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Candidates expand on campaign initiatives at SG presidential debate

The four presidential tickets touched on topics such as strengthening consolidation plans, providing support to international students and enhancing inclusion efforts. ORACLE PHOTOS/ULIANA LEARNED; ORACLE GRAPHIC/JUSTIN SEECHARAN

The student body presidential and vice presidential candidates provided insight on their plans to increase inclusion efforts and improve the overall student experience during Wednesday’s Student Government (SG) debate.

The four tickets in the running for the spring election beginning Feb. 27 include juniors Cesar Esmeraldi and Elizabeth Volmy, seniors Nathan Poinsette and Taeler Bell, freshmen Manik Jindal and Shubhankar Parashar and junior Sebastian Solano and accounting major Jessica Malanga.

The event ran from 6-7 p.m. and was moderated by Editor in Chief of The Oracle Clinton Engelberger. Questions ranged from the candidates’ personal experiences at USF to their plans for supporting students from underserved populations.

If elected, Poinsette would be the first St. Pete representative to serve as SG president. As such, he said one pillar of his ticket’s campaign is ensuring that all students are heard, no matter which of the three campuses they represent.

“We’re going to be hosting a green and gold table talk. It’s going to be a town hall type of event where students can voice their concerns and opinions to USF administrators,” Poinsette said.

“Being a St. Pete student, I can walk up to the dean of students and ask him a question. At Tampa, you might have trouble communicating with the higher-ups.”

Esmeraldi said despite DeSantis’ plans to eliminate funding for diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in Florida’s public universities, he will use the presidency to advocate for inclusion.

“This is something we’re very passionate about, me as an international student and with senate and all the experience we’ve seen,” Esmeraldi said.

“We’ve done our whole platform for diversity and inclusion. Obviously, DeSantis can do whatever he wants. We’re here to advocate. We’re here to represent students.”

Malanga said she believes that she and Solano can keep their duties in the seat separate from politics and maintain their platform of advocating for the average student.

“At the end of the day, student government isn’t the real government,” Malanga said.

“We’re not interested in the politics and that’s not our job. All we’re interested in is advocating for all students.”

Esmeraldi, Poinsette and Solano all echoed the sentiment that although funding could be directed to other areas in need, such as financial aid and mental health initiatives, the on-campus stadium will be good for campus pride. Jindal, however, expressed his distaste for the use of funds.

He said the money directed toward the stadium is a waste. Rather than putting it towards the football team, Jindal said the funds could be better redirected to programs that support underserved students.

Jindal, Poinsette and Esmeraldi mentioned plans to improve accessibility to the Feed-a-Bull food pantry if elected. Solano and Malanga focused their campaign more on educational enhancement by relieving stress from students.

“One of our new initiatives we’re willing to put into place as soon as we get in office is reading days. Reading days are something that actually used to exist at USF, and it’s when the last few days of the week before finals, school will be canceled and time will be devoted to studying,” Malanga said.