Candidates gather in ASI presidential debate for special election

Associated Students Inc. (ASI) candidates gather in ASI presidential debate, moderated by The Collegian, for the 2022-23 special election on Tuesday, April 26, 2022, at the University Student Union. (Melina Kazanjian/The Collegian)

The Associated Students Inc. (ASI) presidential debate for the special election took place on Tuesday, April 26 at the University Student Union (USU).

The debate – which was held again after the disqualification of candidate Edward Thurber – was hosted by The Collegian and featured D’Aungillique Jackson, Aidan Garaygordobil and Cinthya Arriaga Sanchez.

The candidates had the opportunity to introduce themselves at the beginning of the debate.

Jackson, the current ASI president, said she has been ASI president at Fresno State for the last three semesters and led a Black Lives Matter protest in May of 2020 that attracted nearly 3,000 people to downtown Fresno.

D’Aungillique Jackson, current ASI president, returns for her second ASI presidential debate in one year after a disqualification of another candidate called for the need of a special election. (Melina Kazanjian/The Collegian)

Garaygordobil, the current ASI senator of the College of Arts and Humanities, said he has been involved in multiple campus programs including Fresno State Athletics, student housing and Greek life.

Sanchez, a Fresno State student majoring in recreational therapy, is on the Fresno City Council’s Measure C committee, a group aimed at improving the transportation system in the city.

Presidential candidates were asked how they can improve student turnouts in ASI voting.There was a 13.46% turnout for the 2020-21 ASI elections, a decrease from a 15.01% student turnout for the 2019-20 ASI elections.

“The more that we (ASI) promote certain projects on this campus. It’s important to show that we have people representing you,” Garaygordobil said in response.

Jackson said that the COVID-19 pandemic has been rough on many people, including the students at Fresno State and that there needs to be a focus on helping everyone make the transition back into person.

Sanchez said she wanted to improve communication within ASI and suggested starting a partnership with the city of Fresno to create drop-off ballot boxes throughout the entire city.

The debate also emphasized that Thurber’s recent disqualification marks the second time since 2020 that an ASI presidential candidate has been disqualified. The candidates stressed the need to make changes in order to prevent further incidents.

Jackson referenced the disqualification of Ruby Muñiz in 2020. Jackson said as the president of the Fresno State NAACP, she led the campaign to get ASI to hold a special election because there was a lot of “pushback.”

“I actually created a resolution, which was passed by ASI, to amend their election commission to expand it and to add extra policies to ensure that candidates could be held accountable and that they could follow the rules,” Jackson said.

Garaygordobil emphasized that there needed to be clarity regarding what candidates can and cannot do during their campaign.

“That all stems back to really [communicating] about what ASI is,” Garaygordobil said. “I think that [there should be] more promotion of ASI presidency and the elections.” 

Sanchez said students and families should be informed about ASI resources, along with advocating more on social media.

“I believe that knowledge is power, and having these resources accessible to the public will be very beneficial for Fresno State,” she said.

Cinthya Arriaga Sanchez, Fresno State student majoring in recreational therapy, added her name in the ballot for the ASI 2022-23 special presidential election. (Melina Kazanjian/The Collegian)

In his closing remarks, Garaygordobil said to keep faith in ASI, and addressed the importance of improving communication within ASI.

“I think it was apparent through this last campaign period that many students felt that they weren’t being represented in the proper way by ASI … We need to make that effort to connect with students and better represent them in order to strengthen ASI,” he said.

Arriaga Sanchez emphasized awareness and advocacy for resources available on campus.

“I don’t want to just take this as another position of power,” she said. “I plan to host a lot of creative projects for students in order to express themselves. I know that school can be very stressful.”

Jackson said she wanted to build upon what she was able to create during her first term as president.

“And just know that if you do decide to vote for me again, I promise I won’t let you down. And this next year we’ll be able to accomplish even more than we have since we have started the process of laying that foundation,” Jackson said.

Aiden Garaygordobil, the current ASI senator of the College of Arts and Humanities, also returns for his second ASI presidential debate after running in the first 2022-23 ASI presidential election. (Melina Kazanjian/The Collegian)

CORRECTION MAY 5, 2022: A previous version of this article spelled candidate Cinthya Arriaga Sanchez’s name incorrectly. The Collegian regrets this error.

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