Intense cheers arose throughout the audience of 40 packed with supporters from the political parties [OUR]Voice and PAC: Pride, Action, Change at the ASUCR presidential debates. Presidential candidates President Pro Tempore Devin Plazo from PAC and Personnel Director Ashley Harano from [OUR]Voice discussed existing issues in student government, a spending cap on elections campaigns and their positions on a referendum to fund ethnic and cultural programs.
Highlander Editor-in-Chief Colin Markovich began the debate by asking the candidates about their proudest achievement during their tenure at ASUCR. Plazo focused on time spent leading the legislative review committee as president pro-tempore, in which she emphasized student involvement in legislation.
“It’s not necessarily one single (achievement) … I’ve worked with numerous students to make sure that their legislation is up to code, and making sure it’s exactly what they want … I believe that as president I will increase this communication between students,” Plazo stated.
Harano parleyed her experience in staffing ASUCR as her proudest achievement. “What I am most proud of as personnel director is tripling the amount of student representatives on our (ASUCR) committees,” Harano stated.
The representatives were then asked about what issues are overlooked by ASUCR which they would like to focus on as president. Plazo placed an emphasis on the food pantry, whose bylaws were approved later that day.
“I think that a food pantry that is established with the help of ASUCR and the students that are working so diligently and bringing this to our attention is really what we need to focus on, and as president I will do my best to make sure that food pantry establishment is done by the end of next year,” Plazo explained.
Harano focused on expanding initiatives launched by the Associated Students Chancellor’s Committee on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence Prevention. “During my time as founder and chair of the committee with different campaigns and events, we have had survivors recognized and empowered, and that’s exactly what [OUR]Voice intends to do,” Harano elaborated.
The Highlander Empowerment Referendum became the next point of discussion among the candidates. The referendum would increase student fees by $14 per quarter to fund seven of UCR’s ethnic and gender programs in Fall 2015.
“I myself completely endorse the Highlander Empowerment Referendum. UCR prides itself on the diverse communities on campus, and if we want to make those communities a part of our campus, we need to make sure they have the proper resources to fully function … (Costo Hall) provides opportunity for students that goes beyond just what a student government can provide,” Plazo stated.
Harano declared support for Costo Hall, but would like to have students make their own decisions on the referendum. “It is very important for us as a student body to take that vote to make sure every student’s voice is heard in the opinion of the Highlander Empowerment Referendum,” Harano explained.
As one of the final topics, the candidates spoke about their position on having a spending and donations cap for student elections. Last year, over $15,000 was spent on elections and campaigning across all three political parties.
“[OUR]Voice has been able to have different gifts of money from grassroots relationships. We have been able to fund our candidates running by their families donating money to this cause … A cost is going to be necessary because we need to reach a larger span of students,” Harano answered, later stating that her party supports the caps.
Plazo was supportive of a spending cap. “I am completely in favor of an elections cap for parties. We are students first and foremost. Our tuition is increasing. We have rent. People are working multiple jobs. We should not be forking over tons of money to buy a campaign,” Plazo concluded.
In the straw poll, about 54.7 percent of those in attendance throughout the hour were from [OUR]Voice while 44.7 percent were from PAC. [YOU]CR did not run a presidential candidate due to personal issues, according to Senator Summer Shafer, who is running with the party. Voting will begin online at 8 a.m. on Monday, April 27, until 5 p.m. on Friday, May 1. Students can also vote at the Bell Tower at 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on the same days.