Senatorial debates kick off ASUCR elections

A crowd of approximately 45 people came to support candidates running for ASUCR senate, with political party members from [OUR]Voice; PAC: Pride, Action, Change and [YOU]CR participating in the senatorial debates on Wednesday. The candidates discussed issues ranging from gender gaps in graduation to impacted classes that adversely affect enrollment.

The debates were moderated by Highlander Editor-in-Chief Colin Markovich, who asked the candidates a variety of questions regarding issues pertaining to each of their colleges. Bourns College of Engineering (BCOE) candidates Erin Sunga of PAC: Pride, Action, Change and Ryan Torrento from [OUR]Voice were the first to present their plans to tackle their college’s gender gap; 77 percent of the graduating class in 2014 were male.

Torrento stated that community outreach was necessary to help close the gap. “No matter what background you come from, the only way you’re going to get interested in engineering is if you’re introduced to it at a young age, so the most important thing to do is to have outreach events to connect with kids,” Torrento stated.

While also advocating for more community outreach for the college, Sunga described the importance of empowering women in the engineering field as well. “Being a woman engineer, it is difficult getting into this field. We feel intimidated at times. When I go to class, people don’t expect me to be an engineer. If we can empower women and talk to the parents at outreach events then we can help bridge the gap,” Sunga explained. There are three candidates running for two BCOE senator positions.

Vincent Ta/HIGHLANDER
Vincent Ta/HIGHLANDER

The next group to debate were College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences (CNAS) candidates Robert Kotonya from [YOU]CR and Wen-Yu Chou from [OUR]Voice. Both candidates brought forth proposals to alleviate class overcrowding in particular subjects, such as chemistry, which could deter students from completing their requirements.

Chou said she would “(open) up communication with advisors in the college a lot more by contacting them directly” if she were elected.

Kotonya said he was interested in creating online classes to help students who are not in CNAS get through their requirements faster. “With this they wouldn’t have to wait all quarter with the professors. It would help students get through the coursework in a shorter amount of time than the current moment,” Kotonya elaborated. There are currently seven CNAS candidates running for four senatorial spots.

Candidates in the College of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS) were the last to present, with six speakers from each party crowding the stage. Corey Willis and Casey Thielhart represented [OUR] Voice, Johnson Pham and Tia Rey presented for PAC: Pride, Action, Change and Tesleem Azeez and Katherine Lee spoke on behalf of [YOU]CR.

A major question asked was the candidates’ stances on the current CHASS four-quarter foreign language requirement and possible ways to improve bottleneck enrollment. Thielhart stated that he would push for a three-quarter requirement as opposed to the current one. “With unit caps, I don’t think we should require these classes at these more difficult levels. They’re difficult to get into, they’re difficult to pass these classes. I think, therefore, a year is very adequate,” Thielhart reasoned.

Lee supported the current system; however, she admitted that enrollment was a problem as classes fill up quickly, and plans to investigate the issue further. Her fellow party member Azeez, while admitting the benefits of learning a foreign language, believed that, “Shortening it would be beneficial because reaching such a high level of foreign language is only beneficial if it is integral to your career, versus just needing a basic solid understanding to communicate with someone.”

As a linguistics major, Pham stated that he supported the current requirement because it helped students become more well-rounded. “College has become a factory for people to create careers, when in fact the institution should be focused on creating a balanced individual who has knowledge in all these different areas,” Pham argued.

As the largest college, there are 29 candidates in CHASS running for 10 senatorial positions. The debate for candidates running for director positions will occur on Wednesday, Apr. 8.

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