It’s that time of year again.
Dozens of screaming supporters crowded into the Marshall Student Center (MSC) Ballroom to watch the student body presidential debate, which featured three candidates.
Candidates Chris Griffin, Nicole Hudson and Michael Malanga spoke for nearly two hours about their platforms and hopes as president for the upcoming school year.
The debate, moderated by MSC Director Sujit Chemburkar, featured questions submitted by students ranging from concerns that Student Government isn’t accurately representing the student body to how the candidate will fulfill the promises made during their campaign.
In order to better represent the student body, Malanga’s ticket wants to take leaders from across campus with diverse backgrounds and experiences to make an advisory council.
“Often times, I think that it’s not that we don’t have solutions to problems or that we don’t want to solve problems,” Malanga said. “It’s that we don’t know the problem exists because we don’t understand them personally … We want to create an (SG) diversity council.”
Griffin called on his current supporters to show the diverse group already supporting his ticket. However, he also said SG needs to be at all events on campus in order to be there for the students.
“Our team needs to be a diverse group of students,” Griffin said. “If you take a look at the audience, you will see a diverse set of students wearing salmon(-colored T-shirts).”
Hudson’s response focused on the notion of petitions and making it easier for students to create petitions as a way to get SG to look at issues they’re concerned about.
“The American government has this website, petitions.whitehouse.gov,” she said. “At this website, you can make a petition, sign a petition and if the petition gets enough signatures then the president has to address this petition.”
Her comment sparked a response from both of the other tickets with Malanga jumping in with support, saying that it’s on his platform as well. He then questioned Griffin about why his running partner, Alec Waid, came out against a petition system at the vice presidential debate.
“We’re not against a petition system,” Griffin said. “… If you go up to the SG offices, you’ll see a box. That’s a box where average students can put in any concerns that they have.”
Each candidate was also asked a series of questions regarding their platform; what will be most challenging, what comes first and the concern that their platform won’t be followed through with. Their answers varied in several ways.
“The platform issue that I want to discuss is creating a (SG) diversity council,” Malanga said. “But the difficulty isn’t in creating a council … The difficulty is in noticing that students feel represented by (SG). We do have a problem that students don’t feel like (SG) represents them. What we need to do is do a better job at listening and actually hearing the concerns they have so we can address them.”
Griffin’s largest concern when it came to completing the tasks on his ticket’s platform focuses around academics, as it is not in SG’s power to administer such changes alone.
“The most difficult thing on our platform is academics in creating an online syllabus bank,” he said. “This is difficult because it’s not something that (SG) can mandate but it’s something that our students need.”
Hudson, once again, turned to changes she hopes to make in SG, which has remained her primary campaign focus.
“I think that the hardest part of our platform is going to be fighting corruption,” Hudson said. “Everybody who is getting a little larger slice of the pie than they necessarily deserve, wants to keep it … I just think that in order to accomplish this task, we’re going to have to be open with everybody. We’re going to have to work with every member of (SG) and the administration to do the same.”
Besides accomplishing the most difficult of their campaign promises, each candidate also discussed what will be his or her first step, upon entering office, to make their ticket’s platform happen.
“The very first meeting we’re going to have, we’re going to sit down and create a position: the Sustainability Officer. That’s something we’re going to do before we get to office,” Malanga said. “But as soon as we get to office, we’re going to focus on … working with the administration to make sure that they understand our priority is wellness on campus.”
Griffin focused on the community aspect of their campaign, which works on bringing USF into the Tampa Bay community and bringing the community to USF.
“We really want focus on hitting the ground running for when students come back to school … The first thing that we really need to work on is that ticket center that we want to power.” Griffin said. “Our ticket center is going to offer discounted tickets to all of our students to any major attractive that are happening in the area … we know a lot of our students are going to those events over the summer.”
However, Hudson wants to look into the inner workings of SG first for improving transparency between SG and the student body.
“One of the first priorities of my administration is going to be to decrease my own salary,” Hudson said. “I recently discovered that the USF (SG) President actually makes more than most other SG president in the state of Florida. I don’t think that’s fair to all the students paying tuition and aren’t really getting that money back.
“Another thing that I really want to implement is something about truthful campaigning … what I realize, campaigning candidates are required to be truthful to (SG), but there’s no process about them being truthful to the students.”
All three candidates also spoke of the relationship between SG and the student body and the concern that students don’t understand what SG does — that there’s no way to know if an elected president follows through on the promises made during campaigning.
“You’re right, we don’t do a good enough job of explaining what we’re doing here at (SG),” Malanga said. “What I’m really proud of and I know Andy is really proud of is that we sit in our office every day and check off things on our platform that we promised students.
“We treat it as a report card … the way I’m going to do it is by going off my past experience of treating it like a report card and day after day being focused on upholding and continuing to uphold our promise with the students.”
Hudson put the power in the hands of the students, supporting the idea that if she’s not following through on her promises, she doesn’t deserve the position of president.
“How do I intend to actually follow through on my promises? I intend to follow through on them,” Hudson said. “I’m happy to sign a contract. This contract could contain things like ‘do so and so’ or ‘complete such and such’ in certain amount of time. The president can be forced to resign if they don’t follow through on this or there isn’t a good reason why not.”
Griffin’s response focused on the attainability of each platform component. He claimed that he and his running mate researched every point.
“I think the biggest thing there is the research and time Alec and I put into our platform,” Griffin said. “Everything from our platform has been researched and proved to be attainable, in that another university has already completed it.
“Another university president has run on that platform and they’ve done it so we can do it too … Furthermore, if I ran on a platform where I only got four things done in a year, that would be embarrassing … We’ve put a lot on our plate and I plan on getting a lot done.”
The full debate can be viewed on the Oracle’s YouTube channel. Voting starts on Monday and runs through Thursday.