Funding for clubs, inclusivity discussed at governor debate

The USF Tampa governor’s Instagram account held a livestream for students who were unable to attend the debate in person. ORACLE PHOTO/ DELANEY TORRES

Four gubernatorial tickets discussed their campaigns during a Thursday debate hosted in the Oval Theatre at the Marshall Student Center (MSC).

Gubernatorial candidates Nilufar Majidova, Jamar Blaze Smith and Ava Moreno were accompanied by their respective Lt. Governor candidates Maryam Ashraf,  Brayden Jahn and Emma Goodwin. 

Lt. Governor candidate Krishna Karthik Nanduri represented him and his gubernatorial candidate Rohan Rayulu Ramayanam. 

Host Myriam Marc, associate supervisor for the Elections Rule Commission (ERC), said Ramayanam was unable to attend due to “emergency family circumstances.” 

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The debate was moderated by Dora Rodriguez, SG’s Election Rules Commission (ERC) supervisor of elections, and included discussion of sustainability, funding student organizations and accessibility.

Majidova and Ashraf talked about creating a more inclusive and accessible environment at USF, as well as increasing the number of mental health services on campus.

Taking surveys of the student body to get feedback on resources offered and what students want to see on campus is crucial, Ashraf said.

“We would like to make sure that every single student at USF feels safe and welcome in our community regardless of their political opinion, gender, sexual orientation, religious views and country of origin,” Ashraf said.

Smith and Jahn’s ticket emphasizes expanding the opportunity for students to participate in organizations and enhancing career services. Jahn said they would implement a policy for one hour to be free from labs, classes or any school-related responsibility.

Smith also discussed their sustainability initiatives, such as composting leftover food from the dining halls.

“We’re trying to foster a sense of community not only for now but for later in the future,” Smith said.

Related: Inclusivity, sustainability among topics discussed at USF SG presidential debate 

Nanduri emphasized communication channels between the student body and Student Government. He wants to increase representation for underrepresented groups, particularly international students.

His ticket also includes keeping facilities on campus open later throughout the day, as they were  “Pre-COVID,” Nanduri said. 

“The best thing we can do is increase the timing of the [facilities] we have on campus,” he said.  “We have to get everything back on time so that everyone can be a part of it.”

One of Goodwin’s goals includes expanding funding of student organizations by increasing the Activities and Service (A&S) fees students pay in their tuition. Further communication between the student body and Student Government was also highlighted.

A&S fee rates can only be changed by state lawmakers, according to 1009.23 statute on the Florida College System institution student fees.

“We want to bridge the gap between the Student Government and the student body,” Moreno said.

The student body communicated their concerns at Tuesday’s Senate meeting, when around 200 people showed up to fight for their sports clubs’ funding. 

A new interpretation of the SG clause 801.4.2, in the Finance Code, states that student organizations that receive A&S funding can’t deny access to any student at USF. 

Due to the exclusion of the St. Pete and Sarasota campus in their constitution – “restricting access” to non-Tampa students – most organizations were at risk of losing all funding.

Senate President Fariah Ansari wrote in an email that SG usually requires a 24-hr notice to add something to the meeting’s agenda. However the issue of funding was time-sensitive and “affected many entities outside of Student Government,” so they made an exception on Tuesday night, Ansari wrote.

The Senate voted yes to defunding organizations on the first round of votes. The floor reopened after an hour because of a senator’s request. The second time around, senators voted in favor of students to keep the funding.

Moreno was asked what she would have done as a member of the Senate during the meeting. 

“I knew this was coming,” Moreno said. “There’s two sides to this…If I were in the senator’s position and was not the Tampa Campus Council Chair, I would have advocated for my students.”

Moreno said that because she is on the Tampa Campus Council, she would have to take a stance of “neutrality” and sign for zero funding. 

The audience was mainly composed of Student Government (SG) leaders. Kaitlyn Rodriguez, Senate policy chair, asked eight questions during the Q&A portion of the debate, while Christian Chow Quan, vice-chair of the relations committee, was given the mic five times.

Julia Saad, News Editor and Michelle Plyam, Correspondent

Julia Saad started as a news correspondent in fall 2022. During Saad's tenure at The Oracle, she has covered a variety of news. However, Saad's favorite topic to cover is being able to place readers in the ambient environments of USF events.