TO DEBATE OR NOT TO DEBATE

The first and only Broward campus gubernatorial debate, held Wednesday night in the Student Activities Center on the Davie campus, was marred by a single obstacle: there was no debate. In fact, the procession ground to a standstill following each candidate’s opening speech.

Following a 40 minute delay in the proceedings- which were supposed to start at 6 p.m.- debate moderator Greg Lefkin introduced student government presidential candidate Tony Teixeira to a crowd of roughly five students and a handful of house members.

During the Q&A session that followed, Teixeira outlined his plan to allow increased student involvement with SG’s annual budget. “It should only be up to you [students] how the Student Government spends money,” Teixiera said. “We have to work in conjunction with the governor on the Broward campus and conduct surveys to see what students want.”

Teixeira addressed SG’s current Web site after a student complained it wasn’t updated enough. Teixeira advocated a user-friendly redesign which included a comment box where students could pose questions to SG officials and “actually expect a response in return.”

“I don’t see why the SG website can’t be improved within my first month of office,” Teixeira said.

Current Boca governor and SG vice-presidential candidate Rocky Joarder spoke on behalf of presidential candidate Jared Torres, who couldn’t attend after being involved in a minor car accident earlier that afternoon.

Joarder said he planned to bolster Broward campus security next semester by implementing a Nightowls program which teaches individuals basic defense training in case a student is attacked.

Broward student governor incumbent Ruth Rader, an accounting major, was quick to articulate “equity among students” in her opening speech, briefly pushing for an auditing program allowing students to attend courses without receiving academic credit.

Challenger Priscilla Velasquez opened her speech by acknowledging the tension fermenting between students and SG legislation. “I’m aware that the relationship between students and student government is not so good,” Velasquez said.

Although Velasquez pushed strongly for additional ethnicity-based programs and “more access to recreation activities”, she jumped on the defensive after a student asked whether she knew the how much of SG’s budget was allocated to the Broward campus. “I’m an international student and this is my first semester at FAU after transferring from BCC,” Velasquez replied. “I haven’t pampered myself enough to seek out those details.”

Following the opening speeches moderator Lefkin peered to each of the candidates, yet none were willing to volunteer a rebuttal.

“I don’t know what happened, but I tried to get them to speak,” Lefkin recalled after the debate adjourned.

One undergraduate senior was concerned that candidates failed to articulate their issues properly. “[Rader] really didn’t offer any suggestions on how to improve the existing student government,” said Broward student house of representatives member Valerie Pik-fong. “I didn’t hear her position on any of the student issues. I only heard Ruth outline her extensive background experience.”

In a subsequent interview, Rader commented on her opponent. “I think [Velasquez] is too inexperienced to be in Student Government right now,” Rader said. “She will, in another year’s time, be able to serve the students better.”

Rader also reiterated her hands-on involvement with measuring student opinion. “Student’s voices should be heard,” Rader said. “When I encounter a stranger in an elevator, I stop and tell them I’m the governor, and ask them how this campus should be improved.”

During another interview, Velasquez echoed her opponent’s attitude. “If elected, I’ll go to the Volunteer Services Center, find volunteers, and have them disperse surveys to students during class, and poll their opinions.”

Velasquez also addressed concerns over the cost of textbooks saying, “Book costs are so high, and the availability of texts in the Book Loan Program on the Davie campus is scarce. We’re planning to purchase books for the Program, so students can borrow them instead of paying.”

When asked how she intended to buy the textbooks, she said she didn’t know which SG funds were available to her.

“[Velasquez’s] goal was too vague,” Pik-fong said regarding her speech. “She wasn’t able to articulate how she would achieve her tentative plans next semester.”

Voting for the Student Government general election begins Tuesday, March 27 and concludes Wednesday, March 28.