Editor's Note: This was transcribed from a recording of the debate. 

Erica Baker: “My name is Erica Baker and I’m the Supervisor of Elections. Welcome to the 10th annual Student Government debate, this year hosted by the Supervisor of Elections and the Bob Graham Center for Public Service. We look forward to providing a non-partisan and comprehensive debate featuring the two tickets vying to be your next Student Body president, vice president and treasurer. I hope tonight is a valuable experience and that all members of the Student Body remember to take part in our Student Body elections on Feb. 16 and 17. Before we begin, I’d like to take a moment to thank a few people who were instrumental in this process. Kevin Barron, Shelby Taylor and Emma Humphries from the Bob Graham Center for their help with this process. You all have been great partners, and I hope we have the opportunity to work together again in the future. James Tigert and Victoria Remmington for their help in preparing tonight. Thank you also to Action SG for agreeing to film tonight’s debate so that it can be viewed by students who are unable to attend. Finally, I would like to thank and now introduce our moderator for this evening, Mr. Marna Weston. Mr. Marna Weston is a 1994 graduate of the University of Florida, receiving dual degrees in history and telecommunication. As a UF undergrad, he was involved in campus and community activities. He received the City of Gainesville’s highest award for diversity and multicultural awareness in 1991, and he also served as president of the UF Speech and Debate Team. Mr. Weston has served as moderator for many community debates, including Accent Presents Governors Richard Thornburgh and Michael Dukakis and, more recently, an Accent marijuana debate. Mr. Weston serves or has served in a variety of campus positions, including consultant to the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, administrative assistant to Upward Bound, UF Speech and Debate Team alumni coach, instructor of public speaking in the College of Agriculture, CLAS and Warrington College of Business, and the University Writing Program instructor for the program class. So please welcome our moderator, Mr. Marna Weston.”

 

Moderator: “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and go Gators. It’s great when Gators get together, especially in a historical venue like the University Auditorium, so as an alumnus and a proud Gator, I am pleased to be involved in this activity and also to welcome all of you for the most important spectacle where we have the leaders and potential leaders get together to ask for your vote. It’s my great pleasure to offer you an overview of the rules for this evening’s debate. Both campaigns shall be granted a maximum of five minutes to deliver an opening statement and three minutes to deliver a closing statement. One candidate per campaign shall be chosen by the campaign to give the opening statement and one to give the closing statement. The selected person may give both statements if the campaign chooses to do so. Any of the specified executive candidates are eligible to speak during this time. Speaking order for the opening and closing statements was decided backstage a few moments ago by a coin toss executed by myself before the debate began. The winning campaign can decide to speak first during the opening statements or last depending on what the opposing campaign does not choose. The Impact Party won the toss. They chose to speak last in both the opening and closing statements. The speaking order for the questions will go in alphabetical order by campaign name and reverse order for every other question. The campaigns will be provided with equal time and will respond to each question. The time provided to respond to each question shall be two minutes; a one-minute period will be provided for rebuttal and 30 seconds for a second rebuttal. Questions will be asked to campaigns as a whole and campaigns will have to decide which candidate will respond to each question. Once the chosen candidate begins to speak, no other member of the campaign is allowed to respond to the same question during the two-minute answer period. Rebuttal may be provided by a candidate other than the candidate who responded initially for any question, and any candidate who goes over the time limit will receive a warning. Upon receiving a third warning, the candidate will be removed from the debate, but we do not expect that to occur at all. I had a chance to meet all of these wonderful young people and Gators, and they are outstanding characters and I know that they will conform to the rules that they have agreed upon for your enjoyment of tonight’s debate. With the rules of the debate established, agreed to by both parties prior to the start of the debate, a final reminder that the audience will hold applause until the end of the debate except for right now. I would like to call upon the members of the debate to please take their seats, and we will call them by name and let you recognize them at this point. You guys can come out. Go Gators. Thank you *applause*...the presidential candidate for the Access Party, Kalyani Hawaldar. The presidential candidate for the Impact Party, Susan Webster. The vice presidential candidate for the Access Party, Hammaad Saber. The vice presidential candidate for the Impact Party, Brendon Jonassaint. The treasury candidate for the Access Party, Lillian Rozsa. The treasury candidate for the Impact Party, Kishan Patel. Thank you very much, and I’ll ask you now to please hold all additional applause until the end of the debate, and now I’ll recognize Kalyani to give opening comments for the Access Party for five minutes.”

 

