Adrian Suarez Avila/ News Director
For the first time since 2000, the Student Government Council at Modesto A. Maidique President and Vice President are running for re-election.
Last week, SGC-MMC President Alexis Calatayud and Vice President Tiffany Roman-Biffa sat down with Student Media to discuss their platform for the upcoming elections and their intention to run for another term.
“The biggest motivating factor was the idea of continuity between the huge things happening right now at FIU,” Calatayud said.
According to Calatayud, the University is among several in the nation undergoing rapid change. Among these changes is the way that universities receive funding.
At the moment, the University is being funded under performance-based metrics, standards that each of the 12 institutions of higher education in the state university system must meet in order to receive money from the government.
Calatayud admitted that all universities are measured using the same metrics, a practice that fails to take into account the uniqueness of each university in question.
The major metrics for which the University is being evaluated is the graduation rate of students and retention rate, which takes into account the percentage of freshman who return for a second year at the University.
Among the projects that both Calatayud and Roman-Biffa have been working on is the 2015-2020 strategic plan of the University.
They have proposed a complete overhaul of the freshman experience course, which they have found plays a major role in influencing the level of engagement between students and their university.
She feels that many students at the University don’t necessarily have the confidence to continue with their education, and this is due mainly to issues regarding financial aid.
She and Roman-Biffa want to solve this issue.
Both are interested in seeking more channels to provide students with added financial opportunities, specifically need-based aid.
The main stance they assumed during their administration this year was to get access to Pell Grant scholarships for the summer semester.
They decided to tackle this issue after taking note of the large portion of students who take classes during the summer and don’t have access to scholarships to pay for the courses.
Calatayud added that while other universities have students who traditionally take full course loads during the fall and spring semesters, the University features a non-traditional student population that actively takes classes during the summer semester.
“Our students are our DNA, and they are nontraditional,” Roman-Biffa said.
Calatayud recently went to Washington, D.C. on an advocacy trip to find support from the Senate and other congresspeople on her and Roman-Biffa’s initiative.
In addition to Pell Grants, they are also passionate about the idea of Bright Futures scholarships during the summer semester, considering that these scholarships are only offered for the fall and spring semesters.
Calatayud admitted that she and other student body presidents from the state university system have decided that one of their number one priorities during the current legislative session is the issue of scholarships.
Governor Rick Scott is also on board, according to Calatayud.
She mentioned that the University’s Student Government Association hired a professional lobbyist, Andreina Figueiredo, to represent SGA in Tallahassee in light of these efforts. A graduate of the University, she is paid $16,000 for the legislative term using funds from the Activity and Services fee, according to Calatayud.
The predominant demographic missing out on these scholarships are minorities and those of low socioeconomic backgrounds, both of which are found in the University.
“We need to find another way to support bright students who their main problem…is their [financial] need,” Calatayud said.
Taking on the possibility of a second term, Calatayud and Roman-Biffa look forward to solving this issue.
“We feel passionately about financial aid and what can happen in the future with that in the state of Florida,” Calatayud said.
The intention to further the efforts of the University’s expansion into the fairgrounds is also on their agenda.
Both Calatayud and Roman-Biffa are working on advocating to receive $20 million for funding to help in relocating the fair.
According to Calatayud, the money that will go toward the relocation costs will come from both the University and the state government.
Last year as head of governmental relations, she headed the efforts of student lobbying and managed to acquire $10 million to relocate the fair. The money was acquired before voters took to the stands in November to render the decision on the referendum.
At present, meetings are taking place with University, Miami-Dade County and Miami Dade County Fair & Exposition, Inc. officials to find a suitable relocation site for all the parties involved.
Calatayud clarified the issue regarding the correct figures for the amount of money necessary to relocate the fair, considering that estimates have ranged from $50 to 60 million and $230 million.
She said that the $50-60 million figure is set for a relocation site already owned by the County. This money will go toward building facilities comparable to the ones found in Tamiami park. Any other figure beyond that would go toward the actual purchase of land.
Another issue on their agenda is study space on campus.
According to the results of the University-wide survey, SGA identified the fact that several students feel the University doesn’t have enough study areas for students.
What these study areas provide is an opportunity for students to stay on campus to complete their work, which may allow them to increase their chances of graduating on time and develop a stronger sense of affinity with the University.