SGA presidential candidates debate platforms before voting begins

SGA candidates from left to right: Nick Larkins and Cristina Barreto, Josh Boloña and Jad Shalhoub.

As Friday’s SGA Presidential debate came to a close, Nick Larkins with Cristina Barreto and Josh Boloña with Jad Shalhoub defended their platform points while continuing the long heated debate on the senate’s allocation of registered student organization funding as well as their integrity and experience in student government.

The debate quickly began as both candidates were asked which part of the UCF creed is most important to the positions in which they are running for.

As both sides of the ticket mentioned integrity, Boloña made a statement claiming Larkins was promising cabinet positions, which goes against their integrity.

“So for us, it’s kind of funny that our main value is keeping our truth, keeping our values throughout the campaign, and if that’s the strongest value that’s on the other side and it’s already broken, it may not look good the rest of the way,” Boloña said.

Larkins defended himself, stating that he has not promised any positions, and Boloña has been manufacturing the idea that cabinet positions were promised.

“[Boloña] set up the meeting, and I told him if he didn’t run, I would like to work with him,” Larkins said. “If that’s illegal, then throw me in jail.”

Larkins is also a sitting member for the Golden Rule Review Committee, which handles the updates to the Golden Rule handbook for students. Larkins adds this to his list of experience to serve the student body. 

Shalhoub said that Larkins mentioned that he hasn’t sat on the Golden Rule Review Committee, although he has made changes to group responsibility without sitting on the committee.

“I’ve done more for you as a student than you’ve done for me as an executive committee member,” Shalhoub said.

At the previous debate, funding for the conference registration and travel committee was a main topic that continued debate on Friday.

The senate is comprised of committees, and one of which is the conference registration and travel committee which handles the allocation of funds to UCF registered student organizations, including travel and conference expenses.

“We are blessed at UCF at how our allocation system works,” Boloña said. “Other state universities have under a $120,000 budget to allocate to students and organizations. We have upwards of $1,000,000,” 

In the previous debate, Boloña, who serves as a senator for the College of Engineering and Computer Science and sits on the conference and registration committee, continued to defend SGA’s legislative branch from claims earlier in the campaign that the committee is irresponsible with their allocation of funds.

Larkins and Barreto would like to model the conference registration and travel committee’s allocation of funds on allocation practices by Florida State University, where allocations are divided into a fall and spring budget to prevent quickly running out of funding. 

Barreto said, to solve this issue, they plan on focusing on educating the students and the senators.

“Making sure that our student leaders are aware of the process and that they know the process as well, and on the other side is educating the senators and making sure they know the organizations they’re representing and being in constant communication with these student organizations,” Barreto said.

Boloña and Shalhoub also would like to see a change within the executive branch and the university.

“Our motivation comes from the fact that we want to make this university the best public university in the state of Florida down the road,” Shalhoub said.

Boloña and Shalhoub have divided their platform points into five different areas on campus they think need the most improvement, such as enhancement of tailgate experience, monthly town hall meetings for students to voice their concerns, immediate parking alleviation and increasing Bright Futures to the maximum amount.

“We don’t believe the executive branch has even scratched the surface with what it could actually do,” Boloña said. “With us, the outreach only grows after we’re elected.”

The SGA presidential debate filled up with students as the candidates took questions from a live audience.

One student also came to Boloña and Shalhoub’s defense.

“I believe that the experiences Josh and Jad bring to the table will be invaluable to their success as student body president and vice president,” said Harry Jorgensen, 19, a freshman political science major.

Larkins and Barreto have been working on making sure they meet with all registered student organizations on campus before elections to make a connection with the students and hear from others in order to make their administration better.

The pair said that their diversity allows them to stand out, and one student was in agreement. 

“The experience that Nick and Cristina bring to the table provide a diverse and wide point of view to what the student body really needs,” said Alexis Solavana, 21, a junior nursing major.

The platform from the Larkins and Barreto campaign is divided into nine different categories, which include advocating for more mental health professionals, protection for international students and extending the shuttle services.

“If this university is so diverse and stands for diversity, then I think the leaders in charge of the university also need to be diverse,” Barreto said. 

Larkins and Barreto would also like to see a change from the current administration in being leaders that students are familiar with.

The senate is currently working on making it mandatory to have the president attend senate meetings, but Larkins said if elected he would be as active as possible regardless of this legislation.

Voting will take place March 27-29 on my.ucf.edu.