Hawaldar: “Thank you so much. Good evening everyone; first off, thank you to the Supervisor of Elections, Student Government and the Bob Graham Center for hosting the debate tonight. My running mates and I are so excited to share our ideas with the Student Body. My name is Kalyani Hawalder, and I am running to be your Student Body president. Currently, I’m a fourth-year sociology and biology double major on the pre-med track. My time at the University of Florida has been defined by my involvement in student organizations such as the Florida Cicerones, Preview staffer and Gatorship staff. I have come to love working with students, something that I’ve been able to do as a First-Year Florida peer leader and as a teaching assistant. Additionally, as a research assistant, I’ve learned to appreciate our university as a leader in research. Finally, for the past year, I’ve had the distinct honor of serving as the Student Government diversity affairs executive advisor in which position I helped bring gender-neutral restrooms to our campus. That being said, I’ll admit something before we even begin this debate tonight. I am not a politician. I am a student. When I came to the University of Florida in 2012, I never imagined that I would be standing here on this stage. The things that I have done at this university have been a result of my passion and my dedication, not as stepping stone into the office of the Student Body president. I have devoted myself to fighting for diversity and inclusion. I have seen how students of all races, classes and genders struggle for representation and visibility in our institution. I am so excited tonight to be accompanied by my two running mates, Hammaad Saber, who’s running to be your Student Body VP, and Lillian Rozsa, who’s running to be your Student Body treasurer. Hammaad and Lillian have both shown incredible initiative as leaders. Hammaad, a fourth-year Innovation Academy student, founded the first IA student organization called IA Need. Lillian founded HeForShe, an organization which calls for people of all genders to join the movement for gender equality, and she currently serves as the vice president of the Women Student Association. Additionally, Hammaad and Lillian are currently both senators. I stand before you tonight to show you that Lillian, Hammaad and I are everyday Gators who will fight for the everyday Gator. We will wake up every single day ready to work for you, ready to stand up for you, because in a time where our Student Body is taking action against national social injustices, we as an executive ticket understand the need for Student Government to be a voice not just within the walls of the university, but also outside, and for that reason as your Student Body president, I will fight for you not only here but also beyond the Gator Nation. The same systems of oppression that we see in our country today have been perpetuated within our university for years. Institutional racism, classism and sexism have been pillars of Student Government for decades. My administration will not stand for this. I want to break all barriers holding back students here at this University. I want a tomorrow that shows the best this university has to offer. We will work for a tomorrow where all students regardless of our connections or associations can obtain a position within Student Government. A tomorrow where our graduate students are supported and do not have to choose between an education or their family. A tomorrow where every single student at the University of Florida, no matter where they are, can vote and have their voice heard. A tomorrow where as a rising, preeminent university, we leave no one behind. We can make our tomorrows greater than our yesterdays. I’m fighting for the UF that I know we can build together. Thank you, and I look forward to answering your questions.”

 

Moderator: “It is now in order for opening comments from the Impact Party, and they will be delivered by their presidential candidate, Susan Webster.”

 

Webster: “Good evening, Gators. My name is Susan Webster, and I am running to be your Student Body president. Alongside me this evening are my running mates, BJ Jonassaint and Kishan Patel, who I know are just as excited as I am to share our vision for the University of Florida. As a senior at UF, and the current Senate President, I’ve had opportunities to work for students every day. Whether it’s opening up our campus food pantry, fighting so that veterans get in-state tuition or taking taxi drivers that take students off the streets, I am proud of my record for fighting for students and the concrete, tangible changes that I have made to campus life. My running mate, BJ: His service at UF started as a Preview staffer and a Florida Cicerone. As a welcoming force for this university, BJ has helped over 20,000 Gators get acclimated to campus life. More recently, he has served as a cabinet liaison, reached out to by Vice President Kevin Doan, and has learned firsthand experience on how to help the cabinet. BJ has also been an active member of the Black Student Union. He has made great strides in creating an inclusive and diverse campus all by providing to make students of color feel more comfortable at UF. Kishan Patel has served as the treasurer of the Indian Student Association and currently serves on the Budget and Appropriations Committee in the Student Senate. This gives Kishan the unique experience of having worked on both sides of the budgeting process and makes him uniquely qualified to be handling millions of dollars that are allocated through Student Government. Kishan has also served as the treasurer of Access Party in the Fall election. After seeing firsthand that Access Party was more concerned with disrupting Student Government than they were about working for students, he decided to help end the gridlock that stemmed from their failure to compromise in order to serve as your Student Body treasurer with the Impact Party. As strange as that may sound, this is nothing new to the Impact Party. In fact, most of our key leadership  including our party president, Senate candidates and campaign staff have all left the Access Party to help us make an impact this spring. What you students saw and what most of this campus has seen is that the past Access Party administration was not truly working for every Gator. The Impact Party was formed by students on both sides of the aisle to fix the damage to our campus community. Our platform reflects key student concerns, like safety, transportation, diversity and affordability. And unlike the Access Party, we have the experience necessary to follow through with our promises. After a landslide Fall election that our Student Body used as a direct performance review of Access’ administration, our party has checked off the vast majority of our platform in the first three months of our senators’ yearlong terms. In contrast, what we have seen from the Access Party is complete failure to keep their word.  On this stage a year ago, the Access Party promised to achieve diversity, decrease fees for graduate students, free printing at Library West and Marston. Today, we have none of those things. The Impact Party, in our platform, is not a tool that we use to get elected. It’s a contract with the Student Body. What the Access Party will attempt to do tonight is paint you a very dark picture of our campus, one where the Student Body is grads versus Greeks and students versus administration. They see our Student Body as a group of rival student organizations with competing interests, but that’s not how we see it. The Impact Party is proof that no matter your background, affiliation or identity, students are able to break down the barriers that the Access Party sees between us in order to come together for a common goal of moving Gators forward.  We choose to work toward things that unite us and not the things that divide us. The choice before you this evening should be a simple one. On one side of the stage, you have three candidates with the experience that they need to succeed in their positions. We have a party with a proven track record of keeping promises that they make to students. And, most importantly, there’s a party that can prove they can rise above campus politics in the interest of the students. On the other side, we have three candidates whose inexperience has destined them to fail. We have a party that has proven time and time again they simply do not have what it takes to follow through on their word. And finally, we have a party who is more concerned with making a point than making the progress that our Student Body deserves. I hope to use the debate this evening to show you, the Student Body, which party is which. Thank you, and we look forward to answering your questions.”

 

Moderator: “We will now go to the first question. This first question is in two parts, and it is for the Access Party. In what way is the role and power of the Student Body president misunderstood among the UF Student Body? But, most importantly, what can the Student Body president do for UF students?

