On Wednesday, April 5 beginning at 12 p.m., ASUCR’s elections committee hosted both the senator and director debates for prospective candidates to answer questions regarding their plans and stances on issues for the upcoming school year if elected. The debates were hosted by ASUCR Elections Director Marcy Kuo and moderated by Highlander Assistant News Editor Evan Ismail and Opinions Editor Quinn Minten.
Prospective candidates present at the debate included Marium Al-Khalili, Jacqueline Arciniega, Carolyn Chang, Ariya Haghighat, Semere Mengistu, Marco Ornelas, Roy Tongilava and Reginald Wong, all of whom are running for the position of CHASS senator. The remaining 16 of the 24 senatorial candidates were not in attendance.
When asked about how to improve student participation rates in ASUCR, Tongilava expressed his belief in “expanding on our promotions of ASUCR, restoring the integrity, the democracy that ASUCR once stood for.” Ornelas reiterated the same sentiment, declaring, “I agree that a big part of the reason why there’s not enough students attending or being involved in ASUCR … it’s not really because of any individual or any organization. It’s because of a broken system; we have one party ruling all aspects of ASUCR and we need to change that.”
Mengistu’s response focused on changing how information is distributed to students from an indirect to direct approach saying, “I feel like it’s a lot more powerful to have one-on-one interactions with the people that are governing you. The people in office should be more accessible to you, and I feel like that’s a very important aspect of it that we need to acknowledge.”
In regards to how the candidates would work to change ASUCR’s tarnished reputation, Arciniega provided her thoughts stating, “In order to restore ASUCR’s reputation, we have to elect people who represent the student body. As of now … we haven’t really elected the people who represent the student body, but more so elected the people who you know the names of or who you know the political party of.”
Wong responded by proposing the creation of “an ‘election analyst’ for the students” to audit elections and “getting students in the political science department, in the public policy department to actually be able to do some type of ASUCR internship to see how applied political theory works” in order to better change it for the school.
“The problem is we’re failing to fix the flaws we see in our own system. So what we need to do is recognize these flaws and we need to move forward in fixing them,” Haghighat spoke in response to the same question, referencing how he felt that “a couple people took a hold of a party, and from that, they were able to use and manipulate the system and find the flaws in the system and use it to benefit themselves, hurting the rest of the community.”
Moving forward, the candidates were asked about their stance on a constitutional change that would increase the quarterly and cumulative GPA requirement of a 2.0 to a cumulative GPA of a 2.5 for ASUCR officials. Chang disagreed with raising the GPA requirement, saying, “As students, we all have our own schedule, and I know that our education comes first, but some people could be having hard quarters, they could be taking really hard classes and realizing that they don’t wanna be in the major that they’re in and they need to switch.”
Al-Khalili opposed Chang’s standpoint, asserting that, “One of the four core values that we have here at UCR, the Tartan Soul, one of them is excellence, the second one is integrity and another one is accountability … and I feel like if we’re not holding ourselves to that standard of getting that 2.5 GPA, we’re not embodying the four core values that the school has set out for us to embody.”
Senatorial candidates Wong, Ornelas, Arciniega, Tongilava, Mengistu, Al-Khalili and Haghighat also expressed their belief that student government should get involved in making political statements, as was done this school year when a resolution encouraging the removal of Sabra hummus from UCR’s dining facilities had been passed through the senate.
Debates for the prospective director candidates commenced at 1 p.m., with personnel director candidate Katherine Tatley, marketing and promotions director candidates Ryan Lo and Connie Wi and transfer/non-traditional student director candidates Maria Chavez and Jose Saavedra all in attendance. The candidates were first asked a few of the same questions, with the closing questions being geared toward each candidate’s specific position.
When asked how students would be made more aware of the responsibilities of the transfer/non-traditional student director position, Chavez responded by saying that marketing, creating more events exclusively for these types of students and having a visible leader would facilitate in creating this awareness. “I want to be going out to the students … myself and telling them what our resources are,” Chavez declared.
Saavedra provided his hopes of being able to create awareness through talking to these types of students at their orientation and collaborating with transfer and non-traditional student associations and programs. “To put them at the same level as non-traditional and non-transfer students, collaboration, communication, I believe that’s the best thing we can do,” Saavedra concluded.
Both marketing and promotions director candidates were then asked how they would characterize ASUCR’s marketing department and how they would seek to improve it.
Wi stated her belief that “the marketing for ASUCR is definitely not a strong point,” but that it is something that could be changed. “Especially in this day and age … social media is so important for marketing and promoting different opportunities for the students here at UCR. And my goal is to revamp our social media platforms, utilize these platforms to reach out to more people and to promote more opportunities for the students here at UCR,” Wi said.
Echoing Wi’s sentiment, Lo argued that ASUCR did have some “effect,” believing that was the reason students were present, although there are ways to make it more effective. “One of the things that I want to start out with is orientation, is day zero. The day that you come here, you want to come here with a sense of pride and understand exactly what’s gonna happen with ASUCR, yet none of that happens,” Lo explained, alongside his stance that the information that ASUCR is trying to get out should be condensed in forms able to reach all students, and then tackling social media platforms for this purpose.
Lastly, Tatley was asked how she would maximize potential of those hired or placed into ASUCR positions. Tatley elaborated on how building personal relationships with students would contribute to her success by helping her find out what intrinsically motivates students. “It’s absolutely crucial and essential for the personnel director to build relationships with staff members, interns, senate members, the student body, because that’s the only way where the personnel director can actually bring in students who are passionate and curious about joining organizations and clubs on campus and committees, and place them in the right committees that will help foster their passion,” Tatley elaborated.
Both the executive cabinet and presidential debates will be on Wednesday, April 12 at the HUB lower plaza from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.