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Gabby Cruz looks to become first female student body president in 20 years

Prior to the start of their campaign, Gabby Cruz and Scott Tavlin sought advice from the last female student body president, Jessica Muroff. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/CAMPAIGN PHOTO

Many students are sporting pink T-shirts around campus since student body president and vice president candidates, Gabby Cruz and Scott Tavlin, began campaigning.

It has been 20 years since a woman has filled the role of student body president at USF. Jessica Muroff, the last such woman, lent her expertise to Cruz and Tavlin’s campaign.

“It’s been 20 years, exactly to this year, 20 years since Jessica Muroff was elected as student body president,” Cruz said. “And she went on to be the CEO of Girl Scouts of West Central Florida. Scott and I actually sat down with her and she’s in full support.”

Muroff mainly aided Cruz and Tavlin by giving them advice on how to fundraise and market themselves.

“Jessica had been very vocal about the fact that, you know, she really, really wanted to support another female candidate,” Cruz said. “She’s an (alumna) ambassador and so that was like the mutual connection as well.

“So I reached out to her and we set up a meeting, and Scott and I and Jessica sat down and we had like a really great conversation. And so we kind of went over the platform a little bit, but she was more about the why. She wanted to know what inspired us to do this and what our game plan was and all that kind of stuff.”

According to Cruz, she has a unique perspective of USF as a woman that men could just never understand.

“You know no matter how hard men try, no matter how open-minded, progressive — all those things, at the end of the day — there are perspectives that you and I have experienced that they have not,” Cruz said. “And it’s been 20 years since a person with those experiences sat at that seat.”

The platforms of both Cruz and Tavlin’s and Moneer Kheireddine and Shaquille Kent’s campaigns are similar in their core values, but Cruz said that as a candidate, she's different.

“People will probably say that, OK, like they may be tackling the same things maybe in little bit different manners and things like that,” Cruz said. “And that’s totally fair. So, I think honestly the better question for me right now is like, what really differentiates me as a candidate.

“For me, I’m the kind of person I am not afraid of having a difficult conversation. I welcome those, and I think that sometimes people are being underserved because of people’s lack of wanting to have those difficult conversations. That’s not who I am as a person.”

Cruz said she was friends with Kheireddine and Kent and was involved in many of the same student organizations as them. She was even a supporter of theirs when they ran for student body president and vice president last year.

“I sat them (Kheireddine and Kent) both down and I said, this is what I want to do and they were transparent with me in their desire to re-run. And I said, awesome,” Cruz said. “From the get-go we are clear, we are transparent and we’re communicating. Like that – just because that line of communication exist is already enough to show me that, you know, no matter what happens, we’re good.”

According to Cruz, having a drama-free election, unlike last year, is one of her biggest goals.

“At the end of the day, no matter what, the other tickets, especially when they’re close, close friends of mine, we serve in different organizations together, we’ve been friends for years, we’ve been on teams together,” Cruz said. “You name it, we’ve done it together. And so, honestly, I think that by far my respect for them and my true desire is to have a clean and like positive election.”

Cruz said she would describe this election process as a journey laden with passion, which is what keeps her going.

“This is a journey,” Cruz said. “This is a marathon. And that I believe in doing everything if I’m passionate about it because when it’s hard, when it’s difficult, when I’m tired, the only thing that’s going to fuel me is that passion.”

The ticket debate will be held in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom tonight at 6 and voting starts Monday.