 

Hawaldar: “Thank you so much for your question. To address the first part, the biggest misunderstanding of the role of the Student Body president is that the Student Body president only serves students within the walls of the university that we’re supposed to address things such as only safety on campus, such as lighting on campus, such as parking on campus. But I and my administration believe that the role of Student Government and the role of Student Body president goes far beyond that. We understand that while students are attending the university, that while students are here, the things that happen outside of the university also affect them. The things that happen to them at the university affect them not only as students but also as people. It’s my priority as Student Body president to be working towards preeminence of our university, and when I say preeminence, I don’t mean an arbitrary ranking in a magazine; I don’t mean a ranking based on our graduation rates or any such rates. What I mean is a ranking based on how happy our Student Body is and how respected our Student Body feels. As Student Body president, I’ll address the culture that we’ve created at the University of Florida, which keeps some students from being heard and from being respected. My goal as Student Body president will be to make sure that no one gets left behind. Thank you.

 

Moderator: “It is now room for a one-minute response from the Impact Party. You have one minute for rebuttal.”

 

Webster: “What’s misunderstood about this position is that it is your sole voice on the Board of Trustees and the person that goes to Tallahassee that lobbies on your behalf. I have done this time and time again, and this is something I will continue as your Student Body president. But furthermore, you also collaborate with the Florida Student Association. Every Student Body president in the state of Florida gets to sit on this board. It is a collaborating board, so I’ll be able to be your voice not only to help of the University of Florida but colleges across the state. Furthermore, I will be able to help us reach our goal of being a top-10 institution. It’s so much more than just looking at what we have to do on this campus, whether it’s funding for the Music Building, chemistry building. It’s more than that. It’s improvements across the campus. It is something I know I can do through infrastructure and focusing on diversity. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “It is now in order for a 30-second rebuttal if you care to take one. You have 30 seconds.”

 

Hawaldar: “The other misconception that we address as a party is that in order to be a Student Body president, in order to be a Student Body officer, you have to have been involved in Student Government since your freshman year. You have to have been Senate president, you have to have been a senator. We show that every single student, regardless of what they’ve been involved in, can be in Student Government. Time and time again we show that students, no matter their experience, can be in the office of the Student Body president and can get what we need to be done.”

 

Moderator: “Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “We will now move to our second question. This question begins with the Impact Party. Affordability for all Gators is a campaign issue that both parties have gotten to comment on. What are some achievable measures that Student Government can take to reduce costs for students?”

 

Webster: “Thank you. Something that my administration would work on and make a priority is making sure that your Summer semester, that you have to attend at the University of Florida, is covered by the Bright Futures scholarship. Currently, we all have to attend a Summer semester at the university, and it’s not covered by the scholarship. That’s something that my administration would work on and make a priority to make your experience at the University of Florida more affordable. Furthermore, we want to work on adopting open-source textbooks. That way, if you can’t afford a textbook, it’s something you can use that all students can collaborate on. And, most importantly, I want to work to lower the overhead fees that cover our campus entities. For example, right now Student Government is essentially getting taxed. They have a fee that goes, that gets taken from the top. I want to make sure that we lower that fee so more of our money is going toward your campus and initiatives that you would like to see on campus. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “And, Access Party, you have one minute to respond.”

 

Rozsa: “First of all, thank you so much for this question; I think it’s very pressing to our Student Body. The Access Party will continue to hold the line on tuition. You know we go to a university that has one of the best educations, one of the lowest tuitions, but oftentimes that’s not enough for students to afford a college education. We need to make sure that student fees maintain affordability. I myself am here on scholarship. I have a work-study job. I know how important it is to save your money. I respect your dollar like it’s my own. The Access Party will continue to work on tax breaks for textbooks, and we will fight and advocate for tax breaks for your meal plan. There's no reason the plan that provides you food should be taxed. We also understand that Bright Futures does not cover Summer terms. That’s ridiculous, because it completely leaves out low-income students. We would like to bring back bright futures to 75% and 100% affordability. We know that while Bright Futures has decreased, our desire to learn has not. Access Party knows these endeavors are possible because we understand that education is a right, not a privilege. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “And, Impact Party, you have a 30-second rebuttal.”

 

Webster: “The first day on the job, I’ll make sure that we are dedicated to getting you Summer Bright Futures. It’s the number-one thing in our administration. One of our biggest focuses is making sure that we can fight for you and will start doing that day one. College affordability is so important and is something that though we have a great campus like the University of Florida, we can bring here is an achievable goal that we will work on. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “We have a special treat for our third and fourth questions. They come from the big Gator, President Fuchs, and so I will step aside for the first question, to the side of the stage, and then for the second question to that side, and now please prepare for President Fuchs to deliberate question by video on preeminence.

 

Fuchs: “The state Legislature has designated the University of Florida as a preeminent university. This designation gives us additional resources, but it also gives us additional responsibility. As leaders of our Student Body and the Student Government, how do you see students contributing to our aspirations for preeminence?”

 

Moderator: “Access, you have this question first. You have two minutes to respond.”

 

Saber: “So when it comes to the idea of preeminence, we have to understand one thing very clear. In order to achieve preeminence, we need to make sure that no Gator is left behind. Now whether they are in IA, whether they’re black, asian, blue, green, pink, whoever you are, every gator needs to feel included on this campus. That’s the number-one priority. Now, there was a recent survey that says that 80 percent of whites feel respected on campus, 66 percent of Asians feel respected on campus and 50 percent of blacks feel on campus. That’s ridiculous. That should be 100 percent “feels respected” for every single type of student, and if we can't achieve that, then we’re no hope of ever getting preeminence. The bottom line is we need to make sure that we re-look at the culture of the University of Florida and understand that there's institutionalized racism and understand that there’s institutionalized classism, sexism and even voter suppression. As the Access Party, we’re able to fight against institutionalized racism, sexism, classism and even voter suppression because we understand that in order to even touch preeminence, we need to make sure that the culture is welcoming to every type of student to the fullest. Yes, you know we’re gonna focus on renovating buildings that need to get renovated. Yes, we need to understand, you know, that there are not enough resources for IA students over the summer. These are all things that we’re gonna focus on as administration, but the number-one priority is trying to make a stand and making sure that every student is welcome here. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “Impact, one-minute rebuttal.”

