Juniors Alexis Roberson and Kiara Brooks are hoping to “FIGHT for the future” of USF Tampa campus students by advocating for an inclusive campus for all during their campaign to be the next Tampa governor and lieutenant governor, respectively.
The FIGHT for the Future platform is founded on the idea that the university is undergoing a “transformative” period because of the pandemic, consolidation and racial justice movements, and the pair want to make sure students are supported and assisted by Student Government (SG) throughout it. Their campaign stems from the duo’s work in their current roles advocating for diversity and inclusion throughout the university.
Roberson serves as the assistant director for diversity and wellness in SG as well as the internal vice president for the USF chapter of the NAACP. Brooks is the vice president of the Black Student Union (BSU) and the presiding officer for the Coalition of Black Organizational Leaders (COBOL). The pair met in meetings between the BSU and SG, according to Roberson.
“I have been a part of a lot of action-oriented and progressive conversations that have made me proud to be a Bull,” Roberson said. “I’ve seen the impact that student-specific initiatives have had on our student body and I am ready to take on the role of governor to continue those conversations and implementations.”
Some of their campaign revolves around moving “forward” as a university, which is what the “F” in FIGHT stands for. Within this overarching idea of moving forward, the duo has outlined two concrete initiatives. The first is a collaboration with COBOL and would allow SG to send representatives from the university out into local middle and high schools to show that USF has a diverse population and encourage students to attend, according to Roberson.
“Administration has identified that our Black student enrollment has dropped 6% this semester, and they are looking [for] ways to identify how the university is possibly exclusive and how we can get in touch with these middle schoolers and high schoolers and make them feel like the university is a welcoming and inclusive environment for them,” she said. “I think having that accurate representation of what the student body looks like, sounds like and operates like will be an amazing thing.”
Another initiative falling under the “forward” category is finding alternatives to textbook costs. Roberson said they will attempt to collaborate with professors to see if some textbooks can be made into open resources while also speaking with administration to find ways to offset costs.
“We were sitting down one day and just thinking about what students complain about at school, and I am a STEM major and also a psychology major so that’s a lot of textbooks to buy and a lot of access codes for hundreds of dollars to use,” Brooks said.
The duo agreed that students are fiscally burdened with tuition as well as room and board, and because of that, they hope SG and the university will attempt to lessen textbook costs.
A large portion of the candidate’s platform focuses on increasing inclusivity on campus, which is what the “I” in FIGHT stands for. Roberson said the pair wants to make sure students of any background or ethnicity are represented and heard on campus.
To do this, the candidates came up with two initiatives which they hope to implement quickly if they are elected, including the “Non-Traditional Students Week” to celebrate students with disabilities, veterans, transfers and international students through a series of lectures, roundtables and performances, according to Roberson.
“We want to take this time to really commend our non-traditional students for their work at the university and their leadership at the university,” she said. “We acknowledge that their experience has been difficult, and we will ensure that resources are in their path to make their experience better.”
Another facet of the inclusivity initiative is the implementation of a program the pair is calling, “A Seat at the Table.” Roberson said this program is intended to be a monthly social justice lecture series used to promote educational and progressive conversations with students, faculty and community members.
“We really want to have action-oriented conversations with our students and identify the experiences that we have on campus and ensure that we are a collective community and we’re discussing the hardships that our students experience,” she said.
Roberson and Brooks also want to focus on the “G” in their platform — “growing” mental health resources on campus. The candidates want to create a mental health wellness tracker that directly mimics the COVID-19 Symptom Tracker currently in use by the university. The tracker would ensure that students are taking the time each day to take stock of their mental health, according to Brooks.
Brooks said that she is aware of how long it can take to get an appointment with counselors, and she hopes this tracker will allow students to consider their mental health before they realize they are in need of a counselor.
“With this mental health tracker, we can evaluate our mindset on a weekly basis, see how hard it was and what we can do to make this next week better,” Brooks said. “It will really teach students to take care of themselves in a way that I feel like our society and the people around us can’t necessarily teach us.”
One of the initiatives the pair is most passionate about falls under the “health” category, the “H” in the platform’s acronym. They hope to work with the university to develop a meal swipe donation system. If a student does not use all of their food swipes during the semester, the remaining swipes would be donated to a bank, and the bank would then disperse the donated swipes to students who are identified as food insecure, according to Roberson.
Within the “H,” Roberson and Brooks also hope to extend the current distribution of feminine hygiene products to include menstrual cups and condoms. Brooks said an initiative like this will create a healthier university community.
“I can’t speak for everyone, but growing up I experienced abstinence-based sexual education, and as college students it’s just not realistic, we are adults and we can admit that people are sexually active out there,” she said. “The university should be able to provide students with opportunities to continue to be safe, because it will just promote overall safety and better hygiene in our community.”
The final tenet of their platform is “T” for transformation. Initiatives under this category would take existing programs at USF and extend or improve them. One such transformation would be an expansion of Diversity Week, a celebration of diversity across campuses that has been planned by SG and the Diversity Council. Roberson wants to include the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion in future years as a way to reach more students.
Brooks and Roberson also want to facilitate “Unconquera-BULL,” a partnership with the Center for Victims Advocacy and Violence Prevention for restorative justice for Black student survivors of sexual violence. Brooks said this initiative largely stems from the survivors who came forward during the summer.
“The initiative is identifying ways that administration, the Center for Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention and especially SG can better assist them,” she said. “It’s to right the wrongs that have occurred during this time and assist victims and ensure that they know we legitimize their experience, we identify their hardship and we will do whatever we need to right the wrongs.”
Tha pair said their experience pushing for things like Diversity Week and rights for Black students are going to help them in their roles as governor and lieutenant governor if elected.
“Alexis and I have been advocating for students for a while,” Brooks said. “We’ve been a part of the conversations with the administration, and we’ve been able to hold them accountable and ensure that things are getting done.
“[Becoming governor and lieutenant governor] would simply be a continuation of what we do now, we would just expand it to the entire student body so we wouldn’t just be diversity inclusion, or the Black Student Union, we will be working for everyone.”
Both Brooks and Roberson feel their initiatives will create spaces for forward-thinking conversations and solutions to inadequacies in the university. Brooks said her strategic mindset pairs well with Roberson’s action-oriented nature.
“I feel like [Roberson] and I can accomplish anything we set out to do, and it is very motivating to know that I have her by my side,” she said. “It’s very motivating to know that we can use different experiences to come together and fight in the same way.”
Roberson said the students will always be their priority in all the decisions they make if elected.
“We’re fighting for the future, we will fight for the student body, we will advocate for the student body, we will stand with the student body,” she said. “We as students embody the same experience as they do on a day-to-day basis, and we want to legitimize that experience and ensure that the administration for our university is doing the same.”