The two candidates running for the position of External Vice President of Statewide Affairs took part in the AS elections forum on April 16 to answer questions about their plans if elected, their qualifications, and their take on many issues including the rights of undocumented students and the introduction of the University of California Office of the President tax.
Participating in the forum were Norma Orozco, running with the Democratic Process Party (DP Party), and Alex Choate, running with the Open People’s Party (OPP).
The issues addressed in the forum included student debt, the undocumented community, the role of the university in making socially responsible investments, and immigration reform.
“My biggest goals are equality of higher education and investing more money into our universities, as well as retention, making it so that students can afford to come to college so that university is accessible and remains a public university,” Orozco said. “It is currently on its way to privatization, with over a 300 percent tuition increase in the last decade and this is not acceptable.”
Choate discussed some of her short-term goals, which included starting local meet and greets with the UC regents and a class teaching lobbying modeled after Berkeley’s. Her long-term goals were to create revenue sources and extend the eligibility period for Cal Grants.
An issue the two candidates seemed to differ on was the role of the executive offices in relation to the Senate.
“Because they are seen as leaders, I think it is important for them to step back and let the senate make their own decisions as to what is going on. I think executive privilege is often overlooked and because of someone’s title, they hold more weight,” Choate said. “As EVPSA, I would be more than willing to step back and let the decision makers of the senate take their own stance and decide.”
Orozco took a different stance.
“The execs need to have a presence in Senate. We need to make sure we are all on the same page. These are not separate institutions, these two branches, as well as the Student Advocate General, all need to work together,” said Orozco. “We need to make sure that our campaigns are on the same page; if the executive and the senate are divided, it’s going to look as if AS is divided to the rest of the campus.”
Following the EVPSA forum, the second presidential forum occurred in the Hub with OPP candidate Jonathan Abboud, DP Party candidate Megan Foronda, and Independent candidate Patrick “Mac” Kennedy.
Several issues brought up and discussed during the hour-long forum were tenants’ rights, the role of the executive office in relation to the senate and controversial issues, the relation of the Greek system to the campus, the length of Senate meetings, and the decriminalization of marijuana.
Abboud began by stating his three main focal points if elected.
“First, strengthening higher education in California: we must unite together. Students, workers, faculty, staff and alumni must be united in our defense of higher education in California because students alone cannot win this fight,” said Abboud. “We must build a coalition to fight any tuition hikes.” His second and third focal points revolved around campus culture and AS responsibility of the utilization of the student fees the association collects each quarter.
“You pay $180 every quarter into Associated Students and you deserve to see every single dollar of that money,” said Abboud. “I want to take the leftover money and refund it back to you at the end of the year.”
In terms of special projects each of the candidates hope to work on, Foronda brought up the issue of affordability stating she wanted to start an AS thrift store for students. Abboud brought up campus culture saying that other UC’s have stronger culture and he hopes to improve upon this by the renovation of the UCen. Kennedy stated he intended to recruit students into the association and work on projects to benefit all students.
Foronda discussed what her goals would be as president.
“It’s about priorities, protection of student rights, and empowerment,” said Foronda. “We need to prioritize students first…I want to ensure that funding continues to go to student organizations that are doing work on this campus.” As far as the concept of student empowerment goes, Foronda hopes to create an environment on campus that makes all students feel empowered, safe, and represented.
An issue that was brought up several different times was the need to improve upon campus climate and culture; all three candidates agreed on this point and mentioned it in their list of goals for their presidency.
During the closing comments, Kennedy stated his three main reasons for running to be president.
“I want to reduce your tuition. I’m the only candidate who has relationships with key legislators in Sacramento and who has experience lobbying. Second reason I’m running is to reform the corruption in AS,” said Kennedy. “Third reason I’m running is to improve the campus climate here and create a better sense of school spirit.”
Students can vote for candidates on GOLD through Thursday, April 25.