 

Webster: “Currently, the University of Florida was awarded over $100 million in preeminence funding. There are other universities in our state that are fighting to take some of that funding away because they would also like to be a preeminent institution. As your Student Body president, I know how to fight for you to make sure that we keep that money for the University of Florida and we are a top-10 institution. Furthermore, we need to help students, we need to make sure that we’re promoting our culture of care here at the university and that every student feels welcome and invited, and that they can make a change. Each student can help us be a preeminent institution. So as your Student Body president, I’ll make sure that we are reaching out to students from all backgrounds to feel included in this mission. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “And Access, you have a 30-second final rebuttal.”

 

Hawaldar: “One of the issues we have seen in Student Government is that Student Government does not serve graduate students. Grad students are also another key to preeminence. We need to cut fees for graduate students and make sure that we’re supporting them as well as their families. I’ve talked to many grad students over the course of this campaign, and I’ll be right by their side in long step in any associations to increase their stipends and make sure they are supported by our university’s endeavors. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “Thank you. Our fourth question, of course, again is from President Fuchs. It is a question of the Gator Good.”

 

Fuchs: “The University of Florida has championed the phrase ‘For the Gator Good.’ That phrase indicates how we as Gators can use our resources and our cooperation to tackle world’s great challenges. As future leaders of our Student Government and our Student Body, how can our students contribute to the Gator Good?”

 

Moderator: “Impact, you have the first opportunity and two minutes.”

 

Webster: “The Gator Good is my favorite marketing thing that we have here at the University of Florida. It’s something that I wholeheartedly stand behind. For me, what the Gator Good means is that I met one student on this campus that was hungry and I made it my mission to make sure that student would never have to think about a meal before they were able to study for an exam. So, therefore, I worked with administration, and I worked with other student leaders to create the Field and Fork food pantry so no student on this campus would think again about their next meal. And that’s what the Gator Good is: making sure that we’re doing something for students firsthand and making tangible change; how other students can get involved for the Gator Good is getting involved on this campus and standing behind our preeminence initiative. If you’re passionate about something on this campus, go for that passion because the Gator Good is in all of us, and is something that each of us can do as voters to better our institution. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “Access, one minute.”

 

Hawaldar: “To me, the Gator Good means that every Gator counts. As the first diversity affairs executive advisor ever in SG, I have fought to make sure that students of all genders have their needs represented. I helped create all gender neutral restrooms on campus and, in addition, established mandatory diversity training for all Student Government officials. I think this is an important issue, and if we continue diversity education on our campus, a culture that my administration and I are dedicated to, we will reach the Gator Good.”

 

Moderator: “And final rebuttal, Impact. 30 seconds.”

 

Webster: “The really big difference between me and Kalyani when it comes to these roles is that in her role as advisor, she’s had to do office hours every single day. She’s only done four of those office hours, and I’ve worked for four years for the Gator Good. This is a big difference between the two of us and is the difference between the Impact Party and the Access Party, is tangible, concrete change, and diversity isn't just a buzzword for the Impact Party. It’s something that we can do every day to help students. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “Our fifth question is for the Access Party, and both of the questions this one and the following one are critical questions directed at the parties. So first, for Access: Critics of the Access Party say that the party has failed to deliver on campaign promises. How would you respond to this assertion? You have two minutes to respond.”

 

Hawaldar: “I would like to address something that the Senate president just mentioned. I won’t be lectured by somebody who not only takes a salary for her own office hours, but also has office-hour issues of her own. In addition, I meet students where they want to be met, whether or not it’s in a Student Government office. In terms of the idea that Access Party hasn’t met our promises, we have worked on many of our platform points. One of them being that our executive officers donate their salaries to the Machen Florida Opportunity Scholars, something I promise that I will be doing again next year. In addition to that, we discussed gender-neutral restrooms, something that the Student Body voted on, and those have been created. They’re in the new Reitz, and there are over 40 of them around this campus. In addition to that, we lobbied for tax breaks on textbooks. Textbooks are expensive as they are, and we fought to make sure they’re more affordable for you. To those who feel that we haven’t met our promises, we’ll be out and I encourage them to come talk to us so we can have more discussions about the goals we have met and the goals we will continue to reach for next year. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “Impact, you have a minute to rebut.”

 

Webster: “What Kalyani fails to mention is the current administration sees serving students as a part-time job. All three of us rely on campus jobs to attend the University of Florida. I’ve been a student assistant, BJ works at Rec Sports and Kishan is an RA. We are willing to leave our jobs to make sure that we make serving the students a full-time job. Currently, the Access Party has put out platform points that they just haven’t been able to deliver on, and our leadership will be able to deliver on all of our promises on all of our platforms. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “Access, you have 30 seconds of final privilege.”

