The ASUCR senatorial debates were held on Monday, March 28, outside of the Highlander Union Building (HUB). Members from [YOUR]Side, the newly formed Orange Party and an independent candidate participated in the event moderated by the Highlander Newspaper Opinions Editor, Jessica Baker. Altogether nine participants answered questions with one group consisting of five candidates rotating with four other candidates after questioning.

Baker asked a series of questions ranging from how the candidates plan on enhancing the college experience for their constituents to what their reasoning for pursuing a senatorial seat was. The first group consisted of Orange Party candidates running for CHASS senator, Dina Muhammad, BCOE senatorial candidate, Ana-Paola Laveaga, CNAS senatorial candidate Breanna Javier, [YOUR]Side candidate running for CHASS senator, Aram Ayrapetyan and CNAS senatorial candidate Ali Malik, the only independent senatorial candidate running this election.

Inclusiveness, community and accessibility for students was a common theme among the candidates’ answers. When asked about legislation that they would introduce during their tenure, third-year chemical engineering major Laveaga answered that she would like to help equalize the orientation experiences between traditional and nontraditional students such as transfer and commuter students to create a better sense of community and belonging at UCR.

Baker also asked the candidates what kind of changes they would like to see happen to the structure of ASUCR. Second-year neuroscience major Malik answered that he’d like to increase transparency, stating, “I think ASUCR has done a lot of good things for the campus community, but I think transparency needs a lot of work. I see that some senatorial candidates say that their party has done a lot but it seems to me that a lot of students don’t think that their message is getting out to ASUCR. I want to make ASUCR extremely transparent.”

Later, third-year political science major Ayrapetyan responded to Malik’s and other candidates’ focus on transparency, saying, “While I totally agree that transparency is a wonderful thing, I think the most important thing for ASUCR to have is accessibility … I want you to be able to come up to me and have a conversation because I’m one of you. I’m just a normal person. I’m running for your interests.” Ayrapetyan also highlighted efforts made by current members of his party, [YOUR]Side, to establish office hours for senators at the Bell Tower.

The discussion turned to the candidates’ responsibilities outside of ASUCR and whether they think it would supersede their duties as senator. While most candidates answered no, second-year biology major Javier, who is a member of the Sigma Kappa sorority, answered, “I think that these obligations won’t supersede but would help my position and really help me get to the core of different issues that students have … By expanding your network and by expanding the people that you talk to you only gain momentum with different issues.”

Mohammad, a second-year political science and international affairs major, later articulated her interests for running for ASUCR senator when asked, expressing, “Anyone can say things and throw out phrases and sound good but I think it’s really the action that you take to back it up … that you really make the biggest impact and that’s why we’re here. We’re not here to keep with the status quo and … We’re here to make a significant change and a difference here on campus.”

The next group of candidates consisted of [YOUR]Side party members, Arneil Liban running for BCOE senator, Jennifer Nkosi running for CHASS senator, Beau Young running for CNAS senator and Orange Party candidate, John Tannocs running for CHASS senator.

The questions for the second group elicited similar responses to the first group with a focus on fostering transparency for ASUCR operations and accessibility for students. The most impassioned responses came from the question regarding the candidates’ intentions for running.

Liban, second-year bioengineering major, stated that as a mentor to first-year engineering students and a member of UCR’s only professional engineering fraternity, Theta Tau, “I feel the heartbeat of BCOE and because of that I want to represent BCOE and communicate with other colleges … so we can build a better connection as a school as a whole.”

Nkosi, first-year film and African-American studies major who self-identified as black, white and Latina, responded, “As a woman of color … I realize that being on campus and being young that our voices are often silenced. I want to be a senator that is obviously giving you all a voice who are usually silenced.”

Young, second-year microbiology major, elucidated that he didn’t initially intend to run for ASUCR senate but did so after it was suggested to him by someone working with him on a project called Campaign for Sober Driving to provide free Uber drivers for students. “I said that was a fantastic idea and that way I can find more ways to help UCR,” explained Young.
First-year business major Tannocs espoused his experience as an ex-officio for ASUCR, stating, “I’m running because in the past year as a fellow for external affairs I led marches and actions where I helped give students a voice and I showed students that they can do more in their communities than sit and give ideas. They can empower themselves.”