Panthers want program for training potential political leaders

Photo by Eric James Sarmiento, via flickr

Nicole Montero/Staff Writer

A recent study by Integrity Florida, a public interest watchdog group in Tallahassee, said that the state of Florida leads the nation in national corruption. In the past year, three mayors in Florida have been arrested on corruption charges, supporting the group’s study, with some of these cases of corruption in FIU’s own backyard.

The most recent act of political corruption occurred just eight miles west of Modesto Maidique Campus, where Manuel L. Maroño, was accused of being involved in kickback and bribery schemes concerning federal grants while he was mayor of Sweetwater.

Miami Dade College professors have had enough of bad candidates and corrupt politicians; they introduced a six-month intensive fellowship, which focuses on identifying and training political leaders.

FIU students and professors alike are eager for a program like Miami Dade’s Candidates Academy.

Adam B. Cross, chairman at the Florida Federation of College Republicans, thinks that political corruption is an individual act usually solicited by people who are either in politics or influenced by it. Cross believes that corruption hurts the system and should be prevented.

“The best way to prevent corruption is through education,” Cross said. “The main reasons that corruptions happen is because sometimes people don’t know how to recognize it or they sometimes tend to recognize things that aren’t necessarily corrupt. A course or some sort of program could help things.”

Fifteen years ago, Eduardo Gamarra, professor in the department of Politics and International Relations, attempted to bring a similar program that would train candidates based on two markets: Latin America and Latinos.

“It was interesting because, when I told my colleagues about my idea, the reaction was very negative,” he said. “They said that this wasn’t the business of a serious university and that universities should be teaching academics.”

Under Gamarra, the Latin American department conducted a series of workshops with people who taught courses that included an ethics component or merely taught students how to run campaigns.

“Now, the department of politics and international relations and me are thinking about developing a full blown candidate management program aimed at candidates in the U.S. and also worldwide,” he said.

Gamarra said that if a program like this was developed at FIU it should be under the department of politics and international relations. Nonetheless, he thinks the University should do more than offer a course.

“I can teach a course at anytime,” he said. “A course is easy, but I am talking about a program that would confer a master’s degree in campaign management. A program like this will help students to not be ignorant and would help them know what’s legal and what’s not. It would also help them better behave while in office.”

Raziel M. Chernerko, vice president for the FIU College Democrats, thinks that the University should have a program like this because in his mind the country needs candidates who are able to step up and learn ethical values.

 “One specific course or program may or may not alter someone’s life, but I would say there’s a lot of aspiring people who want to take the next step and run for political office,” he said. “I would be the first one to sign up for a program like this and there really isn’t any reason why FIU shouldn’t already have one.”

Chernerko hopes to one day work in the U.S. Senate and be able to give back to the country.

“A program like this will help me do this,” he said. “Not everyone is going to change, but I would say that it would serve as a great stepping stone to learn about values and know how to perform them.”

There are countless students who urge FIU to implement a program similar to Miami Dade’s. In the midst of those students stands Antonio J. Diaz, a sophomore in political science and government who is running for City Commissioner of District 4 in Miami.

“I think a program for FIU is a great idea. I am a little embarrassed that MDC did this first because the corruption is in our own back door and we didn’t do anything,” he said. “We should be more able to host a program, especially since [a lot] of our graduates go into politics.”

Diaz believes that, for now, students and staff alike should start raising awareness and support what Miami Dade is doing. He said FIU should kick start its own program and that a program like this would teach people what they need to run, how to fundraise, how to treat others and how to be overall better candidates.

“I don’t think a program will fix the corruption, but I definitely think that it’s a step in the right direction,” he said.
Administrators from the Provost Office and Governmental Relations were unavailable for comment.

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