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The next student body president?

Two candidates will step onto the stage of the Marshall Student Center Oval Theater tonight at 7 p.m. to discuss why they deserve to be elected USF student body president. 

The student body president has the power to nominate students to the Student Government (SG)’s judicial branch and nominate students to fill university committee seats. The president may also veto legislation passed by SG Senate. Most importantly, the president is eligible to sit on the university’s Board of Trustees. 

On one ticket is Sammy Hamed, who recently stepped down as SG’s chief justice. He will run alongside former SG Ranking Justice Alexis Sacasas, who also stepped down.

On the other ticket is SG Senate President Andy Rodriguez, along with vice presidential candidate Michael Malanga, the chair of the SG Appropriations and Audits Committee.

The first debate will be moderated. Candidates will also answer student-written questions selected by the Election Rules Committee.

At the time of print, questions could still be submitted online at sg.usf.edu/offices/erc.

Both presidential candidates, along with senatorial candidates, attended a mixer yesterday so USF students could get to know them. Rodriguez and Hamed also sat down with The Oracle to preview their platform before today’s debate. 

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Andy Rodriguez, a senior majoring in chemical engineering with a minor in leadership studies, said he is running for student body president because he thinks his experiences make him best able to represent students to the USF administration.

“Nothing will have as much influence on what students do from day to day than being a part of the Board of Trustees,” he said. “You get to be the students’ voice to the people that make the biggest decisions.”

Rodriguez is actively serving in Student Government (SG) as senate president, a position he said prepared him for the job of student body president over his opponent. 

“I have a good grasp of how things work outside of Student Government,” he said. “Within Student Government, my powers in Senate are much more applicable to student body president.”

Rodriguez served in SG Senate for one year before being elected senate president. In that time, he said he helped the legislative branch become more stable and efficient, something he hopes to bring to the executive. 

“I think I helped the Senate become much more cohesive,” he said. “The relationships that people form in the Senate are much better than last year. I think I’m a proven leader.”

Rodriguez said he has advocated conservative allotment of the legislative branch’s $14.6 million allocation from A&S fees by the Senate. 

If elected to student body president, Rodriguez said he’d promote a student-run foundation, modeled after the USF Foundation, which would raise money from private donations and business sponsors. 

“There’s very minimal student input on how (USF Foundation) money is spent and raised,” he said. “I’d like to create a foundation where the money is raised by students and spent by students.”

Rodriguez also said he would push for reading days, which would prohibit teachers from assigning tests during the last days of the semester before finals’ week. 

After a year of the current administration, Rodriguez said he would do a better job paying attention to the activities of SG than current student body president Jean Cocco.

“Internally, I can do a much better job,” Rodriguez said. “ I want to work from inside-out … I’m going to be there in the executive branch to understand what is happening.”

Rodriguez said he would like to create a position for a person to go around to student organizations to find out how SG can best use its resources to help them.

When representing a large and diverse student population, Rodriguez said he can understand the common concerns of students by drawing from his experience as a resident assistant for housing, a USF ambassador and member of Sigma Phi Epsilon.

“I’ve been involved with a lot of different things on campus,” he said. “I’ve learned about different aspects, which I think will help me in this position.”

When not involved in SG or spending time with his fraternity brothers, Rodriguez said he loves poker, and meets once a week with his friends.

“I’m able to communicate, sit down with people and listen to their ideas,” he said. “I may disagree with people, but at the end of the day, I will hear them out.” 

Those listening skills, he said, will allow him to be an effective student body president, even if he said he considers himself a political outsider who has never been interested in politics outside SG.

“I hate it when people bicker, try to argue or try to weasel their way out of things,” he said. “I’m not here to push a political agenda, I’m here to do what is best for the students.”