 

Saber: “All right, so I mean, honestly, like, when it comes to Access, we’re all about changing Student Government to make sure it represents every student, and when there’s a system in place the system that Impact Party or Swamp Party or whatever they call themselves every year the bottom line is we’ve got a platform that will take more than a year to complete. Any complications that happened with Access are because Impact dominated, or Swamp dominated or whatever they call themselves dominated Senate and worked against Access’ platform points. Like online voting. We fight for online voting because the lack of online voting in the 21st century is a form of suppression, and we fight for the right for every Gator. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “Our sixth question is for the Impact Party, and, as I mentioned before, this is a question that is critical to the party as the first question was critical to the Access Party. Critics say that the Impact Party is the Swamp Party rebranded. How do you respond? You have two minutes.”

 

Webster: “BJ left the Access Party because they made him uncomfortable. Kishan left the Access Party because he served under Kalyani’s failed leadership in the last election. The Impact Party is here for all students. So many of my friends have left the Access Party because they want to stand behind proven leadership and they don’t want to feel uncomfortable. They want to be in a place where they are supported and not bullied. Time and time again, Access has come out with these tactics to suppress our leadership and suppress students that care about the University of Florida. And that’s why the Impact Party is here: to serve you and move Gators forward. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “Access, you have one minute to rebut.”

 

Saber: “Do you want to know a fun fact? Nearly every Swamp senator and by Swamp, I talking like 100 percent of Swamp senators, went Impact. When we talk about the couple hundred people that are in Impact and we say, ‘Oh, how many people are Access?’ It’s like 10 people or 20 people or whatever. It’s insignificant. Here’s one thing: When somebody from Access goes Impact, we respect that. It’s their collegiate career decision. Unlike Impact, when somebody from Impact tries to go to Access, all of a sudden they’re getting pressured from their fraternity, org or whatever it is. We don’t give that pressure because we respect their decisions. We respect their collegiate decisions. Look, BJ and Kishan left because they got sold out. Look, BJ’s the Student Body vice president. Kishan’s the Student Body treasurer. The bottom line is when they sell out, they’re all about the titles. They’re all about the position. The people that went Access to Impact, we respect that. But the bottom line is they’re doing it for their own self-interest. Every Impact person who was Access has gained something from it, whether it was a campaign position, a Student Body Vice President or Treasurer position, whatever it is, party president, party treasurer, they all gained something from it. And Access, we’re only a party that fights for the students. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “The next question is for the Access Party. The current administration has championed gender-neutral restrooms around campus. Is this something that would be expanded by your administration and what, if any initiatives, would your party champion related to inclusivity? ...Oh, pardon me. Would you mind stepping down? My apologies.”

**Moderator realizes he forgot to give Impact Party final privilege for Question 6 and Susan Webster takes the lectern**

 

Webster: “Thank you. The Impact Party supports every good initiative, but something else we have is people who stay in Senate and continue to fight. Last Spring, you elected 34 Access Party senators. Currently, only eight of them are left in the Senate. If they couldn’t keep their promises to you as senators, then how are they going to keep their promises if they serve you next year? That’s the thing with Impact Party. We don’t leave. We stay committed to you and we’ll continue to fight for you time and time again. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “Pardon me if I became a little distracted. I met six wonderful people backstage, and I hope that the remainder of the debate continues to be one of civility and directed toward answering questions, as opposed to anything from either side leading to anything that might be un-toward that. My apologies for missing that, but moving on, I would ask that all sides please continue the civility that is of the Gator tradition in this debate. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “I will now repeat the question. The current administration has championed gender-neutral restrooms around campus. Is this something that would be expanded by your administration and what, if any initiatives, would your party champion related to inclusivity? You have two minutes.”

 

Hawaldar: “Yes, so as I’ve said, gender-neutral restrooms are something that I have personally worked on. I think one of the biggest misconceptions that comes with this initiative is that it only affects a small portion of our campus when, in fact, gender-neutral restrooms are accessible to anyone and everyone sitting in this audience. So yes, I will continue to support this initiative because it’s brought great accessibility to every Gator on this campus. In addition, in terms of inclusivity, the biggest issue that we have here is the culture, so I believe that education whether that’s diversity training for SG officials, diversity training for faculty and staff, diversity training for our administration all those are the important steps in being sure that we are including every single voice that is present on this campus. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “Impact Party, you have one minute to rebuttal.”

 

Jonassaint: “Yes, we would love to expand the idea of gender-neutral bathrooms. We believe that every student should get what they need to feel more comfortable on our campus. The longer goal, when it comes to diversity, is making sure every student does feel comfortable. We understand the importance of having students’ voices heard. Whether that’s in discussions or anything of that nature, it has to be facilitated by participation so that everybody from the top-up I mean, the top-down understands what’s going on on this campus while fixing some of the miseducation that has gone wrong. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “And Access, you have 30 seconds of final privilege.”

 

Hawaldar: “The diversity that we see in our Student Body needs to extend into our faculty and into our administration. We’ve heard from hundreds of students that they want to see more diversity whether that’s racial, whether that’s gender-related or class-related within our faculty. So my administration will also work to ensure that our diversity is represented in our faculty. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “The next two questions are student submissions. The eighth question is for the Impact Party and taken from a student submission. If elected, how would your ticket work to empower traditionally marginalized communities on campus?”

 

Jonassaint: “As a student who comes from a community that is underrepresented and commonly marginalized, I understand that we won't have the answers to everything. That’s why it’s important to move forward with students, especially students who feel attacked by racial tensions. This is where the education piece from the last question comes in. Here with the Impact Party, we’ve been very deliberative to have these students on our slate, who can represent these different communities so those selected members who will move on to serve as cabinet, as senate, whatever they may be understand what needs to go down to make sure students on our campus feel more comfortable. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “Access, you have one minute to rebut.”

