Taken by Wesley Ng

The themes of transparency, accountability and awareness were among the most prominent discussion points during last week’s ASUCR debates at the Bell Tower. Nearly a dozen ASUCR senatorial candidates were in attendance to elaborate on their party platforms and goals that they would pursue if elected into office. After answering a series of questions posed by current ASUCR senators, the candidates were able to hear from audience members and address issues ranging from the governor’s tax initiative to the Legislative Convention controversy.

The first question, posed by Senator Albert Yum, asked how candidates would increase the visibility of ASUCR to the student population. A common answer among candidates was that of revamping ASUCR’s online presence and engaging in more community outreach. “As a first year…I wasn’t even exactly sure what ASUCR did. I want to definitely change that because before we can start working for students like you, you have to first be aware of who we are and what we do,” stated [YOU]CR’s Aaron Johnson, who noted that his party would create a website and host more publicity events. Students United Candidate Josue Graciano shared similar aspirations, highlighting the use of Facebook, Twitter and the current ASUCR website to expand outreach efforts through media outlets that are easily accessible to students.

Others, however, shifted their attention from online activities to physical interaction. “It’s our job to go to students, not to expect students to come to us…we need to go to the people that we’re actually representing and ask them, ‘well what do you guys need from us?’” stated R’Voice candidate Shadi Matar. Independent candidate Matt Richardson insisted on hosting more town hall events for students to meet their representatives and become more involved with student government. “We need to go into work meetings and talk to people, we need to get their personal input…we have to participate in lobbying [and] voting,” stated R’Voice candidate Nicholas Oifoh.

The debate was particularly useful in exposing candidates’ viewpoints to student voters. “It’s a good way to get [the candidates’] perspective on things,” stated first-year Lauren Green in an interview with the Highlander. “It would be better to have a more intimate setting though, so they can get more in depth regarding their plans for the campus next year and the different issues that have been brought up.” The event was also used by some, including ASUCR Senator Derek Roberts, to gauge candidates’ knowledge and character. “I don’t necessarily use [the debates] to learn about their platforms. Instead, the debates are a good way to see who actually knows what ASUCR does and who’s just in it for the ride,” stated Roberts.

The next debate question dealt with what the candidates believed that ASUCR lacked and how it could be improved. The response was met with a variety of responses ranging from Oifoh’s call for public audits of ASUCR spending to independent candidate Jasmine Kavezade’s insistence that ASUCR listen to their constituents more closely. “ASUCR has claimed to be taking a stand but they haven’t been listening to students…[ASUCR] needs to recognize that this community is student-run and student-owned,” stated Kavezade.