It was unanimous.
Academics, student life, and communication with administration are the problems UM’s new Student Government president will be spending most of his or her time dealing with.
A crowd of about 30 supporters filled the Rathskeller for the student government presidential debate and all six candidates were present and in good spirits.
Candidates Kirk Hunter and Zehev Schwartz Benzaken-both of whom have not had experience in student government-were up against four longtime SG leaders: Speaker of the Senate, Michael Johnston; University Affairs Senator, JD Barbosa; Speaker Pro Tempro, Stephanie Hernandes; and Chief of Staff, Steve Priepke.
Experienced or not, the candidates knew that working with the administration would be their top duty.
One of Johnston’s top issues is re-evaluating Student Account Services.
“Student Account Services is not always the most efficient. Everything dealing with money I would like for them to be able to answer,” Johnston said, pointing out that almost every student has been frustrated by account services.
“I’m there to communicate what’s happening up above to the students below,” Hunter said.
“There are some big decisions being made without our input,” Priepke said, referring to the imminent dissolution of the School of International Studies. “President Shalala is very quick and if we’re not there, we’re going to get rolled over.”
Hernandez’ platform is centered around “Bridging the Gap” between students and administration and changing the dynamics of student life.
When it came to academics, Barbosa had the most ideas for change.
“The number one issue is academics. We’re having issues with the library; with construction and students not being able to study late at nights,” Barbosa said.
He also suggested an exam-free homecoming week, sample course syllabuses online, and a wider selectiong of Honors classes.
Benzaken was the only candidate to mention the importance of the over 1500 international students at UM.
A native of Brazil, Benzaken said he would like to create a SG senator to represent international students.
Johnston, who implemented the IBIS ride program that shuttles students to Coconut Grove every Saturday night, felt confident that as president he would be able to expand the program to Thursday and Friday nights.
“It’s something I highly believe in,” Johnston said.
Hernandez said she wants to get together with all the student organizations to create a calendar of events that could be publicized on campus.
“I am aware that you cannot make an apathetic student go to events, but if it’s visible and it’s there, students will go,” she said.
“The University is looking for weekend activities. Intramural activities could be it,” Barbosa said, explaining that he did not understand why these events are scheduled only for the spring semesters.
Priepke informed the crowd that next year’s basketball games at the Ryder Center may not be free for students.
“We pay our athletic fee. Why we will have to pay for basketball games is beyond me,” Priepke said.
All the candidates agreed that their job as President would be made easier if more students became involved with student government.
“I am here to help you, not to do your work for you. I am here to help you learn,” Johnston said.
“Only eight to twelve percent of students vote. That’s not a government, that’s a special interest group,” Barbosa said. “Go out and get your friends to vote.”
Elections begin next Monday and end on Wednesday. Each student can vote by going to the election stations in the UC Breezeway.