 

Hawaldar: “As a woman of color, I know what it’s like to be a marginalized student on campus. Unfortunately, some of the only spaces that we see here for marginalized students are places like Multicultural and Diversity Affairs, La Casita or the IBC. As Student Body president, I’ll make sure that students’ representation is not limited to just these spaces. And I believe that comes from representation within Student Government. As the last administration started, I will continue the tradition of making sure that all appointments are based on merit, to make sure that we have equal representation in Student Government of all the voices in our Student Body to make sure that traditionally marginalized students are able to vote in student government and to make sure that their needs are met. Thank you”

 

Moderator: “And Impact, 30 seconds of final privilege.”

 

Jonassaint: “Yes, so whenever I do say traditionally marginalized students because they have a voice in Student Government, this is something that we’re pushing for very much so as it looks quite so, standing up here being a traditionally marginalized student. We hope to have this within every branch of Student Government, whether it’s cabinet, whether it’s executive secretaries, whether it’s supervisor of elections, we understand how important it is to have these student voices heard so that their concerns can be taken care of. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “My ninth question is for the Access Party. As I mentioned before, this is a student-submission question. Graduate and professional students account for approximately 33 percent of the student body. As representatives for all students, how will you ensure that graduate and professional student voices are heard and best represented?”

 

Rozsa: “You know, we need to understand that there are 10,000 graduate students on this campus, and, historically, they have not been Student Government’s priority. We talk a lot about parameters and to me, being a preeminent university means leading, it means setting a good example for the state and the nation. We’re not leading if we’re leaving our graduate students behind. We need to make sure that we are putting a priority on lowering their fees and giving them an increased stipend and packages that are fair. We need to promote resources such as Baby Gator, because graduate students should never have to choose between starting a family and getting an education. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “Impact, you may now have a one-minute rebuttal.”

 

Webster: “Thank you. I will firsthand take graduate’s concerns to Tallahassee and fight for them firsthand, because that’s something that’s important as your Student Body president. You need to be able to fight for somebody outside the Gator Nation and to Tallahassee, and that’s something I’m gonna make a priority. Furthermore, our slate is filled with all graduate, all professional schools, so we have somebody going to represent you in the Impact Party. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “And Access, 30 seconds of rebuttal.”

 

Rozsa: “I’d like to focus on that fact that we need to understand graduate students needs differ from undergraduate student needs. We need to go out into the community and listen. I’ve spoken to several graduate students, I’ve spoken to many graduate students over the course of this campaign, and they’ve said they’re not being supported by our Student Government, they’re not represented, they’re not listened to. So like I said previously, we need to promote resources that help them start a family and help them gain the education they deserve. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “Our 10th question is for the Impact Party. Gridlock in Student Government left agencies with unfulfilled leadership spots. How would your party work to prevent this in the future? You have two minutes to reply.”

 

Webster: “As your current Senate president, this is something that I’ve fought for firsthand.  I’ve made sure that in all committees in the Senate and in all the committees that I’ve charged, it’s been a great mix of people from both the Access Party and the Impact Party. Even one of the chairs of my committees is somebody from the Access Party. I am someone who is big on collaboration. I want to work across the aisle all the time to make sure that we don’t have a standstill like we did last year. Collaboration is the key to success. It is something that’s so important in the Impact Party, and it is something we will fight for day in and day out. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “One-minute rebuttal.”

 

Rozsa: “I would just like to point out that debate is not gridlocked. Deliberation is not gridlock. Debate and deliberation are democracy. Our university is not used to a two-party system, and that’s not right. Democracy doesn’t function with just one party. So we are here to represent all students who have not been not previously represented. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “Impact, you now have the final 30-second rebuttal.”

 

Webster: “We decided to run to be your Student Body officials to throw politics aside to work for you first hand. That’s why we have a ticket that’s collaborative. It’s something that we’re going to do day in, day out. I’ve done it in the Senate and I’ll continue to do it for the Student Body. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “The 11th question is for the Access Party, first. If elected, what, if anything, would your party change relating to the 800 codes and Student Government-funded organizations? You have two minutes.”

 

Rozsa: “I think when speaking about the 800 codes, we need to understand that student fees are a large issue at our university. They have been increased decade after decade at the university. In 2011, your activity and service fee was $14. Now it’s $19. It’s simply not a sustainable increase. You have more fees than just activity and service. You got athletic fee, you have health. At times, it seems like you have a breathing fee. So last year we didn’t just talk and talk about maintaining fees, we did something about it. We said, there are millions of dollars out in the Student Government reserves every year and that’s not even touched, but students are paying for it. Why should we pay for money that sits in reserves? We looked at programs students use very carefully. We had cut. We looked very smartly at students needs and what they paid for. Access Party will continue to work for your dollar. Because we understand and respect the hard work you put into earning every bit of dollar you do. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “Um, before we continue, given the agenda, let me just ask a brief follow-up, so let me ask you, the question said, ‘What would your party change relating to the 800 codes?’ So take a moment to yourself, is there anything you would like to add for that part of the question?”

 

Rozsa: “I apologize for not answering your question directly. The problem isn’t changing the 800 codes, it’s following them. We need to look very carefully exactly what they state and how student fit into them. Codes are not students, and we listen to students. We need to follow our constitution directly. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “May I ask how much time she has to respond? Nothing, it’s just short.

Okay, thank you. All right. You all have the opportunity to answer the question. The question is, if elected, what if anything would your party change related to the 800 codes? And Student Government-funded organizations.”

