2024 – 2025 SGA Debates: VP and BBC Candidates discuss parking, unity, and student services

SGA debatesVice president candidate Almansa (left) listening to vice president candidate Pujol (right) opening statements. | Danette Heredia, PantherNOW

Candidates and students gathered together in Graham Center to listen to FIU’s Student Government Association candidates debate and lay out their initiatives on Feb. 21.

BBC Governor candidates

The first up were the Biscayne Bay Campus candidates for governor, Reubens Bravo of the Gold and Blue party, and Jabari Baptiste of The Future is You party.

Bravo outlined his incentives with working on the transportation department at FIU to make the buses to BBC more efficient, as many students find them “taking forever.” 

“I think that’s really insensitive to the student body. It really comes down to efficiency and time. We’re here to get our degrees. We’re here to learn,” he said. 

He also says that he wants to do more to give hospitality students a voice, as well as bring out the “beautiful diversity” of the BBC campus as a whole. 

Baptiste introduced himself after, with his main focuses being giving mainly BBC students more chances to be heard and the same classroom opportunities as Modesto-Maidique Campus students. 

“We have a lot of UCC requirements that are not offered, or only one class option is offered on this campus, and I feel like that needs to be changed. We need more classes here,” Baptiste said. 

“(BBC) needs someone who actually cares about the campus to do something,” he said. 

When asked about how each of them will use the resources and funding for BBC given to them and what initiatives they plan to support, the candidates answered to adhere to their causes. 

Bravo once again addressed issues about buses, parking, and transportation. 

“I would really love to sit down with them and talk about what ways we can see to save money and ultimately give the students a better transportation choices, because at the end of the day, if you don’t drive, and you don’t have a car, and you are not in that position where you can do that, it really sucks to have a bus that breaks down every now and then,” he said. 

Baptiste mentioned going directly to organizations to understand where the funds are being allocated exactly.

He went on to say that bringing that understanding to students is important, so he could work with them to understand what they really want and need. 

When the floor was opened to questions, one student raised a question about accessibility for students who are disabled. 

They outlined a scenario in which the BBC buses were unable to accommodate their friend, who is also disabled, with their wheelchair. 

Bravo responded to this, saying, 

“I think it really comes down to talking with the transportation department and getting the accessibility.. having better background checks for the drivers that have to know, ‘Hey, this is a possibility’ (for students who are disabled),” 

Baptiste went on to say that going to the head of transportation is the start. Telling those who are in charge at that department about the different experiences of students and continually following up on it as well. 

“Because you may say something once, but if you don’t follow up on that action, then it might never actually come into play,” he said. 

After their closing statements reiterating their positions, the vice presidential candidates were up. 

SGA debates
Candidate Bravo (right) looking at candidate Baptiste (left) while giving his opening statement. | Danette Heredia, PantherNOW

Vice Presidential candidates

The candidates for Student Government Vice President were Maria Pujol from The Future is You party, and David Almansa from the Gold and Blue party. 

Pujol talked about unity amongst the FIU campuses. 

“The diversity that we have on our campus, (I want) to bring it together. I want to implement incentives in which we can create more events, and where organizations come together,” she said. 

Her idea was to implement something similar to the Greek Olympics, which currently exists for sorority and fraternity members. Pujol would plan to put on something similar but for students beyond Greek life.

She also expressed wanting to do this with other types of organizations “whose voices are not heard.” 

Almansa was up next, and he spoke of unity and hearing all student voices as well. 

“Gold and Blue is really focused on getting those voices heard and kind of bringing everyone together,” he said. 

The two were then asked about how they would foster diversity in students and organizations on campus in their positions as VP. 

Almansa mentioned collaborative events among organizations. 

“I want them to collaborate more, and I would love to get involved with all of them and have joint meetings, joint forums of events that kind of benefit students, whether it be a career fair, or whatever it may be,” he said. 

“Just to have fun together and getting our students involved, so they’re not in these little bubbles, and it’s not just Greek life over here, or, BSU over here,” he said. 

“I want it to be (that) everyone’s all together, just collaborating, because at the end of the day, we’re all going to be FIU alumni,” said Almanza. 

Pujols mentioned her olympics type event once more, in more detail: 

“Students will be allowed to sign up as different organizations and then join into teams, which will be able to fundraise restaurants, fundraisers, food, pantry drives, and talent shows here. There will be a week-long event, where they will showcase the talents and the reason they’re doing this event. Whoever gets the most points will be able to be the winner of the Olympics, and they will receive some more funding from SGA,” she explained. 

When the floor was opened up to audience questions, one audience member posed the question, “Should SGA have an opinion on political issues that may be controversial?” 

The two candidates responded similarly. 

Pujols said, 

“I just don’t think SGA should really focus on nationwide issues and issues that don’t certainly contain the school itself. It should allow the students to have their voice heard, as they continue to do,” she said. 

“I just think that we should focus more on the issues that we currently have in our school, and we’re able to face them, to be better. So we can have a more open campus to everybody,” she concluded. 

Almansa stated next, 

“So when it comes to stuff like that, I think it can come up on the Senate floor. It might not be top of mind, I  think student life in general should be the first thing on our minds, and making sure our students are happy and having a good experience,” he said. 

But if it comes to our attention, and it needs to be addressed, I definitely know we’re open to discussions and having that conversation,” he ended. 

Another audience member asked a question about how the candidates intend to uplift marginalized students being targeted by recent Florida laws, particularly against queer students and students from certain countries. 

Both candidates responded similarly, harkening back to their goals of promoting unity and more rapport amongst students with one another, with organizations, and with SGA. 

Pujols said that like Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), 

“I feel like SGA should also offer someone in there that is able to talk to people and understand them and give them the ability for them to come together and be more authentic, to be able to kind of have a sense of like themselves and be able to feel better about all the issues that are affecting them.” 

Almansa expressed that no student should feel marginalized at FIU and that he and the Gold and Blue party find it “unacceptable.” 

He too encouraged students to have their voices heard by SGA. 

This is part of the 2024 – 2025 SGA Debate Series. If you want to read about the presidential candidates, click here.

EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this article claimed that Pujol wanted to implement the Greek Olympics, which already exists. This article has been updated to reflect her statements more accurately.

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