Coronavirus concerns, virtual classes and student fees were only some of the topics addressed in the Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) presidential debate on Tuesday, March 17.
The presidential candidates on the panel were Naila Estrada and Elizabeth Rocha Zuniga. The third candidate, Ruby V. Muniz, chose not to attend due to illness.
Muniz provided a statement that highlighted her platform of the four ways to improve campus through affordability, accessibility, community and safety.
“We must increase accessibility to student programs such as our recreation center, student cupboard, health center and career center,” Muniz said. “As ASI president, I also hope to increase 24-hour library access in the weeks before finals. “
Due to coronavirus concerns, the debate was held at the University Student Union with no audience present but was put on Facebook Live to broadcast out to students.
Each candidate was given a minute to answer questions from the moderators of the debate, Collegian Sports Editor Zaeem Shaikh and Reporter Rachel Lewis.
After a three-minute introduction from both candidates, the first question asked pertained to their qualifications for position as president.
Estrada answered the question by stating that even though she had not served in the ASI before, she would bring a lot to the table, specifically someone who has a voice to show students where to be represented.
“If I don’t know the answer to something, I’m going to find someone that can answer a question you may have,” Estrada said.
Zuniga answered the question by pointing out her years as a senator for ASI and her experience as vice president of external affairs.
“I believe that being able to create a platform, and a space where students can feel represented and feel that they can come over to them [ASI representatives] and express how they are going through any situation,” Zuniga said. “That’s what I have been doing throughout my tenure. It was creating a space for students who feel represented and feel comfortable to talk to their representative.”
In another question, the candidates were asked what rules or changes need to be implemented in Greek life to create a safer campus?
Zuniga said that she stands with survivors and will advocate for them. She acknowledged that safety in Greek life could be improved by providing more programs and more education on how to handle certain situations.
Estrada said that she believes having more ASI representation may help to bring the student body to speak up on these issues.
When asked how they believed that the campus has handled the current coronavirus pandemic, Estrada said Fresno State President Dr. Joseph I. Castro and the CSU chancellor have worked hard to address the issue and taken several precautions in order for the students to be safe.
Zuniga agreed that the campus did do a great job in addressing the issue but fell short when it came to speaking with students on the concerns of moving to online classes, particularly those that may not have internet access at home.
“I do believe that students need to be more in the conversation and just being more mindful that their students are facing different things currently with, like I said, not having internet access and accessibility to a laptop,” Zuniga said.
The following question was then asked how the two candidates felt with the campus decision earlier that day to encourage students to leave the dorms.
Zuniga, who lives in the dorms, said she understood the decision for safety reasons but was against being told that students would still have to pay rent on the dorm room.
“I think that if we’re going to need to provide another space for students, and some people do not have a place to go back home, maybe they don’t feel comfortable going home.” Zuniga said
Estrada’s response stated that the decision to encourage students to leave was not a great idea but understands that it was done for student safety. The candidates received a follow-up question about providing resources to students taking virtual classes who may not have internet access.
Estrada said that the campus should focus on keeping the library and resources open for students to look into to help them. Zuniga said in her statement that the campus should work more in providing a program that shows students where they can get resources they may not be able to get a hold of on campus during this time.
In her closing statement, Zuniga emphasized the importance of having a president with experience in ASI.
“I think that it is important to elect the president to understand the system and can get things done,” Zuniga said.
Estrada emphasized her stance to be a voice for the student body on campus.
“I am here for you, and hopefully you guys will vote for me,” Estrada said. “And just know that I’m always here for you guys, you know, no matter what the turnout is.”