What to know about student body presidential canidates

Two weeks of Student Government (SG) presidential campaigning have passed, and there is only one day left to vote. If students haven’t taken time to size up the candidates, now is their last chance.

Four tickets have entered the fray this year, and each offers candidates with distinct experiences and backgrounds. When voting on the next president, it’s important to consider every angle.

Third-year student and presidential candidate Matthew Diaz and his running mate Zachary Johnson enter the race as the frontrunners with what is certainly the most SG experience.

Diaz has served as Senate president pro tempore, as well as the chairman of the Activity and Service Recommendation Committee (ASRC). ASRC is responsible for determining how SG uses every student’s Activity and Service fees.

The experience of running that committee is invaluable during a time when Florida’s education budget is being slashed and USF fees and tuition are being raised. Johnson’s two years of experience as the chief financial officer of the SG executive branch are a valuable asset in that regard as well.

In addition, Diaz is a USF ambassador and a former orientation team leader. That, coupled with Johnson’s membership in the Cuban American Student Association and the Theta Tau Engineering Fraternity, lends credence to his campaign platform, in which he promises to listen and respond to the needs of students.

While Jason Funes hasn’t been quite as deeply involved in the USF campus as Diaz and Johnson, he brings other valuable experience to the table. His diversity is certainly good to have in the mix of the campaign.

A transfer student from Tallahassee Community College, Funes is a licensed EMT and has worked in emergency rooms for a total of five years. He is an officer in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts club and a member of the Philosophy Organization.

He said his experience caring for patients has given him the desire to advocate for the student body. He has also spoken on his desire to raise USF’s four-year graduation rate, which is in the dismal low-20 percent.

Another candidate is Jason Prado, son of USF baseball coach Lelo Prado. He’s been involved with Student Bulls Club, Beef Studs and Bulls Radio, all of which are SG-affiliated programs. Prado said in the first debate that he wants to help USF develop traditions and sustainable practices. He would also like to see increased use of the Guardian 911 system, which tracks registered students when they cross campus at night.

Candidate Melissa Leddy is a member of the Bulls Business Community (BBC) and was also the vice chair of the Honors College’s Volunteer Committee. Her running mate, Christina McLaughlin, is also a member of the BBC and volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hillsborough County.

Leddy said she wants to foster a closer relationship between SG and students, especially through media outlets like Facebook.

When deciding whom to vote for, students should think carefully about the type of experience and involvement they want their president to have. It’s important that the student body president have at least some experience with SG, as he or she will become that organization’s leader. Students should vote for the candidate they feel will best represent and serve the student body.

Vincent DeFrancesco is a junior majoring in mass communicatoins.