By Christian Mattos and William Ramirez
Associated Students, Inc. presidential candidate Sebastian Wenthe was the only candidate last Friday who took an official “yes” stance on the New USU referendum, stirring the debate over whether the candidates for president should remain neutral.
The other three candidates, who remained neutral, said they did not want to influence students’ vote on the project. The four candidates went head to head during the annual ASI Presidential Debate held in the Bulldog Zone in the University Student Union. The event was held just before voting is set to start Tuesday.
Wenthe pressed the three other candidates to take positions on the New USU, claiming that remaining neutral “is easy.” Demi Wack and Carter Pope II both countered Wenthe’s argument. Wack said she did not want to force other students to choose sides.
Wack said she supported the project, but hopes students can take their own stance by educating themselves on the referendum before heading to the polls. The New USU has brought much debate on campus between students who support it and those who oppose it.
“I have chosen to remain neutral, because I believe it is irresponsible, as someone who is representing an entire campus, to take a side on something where half the student population doesn’t feel the opposite direction,” Wack said.
Pope backed up Wack’s claim by stating that having a presidential candidate take a stance could possibly split the student body.
“That’s absolutely ridiculous to force your students to vote one way or another,” he said.
Each candidate was given two minutes per question from Collegian moderators — ASI reporter Angelica Hernandez and news editor Razmik Cañas. The questions focused on a number of issues relevant to students in the 2018 student election election cycle, including a potential tuition hike, the New USU referendum, campus safety and student involvement.
Other highlights from the debate included: Corey Miracle suggested dogs should be brought to campus to relieve student stress; Wenthe spoke proudly of his Latino heritage, with his mother watching in the crowd; Wack spoke against a proposed tuition increase for California State University (CSU) students; and Pope said “Black Lives Matter,” which led to cheers from the audience.
Outreach was a common answer the candidates gave to solve the issue of low attendance to campus events and ASI meetings. Wenthe said he has run into too many people who do not know what ASI is.
“I would want to interact with clubs and organizations on campus. I’m currently the senator of clubs and organizations here on campus, and I find that those students are the most impacted and most involved on campus,” Wenthe said.
Wack agreed about the outreach but added that she would also like to show those clubs and organizations what ASI can do for them. Outreach was also a proposed solution to the low attendance at athletic events.
“A lot of students don’t know about the games. A lot of students don’t realize, ‘Hey there’s a game going on this Friday, this Thursday, etc.’” Pope said. “We need to emphasize these programs.”
Miracle said that adding more incentives to attending games could potentially help as well.
The candidates also debated topics that impacted the campus community – a shooting at University Inn in late February and a student death from an apparent drug overdose in January.
“We want to do more training for bystander intervention,” Wenthe said. “So we can identify signs of overdose from alcohol and drugs, we want to have campus protocols for 911, and we want to have CPR training so in case any student is in that position where they may be able to save a life, that they can take the steps do it,”
Pope echoed Wenthe’s idea of more training and had an idea for a campaign that would remind students to lock their doors.
Audience members also had a chance to ask the candidates questions. Student questions covered several topics such as the candidates’ majors, their thoughts on “Project Rebound” and how they would allocate their time if elected.
Wack was the only candidate who knew what Project Rebound was. The project is meant to provide a success path through higher education for those who have fallen into the criminal justice system.
Visit The Collegian’s Facebook page to watch the live stream of the debate and a highlight video.