Bridging the gap between students and the Student Government Association is the first promise on presidential candidate Brian Zagrocki's list of campaign goals.
At their campaign rally Tuesday night at Buffalo Wild Wings on University Boulevard, Zagrocki and his running mate Alex Bennett greeted supporters — and the candidates' parents who surprised them — with their vision and platform points under the slogan "A new day. A new knight."
"One of the biggest visions and initiatives that we have for our platform is making sure that by the end of our administration, every single student — that's every single student, no matter who you are ... will feel connected in some way to SGA," Zagrocki said.
Zagrocki, who is president of the Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity and serves as the SGA Governmental Affairs Committee chair, said he thinks students do not have enough knowledge about the services SGA offers. He emphasized that he wants to evaluate all of the current services by running them under the criteria of whether or not each one will help catapult students into success. To do this, he wants to create monthly town hall meetings for students, and allow feedback and concerns to be submitted through online portals on the SGA website. The town hall meetings would allow students to give ideas and ask questions, preserving SGA's transparency, Zagrocki said.
Central to the aspiring president's campaign is also inclusivity. Along with accommodating disabled students in UCF's buildings, Zagrocki wants to more heavily promote heritage months on campus, such as Hispanic Heritage Month and the Month of the Woman. This would make students more aware of different ethnic backgrounds on campus, he explained, emphasizing that heritage months would be incorporated into SGA's current services and programs and would increase Knight pride and school spirit — which he and Bennett say the campus is lacking.
"So, a big thing for us is that we understand that UCF stands for opportunity," Zagrocki said. "And UCF should stand for opportunity for every single student no matter what your background is — and again, that goes back to our mission for SGA, making sure that SGA is connecting the students to what we do with our services, no matter your background."
Alex energetically added that while diversity is already celebrated on campus, she would use their leadership to shed more light on diversity initiatives that are already established on campus.
"We really want to incorporate diversity into our campus more than it already is. We want to make sure that we're promoting every heritage month across campus, by promoting it on social media, promoting it on the banners in the Student Union — all across campus," Bennett said. "We want to make sure everyone is educated on what heritage month it is."
The hopeful candidate said, if elected, he would also focus on renovating the main hubs on campus, including the Student Union and John C. Hitt Library. Though library expansion plans have already been underway, Bennett said they want to speed up the process by helping the project receive more funds to extend library hours and expand the space.
Along with revamping buildings on campus, Zagrocki noted that, if elected, he wants to help create better wheelchair accessibility on campus by offering more bathrooms that accommodate students in wheelchairs or who have other disabilities.
In addition to inclusivity and catalyzing campus renovation, Zagrocki asserted that he wants expand the transportation system to include regional campuses. Alex added that they want to do this so that regional-campus students can submerse themselves in the same opportunities as main-campus students, such as by more easily attending events on campus. And coupled with more transportation routes, Zagrocki said he is working on addressing students' frustration with the tediousness of parking on campus by developing a phone application that detects vacant parking spaces. The app would be modeled after similar ones used on other campuses, he said.
Zagrocki wrapped up the rally by addressing the hot topic of UCF-area safety concerns. If elected, he said one of his main platform goals is to work with Orange County Sheriff's Office for increased response time against crimes committed at apartments near campus. He also hopes to push for more streetlights on and off campus, explaining that the less light in an area, the more conducive the area is for crimes. The candidate said he lives near The Marquee, formerly Sterling Central apartments, and is concerned for students' safety in that area especially.
While his campaign goals are widespread, Zagrocki said each ambition would still be evaluated for whether or not it would truly benefit the student body, and reiterated his main goal: to bridge the gap between students and SGA.
"If we feel like [SGA services] are not fully promoting students' success. We're going to reevaluate that service, and we're going to see, one, if we can improve that service, or two, we're going to do away with that service and put the money toward what you guys want," he said.
Nada Hassanein is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @nhassanein_or email her at NadaH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.