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.
Sammy Hamed, a junior majoring in political science with a minor in criminology, said he is running for student body president because of his belief in government’s ability to make a difference.
“I’ve looked up to the position of student body president since I was a freshman,” he said. “Even if I didn’t agree with who was in office, I still respect the position because of the impression it makes on USF as a community.”
Hamed stepped down from his previous position in Student Government (SG) as Chief Justice to run for election. He said his experience working outside the executive and legislative branches gives him a deeper understanding of how the process works.
Though he said all three branches are equal when working together, the presidential office has a broader impact on students when working with university administration.
“(The student body president) can directly affect the decisions that are made that impact the student body,” he said. “They are a lot more respected in terms of their decisions and their opinions.”
Since joining SG three years ago, Hamed said he’s been working to earn that influence by becoming one of a pro-active justice. He joined many committees, such as the Ethics and Integrity Council.
“Even though my role by nature is reactive, speaking up only when there’s controversy,” he said. “I’ve really tried my best to engulf myself in everything Student Government related.”
In his time in SG, Hamed also said he increased communication with the student governments on USF’s Sarasota and St. Pete campuses and helped them improve their organization.
If elected to student body president, Hamed said he’d ensure that all SG branches move forward in lock step.
“Every once in a while, there’s drama that goes on in Student Government where we tend to get lost in a couple weeks of conflict,” he said. “Things could have gotten passed a little quicker, and that’s something I want to avoid.”
Parking is also a key issue. To improve the situation, Hamed said he would use his history as the liaison in the appeals process with Parking and Transportation Services.
“I’m not going to sit here and promise parking garages for everybody,” he said. “But I am going to promise that I’m going to work with that department better than past presidents have.”
Hamed said he would build off of the groundwork laid by current student body president Jean Cocco in forming connections between SG and university departments, as well as the Tampa community.
“I can step in that position and feed off of that,” Hamed said. “I can do a better job than Cocco based on my communication skills.”
However, Hamed said he wouldn’t forget to pay attention to the students.
“Student Government is on the fourth floor and we expect everyone to come to us,” he said. “The truth is we have to get out of the office and go to the students … it could be as simple as having office hours outside in MLK lawn.”
Even when not wearing a suit, Hamed said his true passion is politics and policy. He hopes his experiences in SG and on USF’s Mock Trial team will help prepare him for a career in public service.
“My love for politics came from knowing the positive impact it can have,” he said. “I know the negative stigma it has, but behind all that, politics affects every sector of everyone’s life.”
When affecting the lives of students, Hamed said decision-making skills would set him apart as a strong student body president, even if he made a decision some disagree with.
However, Hamed said this doesn’t mean he would make decisions without hearing the advice of his cabinet or other branches.
“You’re not doing it alone,” he said. “When all the branches come together, so much more gets done.”