernandez asked candidates about how they’d approach an increase in tuition.
“The reality is that Gov. (Rick) Scott cut the (State University) system bill almost $4 billion dollars, and in order for the University to stay afloat, they’re going to increase tuition 15 percent,” Hernandez said. He also said a recommended local fee increase of 15 percent would leave students paying 30 percent more in tuition, and asked how candidates would handle the increase.
Funes said the possibility of an increase means SG needs to be more careful when handling student fees.
“I know Rick Scott is a new governor, and probably wanted to go in there and make some drastic decisions, but I feel that’s even more of a reason for us to unite as a student body … to go to Tallahassee and speak to the actual state Legislature, and voice our opinions on what their decision making is,” Funes said
Diaz said that if he were elected he would take advantage of the FSA’s resources when dealing with budget cuts.
“FSA … is the resource we have to use,” Diaz said. “When we have a governor that’s cutting 4 billion out of our education … that’s the worst thing that we can do … We need to get on buses, we need to go to Tallahassee, and we need to stand in front of the capitol building.”
Prado said he agreed with Diaz.
“What we have to do, like Matt says, is students just have to go up there and voice your concern,” Prado said. “It’s important. If you all don’t want your tuition to go up, you all have to join together. Different organizations have to get together, join up and go to Tallahassee and make your voice heard.”
Leddy agreed that students had to take the issue to Tallahassee.
“Go to Tallahassee and talk to Rick Scott, about this because we are the future of Florida, we are the future of America,” Leddy said. “By cutting our education they’re actually shorting themselves.