Seven students entered the race to be elected Student Government Association president, including supply chain management sophomore Cedric Bandoh who is the current SGA chief of staff.
What follows is a partial transcription of an interview The Daily Cougar’s news editors Joshua Mann and Taylor McGilvray conducted with Bandoh.
The Daily Cougar: What are three things you think voters should know about you?
Cedric Bandoh: First, just my love for the University. (Being in SGA) is a job that you have to be committed to and dedicated to this university to do.
Next is that I believe with the current leadership under Dr. Khator we’re going to the right places. … It’s great to have a president that’s very dedicated to the school, but students need to be involved; to make sure that the decisions that are made and the new things that come to the University are things that we want and can benefit from at the end of the day.
Third, I’m dedicated to making sure we live up to our Tier 1 model. It’s great to say that we’re Tier 1 — and we are, in multiple areas — but we still have some areas that have to be brought up to speed in that respect.
TDC: What do you think has been the most important thing the SGA has done since the summer?
CB: We’ve done a lot of important things as far as pieces of legislation and different ideas and programs and things that we’ve worked on, but I think the biggest thing has been increasing the visibility of SGA.
I think more people know SGA exists. That’s pretty evident if you look at the number of people who are running for office this year; it’s a tremendous increase over last year. I have six opponents. I think last year it was three for four people running for president, and the year before that was three or four people.
So people know that we exist now, which I feel is one of the biggest challenges that we have. It is actually somewhat sad that students don’t know that there are other students out here that can help them address the issues they’re having here on campus.
I mean, last year about 10 percent of the students actually voted in SGA elections. I mean, that really bothers me — that people don’t even know we exist. Sometimes it’s like you’re sitting here working hard, but the student body doesn’t really know about it.
That was one big thing when we came to office. President Harding and Vice President Primjee are very big on increasing the communication to the student body, to let them know that we’re here. I believe we’ve done that this year. I see the events that we’ve done, we’ve tried to ramp up the marketing and the promotions that we’ve done, because everyone benefits at the end of the day because now more students are part of the discussion and the decision making process when it comes to the different issues here on campus.
TDC: Do you think the low visibility is still a problem?
CB: I think it needs to continue to be worked on.
I think the visibility was increased a little bit recently with the referendum vote, since we wrote the bill that authorized that referendum. So I think students still have that on their minds about at least going out there and voting. Because that’s the other thing, even if students know we exist, only nine or 10 percent of them go out and vote in the elections, which is not really getting a good representation of the student body.
But yeah, I think that’s still something we need to work on, and that’s something that myself and my running mate are committed to; getting ourselves out there more and getting more people involved in SGA. We’re not saying people running for office, it’s people engaged in the different conversations we’re having on different issues; that’s what we want to see.
TDC: What do you plan on doing differently from the last administration, if you’re elected?
CB: The first thing is what we just touched on: visibility. One thing that I would do is just increase the amount of social media that we use. Students are getting more and more of their news and information from Facebook and Twitter and all the social media outlets. I think SGA could be doing more of that.
TDC: How would you make sure you’re accurately representing the students?
CB: I think on a lot of the things we do, we could take a lot more opinion polls.
We’re working with administration leaders and people who may be higher up, and we think we’ve come to the right solution. But sometimes we see that’s not the case. Something happens, and the news gets out there, and the student body’s not happy. We thought they wanted this, but they really didn’t.
In SGA, we’re working on a lot of big, major things, and once they go through, they go through. It’s pretty hard sometimes to go back around and redo them or readdress them. We need to do it, and we need to get it right the first time around.
It all goes back to out mission of empowering students and giving them an opportunity to be a part of the decision making process. I mean, that’s what we’re here for.
TDC: How do you plan on dealing with real problems like parking or safety — stuff like that — as SGA president?
CB: I think the first thing, as far as addressing the parking issue, is just that to let students know there is already a parking plan in place.
When I talk about the parking plan we also have the parking garage that is coming up right now, and that will add about 2000 more spaces on campus, so that will help. After that, there is going to be a parking garage that will be built in front of Moody Towers and next to the Welcome Center garage in that parking lot that’s currently there, which will add about another 2000 more spaces.