 

Patel: “Thank you. One thing I would like to change about the 800 codes is funding for student organizations that deals with food. I want to ensure that student organizations, if they need food, in order to throw on great programs, that they’re able to do so. And they aren’t limited by 3-dollar-a-head. Another thing I would like to do is I would like to ensure that student organization shave elections during two convenient time periods. In the Spring and in the Fall. And I want to ensure that these student organizations have time for finance training, unlike the untimely finance training I was given as a student organization treasurer elected in April and did not have finance training until September. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “Access, your 30-second rebuttal.”

 

Rozsa: “You know, starting my own organization from the ground up, I understand it can be difficult to work into SG finance. I know training can be confusing and as your student body treasurer, I will make sure that I’m meeting with student organizations from day one. That’s not in the 800 codes, but as treasurer, that will be my priority. Making sure the first time I meet with a student organization is not when problems with the budget cycle. It’s from day one. Thank you.

 

Moderator: “Thank you. the 12th question for the Impact Party. A group of UF students has called for an online voting system, which would allow PaCE, Innovation Academy, UF online students and UF students studying abroad the opportunity to cast their ballot in Student Government elections. If elected, would you support this measure and why or why not?”

 

Webster: “Absolutely. The Impact Party stands behind online voting 150 percent, and we’re so excited to see the referendum on the ballot. Something that’s even more important is we want to hear students’ voice, we want to hear what you have to say about the online voting initiative. Something that we don’t do at Impact Party is just change something when we want to. Over the Summer, when the Access Party changed your 24/5 library to Library West to Marston, you weren’t asked. We’re excited to have the question on the ballot because we want you to be asked, we want you to express your opinion on it. Thank you.”

 

Saber: “Wow, that’s very different from what I heard from the past Impact Party. They finally support online voting. I don’t know, that sounds a bit of flip-flopping to me because last I checked, Impact Party was Swamp Party back in the day, uh, same thing. But basically all the senators during Swamp actively worked against online voting. So, Impact, if you win this election, the Student Body’s gonna hold you to that. I’m gonna hold you to that because we’ve been wanting online voting for a long time, and your senators, members of your party, have actively worked against it. You know, every SEC school in the nation has online voting except for the University of Florida. Even FSU can make it work, so evidently, online voting needs to happen. And with regards to changing the times of libraries, I mean, honestly, we, we have a capacity issue. There are more students who want to use libraries. Library West does not have optimal parking space, and there’s this thing called surveys that we kind of sent out. We got student feedback and using these surveys, I think that’s what we did listening to the students. I think moving it was the right choice. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “Thank you. It’s much appreciated. Please go.”

 

Webster: “Unfortunately, he heard incorrectly. We do support this; we’re really excited for it. They had on their platform last year to change online voting and they weren’t able to do it. Give us a shot and we’ll make it happen. And something else Hammaad failed to mention is this is a constitutional amendment, so it will pass if it’s elected on. Furthermore, the Impact Party does not pressure our views on the students. We want the students views to be represented. And time and time again, we’re going to represent your voice because we want your voice to be heard through Student Government. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “The 13th is for the Access Party. What do you perceive to be the biggest challenge in cabinet, and what would you do to address it?”

 

Saber: “Thank you for this question. So the biggest problem in cabinet is it’s not as efficient, as effective as it could be. I’m an industrial engineer, which basically means I live, eat and breathe problem solving and efficiency. With over eight organizations throughout my time at UF, from directorships to presidency to even finding the first Innovation Academy organization, which is IA LEAD, I’ve programmed over 20-plus events, and I can go ahead and say I also worked at this interesting entertainment company; it’s kind of like the top company in the world, I think some people call it Disney, I don’t know if y’all have heard of this place. But Disney, they taught me a lot on how I can use my engineering skill set in the real world, including Student Government. Look, here’s step one. Step one, add a system of accountability. Right now, there’s no system of accountability in cabinet for the directors or chairpersons. Step two, be capable of understanding what the optimal location for every event is. How do you do that? Well this is where my engineering skills comes in. ‘Cause when I look at, oh, what’s the best spot on campus to put on events, I’m thinking optimization problems. Don’t worry about what that means, it just means that I can engineer, you know that problem-and-find-out-an-awesome-solution. Needless to say, understanding the best place to hold an event and making sure nonetheless that every event is inclusive. That every student who goes to it, it’s worth something. that they walk away and go, ‘Ah, that’s an amazing event.’ That didn’t waste their time. Every Gator needs to be represented and cabinet needs to be capable of doing that. and so by maximizing efficiency and effectiveness, cabinet could be far greater. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “Impact?”

 

Jonassaint: “So with cabinet, I see a great diversity of people who comprise it. So as Student Body vice president, it is my job to maintain and increase the quality of student life through programming in Cabinet. I plan on selecting qualified cabinet chairs who I’m able to consult with so they can help advise and select the most qualified cabinet directors. We will pick these people regardless of party affiliation, race, class or ethnicity. And that is my job. That’s why I wholeheartedly believe that there is no party on the other side of the stage that could do this job better. So far this afternoon, you’ve seen that the Access Party is a lot about the drama and theatrics. With Impact Party, we’re about making things work. Thank you.”

 

Hammaad: “Something else I also want to include, when it comes to improving cabinet, is, the vice president and the president are a little bit divided when it comes to their roles. Typically throughout the year, the president and vice president don’t work very closely, so I wanna go ahead and make sure that cabinet works closely with the executive advisors under the president. First of all, I find it interesting the BJ says he’s the most qualified when he’s cabinet liaison. I actually went to a cabinet meeting that Kevin Doan was running, and I was told that’s the same amount of meetings as BJ, so interesting, but all right.”

