Students gathered Wednesday to hear this year’s candidates voice their opinions and campaign platforms at the Student Body Presidential Debate in the Marshall Student Center Oval Theater.
As soon as the cheering from over 150 students died down, the debate got underway.
Questions ranged from professional — how will Student Government (SG) be branded and what will that brand mean? — to personal — why did each candidate choose USF?
Andy Rodriguez, the current Senate president, spoke on his hope to improve safety measures, including an improved SAFE team and more University Police officers.
His opponent, Sammy Hamed, who recently stepped down from his position of SG Chief Justice, emphasized his goal to enhance student growth by connecting them with jobs and internships.
Regarding his motivation for running for president, Hamed cited a desire to open doors for others that were opened for him.
“I’ll be able to facilitate the relationships students need for their future,” he said.
To the same question, Rodriguez said he believes experience, knowledge and patience is why he is the best qualified to serve the student body.
“This university is the greatest thing that ever happened to me,” he said. “I want nothing more than an opportunity to give back.”
The candidates were asked about a single aspect of their campaign that they would act on first.
“The main point is to get your degree, get a job and move on,” Hamed said, adding that he wanted to create an environment where students will want to “give back to USF.”
Hamed also emphasized, though SG isn’t perfect, it is an organization that aims to help students in all aspects of their lives.
When asked how he would like to see SG branded, Rodriguez pointed out that, as he has done within SG, he would like to increase communication between SG and the students. He spoke about a position he hopes to create within SG for a liaison between SG and student organizations to increase awareness that SG is there to help students.
As Senate president, Rodriguez said he helped create a “more cohesive (legislative) branch” and hopes to do the same for the executive branch.
The issue of the candidates’ mutual involvement in Greek life and their potential for relating to non-Greek students were addressed and both candidates agreed that they have presences within Greek life and out of it.
Hamed pointed out that, as of now, he has been Greek for only half of his collegiate career and is involved in many other clubs that have allowed him to get the “best of both worlds.”
“I know the concerns that students have here on campus,” he said. “I’ll be better to advocate for them.”
Rodriguez cited his non-Greek affiliations, such as being a USF ambassador, as to why he is as regular a Bull as any USF student.
“Being Greek doesn’t make me any different,” he said. “I’m a student, too.”
The evening took a turn for the sentimental when the candidates were asked about their greatest inspiration.
Hamed cited his parents and how they overcame adversity to provide for him as his inspiration to achieve his goals.
Rodriguez said his motivation comes from his mother and a desire to make her proud.
Several recent events in the media were addressed, including Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal to cut taxes on textbooks for students.
Hamed reinforced his stance that he wants to do what is best for students by expressing approval of the idea.
“It’s about what’s best for the student body,” he said.
To huge applause from the audience, Rodriguez implied he obviously supported the cut of textbook taxes and called it a “ridiculous question.”
Another recent topic addressed the Title IX investigation surrounding USF. The candidates were expected to describe their plans for advocating and preventing sexual assault at USF and the surrounding area.
Hamed proudly shared that he took the It’s On Us pledge. He said he expects to work with the Center for Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention and the Counseling Center to promote the message that students are responsible for the safety of themselves and everyone around them.
Taking a different approach to the issue, Rodriguez detailed his intention to increase the involvement of the university by increasing offered safety measures such as SAFE team and UP.
After a long series of questions, the candidates were allowed to give short closing speeches.
Rodriguez said his love of USF and his experience in the Senate make him the best candidate.
“The president is a student, a person,” he said. “I’m here to listen to you; I’m here to talk to you; I’m here to help you.”
Hamed re-emphasized his desire to give back, restating his message that his time in the judicial branch and his previous experiences with businesses throughout the Tampa Bay area make him the best candidate for president.
On Feb. 9, there will be a vice presidential debate between Hamed’s running mate, Alexis Sacasas, and Rodriguez’s running mate, Michael Malanga.
Voting starts the morning of Feb. 16. Students can vote online at sg.usf.edu/vote or at polling stations across campus.