It won’t totally fix our problem, but it will tremendously help because right now we have a ratio of about three to one for every parking spot, so I mean, that’s the issue. Every single parking spot on this campus is assigned to three people. Those two garages will help, but it doesn’t solve the issue.
Even with the garages — and they will help — my concern is the affordability. Not all of us students — like I said, I’m totally dependent on scholarships and financial aid — not all of us can afford those parking garage passes, so we need to start looking at our campus map and see how we can incorporate more surface lots.
So, those are the things we can look at in the short term. (Long term,) I think the student body needs to have a more proactive discussion with Metro. We see the Metro construction going on, but when that thing is completed, it can only take you so far — it’ll only take you to downtown and not many areas. My vision for that is one day for students that live out in Katy and Sugar Land, Missouri City, Humble and all the different suburbs in Houston.
I was also working with the parking and transportation department to do more marketing to try to encourage students to carpool more and more marketing to get students to use the NextBus system that has to deal with the shuttles.
TDC: What was your stance on the fee increase referendum and why?
CB: I support the referendum fee … because I see the opportunity that it has given us.
Like I said, if it wasn’t for me having the scholarships that I have and receiving federal financial aid and state financial aid, I wouldn’t be here, so I understand the concern from the student body.
We need some facilities that we’ll be able to be proud of once we’re in (the Big East), and I believe a brand new football stadium and a renovated Hofheinz arena will not only give us facilities to be proud of, but again, just increase our global brand.
We should be a school of choice for people — not to say that we aren’t — but there’s a lot of people out there who don’t automatically recognize this institution when you just say the University of Houston. And athletics is free marketing to be frank. The University does invest in a lot of marketing efforts to get our name out there, but when your football team and athletics programs are successful, people on the national scene start to recognize you, and there’s free marketing.
TDC: There were some students that came to last SGA meeting who were not very happy with the way that it was carried out. Do you want to address that at all?
CB: As far as all the concerns were about people who were in support of the referendum being too close to the polling locations and things of that nature. As it was stated in the meeting, SGA had nothing to do with the actual polling and the voting. All we did was write the bill that authorized the referendum because state law says… if you’re going to raise the student service fee above 10 percent, your student body senate — or whatever your student government body is called — has to authorize it. That’s all we did.
The voting locations themselves and the voting operations were handled by the Division of Student Affairs and I don’t know if you were out there, but you didn’t see the either me or the president out there at the polling location. We tried to stay away from that because that wasn’t our operation, besides, of course, when we were voting. And then the marketing for this was handled by athletics and, of course, this is something that is going to really tremendously progress them and change the whole dynamic of their department, so of course they’re going to go out the and try to champion people to go out and vote yes for it.
I totally understand the concerns from the student body, but the material that was out there was all factual, the website explained the fee, it explained how this would impact the student service fee, the Memorandum of Understanding was there, all the facts were there, so I guess from that standpoint, the information was out there and I believe it was presented well, but again, if there were any instances where a student either was pressured into voting or really didn’t understand, we want them to come forward. We already met with the vice president of student affairs and as he gets them in, he’s addressing those issues with his staff. And we highly encourage them to contact with him and his email was given out at the meeting, so please we encourage you to do that. But again, this is something that will benefit us more in the long run.
Another thing to that is the overwhelming turnout for the election. Almost 10,000 students voted. Like I said, we have 3,700 people who vote in the people who are going to represent them in the student body and we’re still trying to work on that, and this brought out almost 10,000 students, so that shows you right there, at least in my opinion, that there was tremendous attention on this matter, whether you support it or didn’t support it. That was the highest numbers we’ve had in the history of this University as far as students coming out to vote on anything.
TDC: What makes you stand out from the other candidates?
CB: I believe that being the chief of staff gave me a leg up, a very great inside look of what it takes to be the student body president.
(With) my job duties alone, I oversee all the departments, I sit on committees, I chair committees, I’ve had a lot of experience dealing with making those huge decisions just in this position.
Coming into this position blind and not really knowing what it takes to really be successful in getting things done I think would really set you behind as far as being able to accomplish anything in SGA.
TDC: Why do you want to be the SGA president?
CB: It has been a goal of mine — I will say — since I got here on this campus. I’ve always been very big on being involved on your campus.
I want to put myself into a position to where I can actually do something about (campus issues) and I work with other people to fix the problems and find solutions.