ECAB debates turn up the heat on student issues

Matt Hong/HIGHLANDER
Matt Hong/HIGHLANDER

The heat didn’t stop ASUCR party supporters from attending the recent executive cabinet (ECAB) debates, as cheers arose from the crowd of about 30 people. Candidates from [OUR]Voice, PAC: Pride, Action, Change and [YOU]CR vied for some of the highest positions in ASUCR, while issues of student pride, tuition hikes and transparency were popular discussion topics throughout.

The first to speak in the debate were vice president of internal affairs candidates, who deal with issues specifically on campus. Highlander Editor-in-Chief Colin Markovich asked the candidates Valeria Allende from PAC and Executive Vice President Michael Ervin from [OUR]Voice their opinion of the R’Gear program in which students were given out free sweatshirts by ASUCR to boost school spirit.

“R’Gear was a success, it was one of the biggest and most tangible things done to give campus pride to all students, and with eventually all students wearing UCR gear we won’t see other students wearing other campuses’ gear,” Ervin stated.

Allende agreed that the program was a success, but argued for use of the funds other than sweaters. “I also think that there are other ways that pride can show on our campus, not spending it on sweaters,” Allende said. “Pride is important to our campus, but there are other options, such as a multicultural fest.”

Next up were the vice president of external affairs candidates, Neftali Galarza from PAC, Parliamentarian Mohammed Hussein from [OUR]Voice and Senator Summer Shafer from [YOU]CR. The candidates for this position, which entails student affairs around the UC system and outside the campus, explained how they would help prevent future tuition hikes.

Hussein supported adding more student regents to combat the tuition hikes. “There is only one student regent on the whole Board of Regents. These are the people who decide where your money goes. Are you okay with these people letting your money go straight to their pockets?” Hussein questioned the crowd. Regents are not compensated for their work.

Galarza, on the other hand, stated, “I’m not going to promise that I’m going to roll back tution because that is impossible, (UC President) Janet Napolitano and (Gov.) Jerry Brown are not on our side.” Galarza, however, promised that he would personally lobby with assembly members like Jose Medina. “I will advocate in the streets, and I will put on a suit and advocate inside their offices,” Neftali concluded as a way of advocating for more state funding.

Shafer suggested escalating current efforts, such as demonstrations, by getting more participation and a united student body to fight against the hikes. In addition, she credited the protests as the reason why the regents put off the hikes until fall. “We need all the students to get together. (The regents) cannot attack us in this way. They cannot force students who are of low-income to not be able to go get a higher education,” Shafer said.

The executive vice president candidates, whose duties are to serve as a liaison between the executive cabinet and the senate, were the final speakers. Armando Saldana from [OUR]Voice, Taylor Valmores from PAC and Nilan Gunewardena from [YOU]CR all spoke on the issue of transparency in regards to allowing closed-ballot votes, which the executive vice president has the power to authorize.

Saldana, a former ASUCR executive vice president, spoke on the importance of a closed ballot, which may inhibit transparency. “There’s some things we can disclose and there’s some things we can’t disclose, but I assure you during my time (as executive vice president), I disclosed everything the student body needed to know,” Saldana stated.

Valmores stated, “I think closed-ballot votes are problematic, because I am huge on transparency. People should know how their elected officials vote, but at the same time, it is also necessary at some levels because of safety concerns.”

While also acknowledging the issue of safety, Gunewardena stated, “We want our senators to be bottom-up, we want our students to be able to talk about our issues. How are you going to do that if it’s a closed vote?”

According to a straw poll, a total of 140 people from the three political parties attended the debate at one point during the entire hour. [OUR]Voice had the most participants at 55 percent, with PAC following behind with 31.4 percent and [YOU]CR making up the rest at 13.6 percent. Presidential debates, which will conclude the ASUCR debates, will occur on April 22.

Video coverage of the debates is available at www.youtube.com/UCRChannelH.

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