The three candidates running for Associated Students, Inc. president faced off Monday evening in a formal debate held in the Speech Arts building.
Candidates Selena Farnesi, Daniel J. Harrison and Cesar Sanchez used this opportunity to present their platforms while answering a variety of questions covering several topics.
Questions were put forward to the candidates by The Collegian editor-in-chief Tony Petersen, who served as moderator, as well as by several members of the audience.
Harrison claimed that him being a newcomer to the ASI gave him an advantage.
“I’m the only one that doesn’t have the ASI burden on myself,” he said. “Students are frustrated with ASI right now; they’re frustrated with the current administration and the scandals that have gone on during their watch.”
Sanchez, the current ASI vice president of finance, said he felt that he was the better candidate because he had more experience interacting with students.
“I’ll have an easier time relating to the average student,” Sanchez said.
ASI Vice President Farnesi said that one reason she saw herself as the top candidate is that she would not make promises she couldn’t keep, and that experience would be paramount in helping her accomplish her goals.
“I know that I can do a good job because of the experience that I have within the organization,” Farnesi said. “I feel I can represent the average student because I’m currently an undergraduate, and because I’m really involved on this campus.”
The issue of pay cuts for ASI members elicited a variety of responses from the candidates. Harrison said that he only needed about $500 a month to pay his bills, and would be willing to take a pay cut.
“I would approve a pay cut to around $500 if that is what is necessary to cut the ASI budget,” Harrison said.
Sanchez said that he, too, was open to the idea of taking a pay cut, and would take the issue a step further if necessary.
“If my stipend was stopping an essential ASI program that provides a large benefit to students, then I would actually take no pay,” Sanchez said.
Farnesi said that she would not take a pay cut.
“I believe that the work I do is worth being paid,” Farnesi said. “I do a good job. I serve students, I work more than 20 hours a week — more than what is required for ASI. I’m the first one in, and the last one out.”
Students in the audience were given the opportunity to ask questions. Recreation major Neil O’Brien asked if any of the candidates had an affiliation with the student group MEChA, and, if so, what the word “Aztlan” meant.
Farnesi said that she was not a member of the group.
“I don’t have any affiliation with MEChA,” she said. “That said, I believe the tag line [Aztlan] refers to taking back what those individuals believe was theirs, meaning this country, this land, this state.”
Harrison said that he, too, had no affiliation with MEChA whatsoever, and that he was unable to define the term “Aztlan.”
Sanchez said that he had been involved with MEChA, and that the term “Aztlan” was “a way for Chicanos in the United States to identify with each other.”
Political science and public administration major Manny Moon asked about accessibility for students with disabilities, and what the candidates would do to improve matters.
Harrison said that he would contact those students and to ask them what their concerns are, and would look at each concern individually to see what ASI could do to make the university as accessible to them as possible.
Sanchez said that while he had no past experience on issues concerning disabled students. “However, in recent months I have spoken to various students who have disabilities, and they have informed me of the current treatment they are subjected to.”
Sanchez said that a disabled student had to pay $300 just to register as a student with a disability, and that he would work to see if that fee could be cut.
Farnesi also pulled for students with disabilities.
“I took a social work class two semesters ago in which we were challenged to step into the shoes of someone with disabilities, and I spent an entire day on campus in a wheelchair,” Farnesi said. “It was, honestly, the hardest day in my college career.”
Farnesi said she would work with the resident’s housing association to provide access for disabled students in campus residence halls, which currently does not have access for disabled persons.
After the debate, students had their own opinions about the candidates.
“It was good,” public health major Tiffany Jepson said. “I liked Cesar.” Jepson said that she didn’t care for Harrison, however. “He just seemed too young.”
O’Brien said that he enjoyed the debate.
“I’m actually a little surprised with the answer that Cesar gave,” O’Brien said. “I’ve been doing a little research about what Aztlan means when it comes to being a member of MEChA; the idea that the southwestern United States are land stolen from Mexico.”
Approximately 40 students attended the debate. ASI voting is March 22-24.