 

Moderator: “Thank you. The 14th question is for the Impact Party. What do you perceive to be the biggest issue facing students, and how would your administration help students with this issue?”

 

Webster: “One of the biggest things affecting students is our culture of care. We need to make sure that every student on this campus feels like they are part of this campus and is cared for. As you Student Body president, I will make sure every student on this campus is a part of this campus and is is happy to be here and loved and cared for. As your Student Body president, it is important that I am on ground firsthand, and that is something I will do day in, and day out. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “Access, one minute.”

 

Rozsa: “So, first of all, I want to appologize if this conversation triggers anyone. Sexual assault to me is one of the largest issues we’ve faced here on campus, and I know that it affects every student here and every individual in the nation. First of all, we need to understand that sexual assault doesn’t know gender, race or socioeconomic status. It affects every single one of us, and because of that, we can no longer take a reactive stance but take a proactive stance. We need to debunk the myth that sexual assault only occurs when there’s a stranger in the bushes. We need to debunk and destruct the rape culture here on campus. We need to promote the resources we have such as GatorWell, STRIVE, the Counseling and Wellness Center. If we don’t change the culture here on campus, sexual assault will never stop. I look forward to working with everyone on this stage, everyone in this audience.”

 

Moderator: “And Impact Party, final privilege.”

 

Webster; “I have worked first hand to help us create a culture of care on this campus and as your Student Body president I’ll continue to do that for you, whether it’s working with the Dean of Students office and bringing in to the Student Senate about the things we have on our campus that promote this culture of care or working with GPD and UPD to make sure that these text alerts aren’t just going to the center of campus but all around the Gainesville community. I am someone who’s going to stand up and fight for you. I’ve done it and I’ll continue to do it as you Student Body President. If you have a problem on this campus, I will be someone who fights for you. It is something I’m looking forward to doing as your Student Body president. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “Thank you very much and thank you to all of the candidates for concluding the question portion of debate. We will now move into closing statements. as I mentioned at the beginning of the debate there was a coin flip back stairs, is now  for the Access Party to make a 3-minute closing statement.”

 

Hawaldar closing statement: “Thank you so much. I’d like to thank the moderator, the organizers, the Impact Party, and those of you watching from home and all of you in the audience for attending tonight. It’s important to incorporate as many voices as possible in the Student Government, and I am so glad that all of you have chosen to be part of this process. You are more than just a vote. You are a voice. Tonight, I am not asking for just your vote. I am asking you to join me in fighting to make our campus a better place for everyone. Regardless of political power, regardless of status. There are those who would have Student Government ruled by the traditions of yesterday. Yesterday is over. We should be fighting to turn Student Government into what it can be. We cannot afford to turn back the clock on Student Government. We cannot afford to continue to let Student Government be a black eye on the face of a premier institution. Tonight, you heard a clear contrast of vision and values. The Impact Party wants to paint this election as a contrast between experience and inexperience. The Senate president likes to talk a lot about her experience. And I agree. When it comes to palling around with administrators, I am inexperienced. When it comes to enjoying the spoils and extravagance of high office, I am inexperienced. When it comes to supporting the good ole’ boy network that has ruled SG for decades, I am inexperienced. And when it comes to enabling the status quo of racism and classism, I am inexperienced. If you want that experience, she’s your candidate and they’re your party. But when it comes to fighting for every student regardless of where you come from, when it comes to working with not for the administration, when it comes to bringing real, progressive change to this campus, I am your candidate. I am your voice, I am your fighter. And I will be nobody’s president but yours. My name is Kalyani Hawaldar, and I’m willing to fight for every Gator. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “It is now in order for the closing statements from the Impact Party. You have three minutes for your closing statement.”

 

Jonassaint: “Thank you all again for taking the time this evening to let us share our vision of campus with all of you. I hope that with our answers to your questions that you will have a better understanding of how the Impact Party hopes to get Student Government back to work. As we close this evening, I wanted to leave you all with a story. Months ago, I was approached by the leaders of the Access Party, who asked for me to sit down with them for a meeting. They told me they admired my leadership in the Student Senate and my potential to manage the University of Florida. They asked me to join them again, this Spring, and run on their ticket as Student Body president. I told them no. I said no to the gridlock. I said no to the bias. I said no to the unwillingness to compromise. And I said no to the end of biases.  Myself, Susan and Kishan have all stood up to the Access Party and hope you will, too. In the time since we’ve announced our candidacy, we’ve received a great deal of backlash. Our email accounts have been hacked. We’ve had our phone calls recorded. We’ve had web pages made to harass us and our friends. This is why the Impact Party was created. For too long, Student Government has spent more time fighting with each other instead of fighting for you. I’m here to tell you that the Impact Party is going to change that by leading by example. Only in the Impact Party can students like myself, Susan and Kishan become so fed up with the decline of Student Government that we were able to put our differences aside in order to move Gators forward. It’s that example that makes me very confident that we are all ready to be your next Student Body president, vice president and treasurer. On Feb. 16 and 17, don’t vote for a backup plan. Cast your vote to tell Student Government to stop the feuding. Cast your vote for a ticket with the experience to increase the quality of student life on this campus. Cast your vote for the Impact Party. Thank you.”

 

Moderator: “Ladies and gentlemen, we are coming to the end of this debate. The choice for all of you in the audience and all Gators at the University of Florida is now before you. I hope that the first sign we can see of the worthiness of these two sets of candidates is a spirited and firm handshake at the end. But on the mind and motto of the University of Florida, when you make the choice on Feb. 16 and 17, the welfare of the state rests on the character of the citizens. Thank you, go Gators and do vote on Feb. 16 and 17.”

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