Candidates for positions in the Executive Cabinet of the Associated Students of UC Irvine debated campus politics to a mostly empty room on April 12.
Although many candidates brought along their own cheering sections (many attired in T-shirts emblazoned with slogans of their respective candidates), turnout among undecided voters was, as in years past, very low.
The candidates seemed to agree with each other on almost every major issue. When asked where they stood on the three upcoming student fee referenda, for example, presidential candidates Olivia Rodriguez, Stephanie Johnson and Yo-Han Kim all emphatically supported all three referenda.
One candidate for executive vice president, Kunal Jain, seemed determined to break rank with his opponents, voicing strong opposition to Measure S (which would provide additional campus shuttles), leading one audience member to call him an ‘idiot,’ in what was the evening’s most heated exchange.
Candidates especially agreed (ironically, considering the low turnout) on the idea that student participation in ASUCI events is too low, a concern that was raised at least once by almost every candidate.
Kyle Dineen and Rosanna Huang gave ideas on how to combat this problem by reaching out to students.
‘We do try to cater to as many students as we can,’ Dineen said. ‘If they feel that none of our events are catering to [their tastes] then they’re always free to approach me or anybody in office about what they want.’
‘It’s very hard to satisfy all students on campus, and I’m going to try to work my hardest to satisfy them by really surveying what students want to hear,’ Huang said. ‘I really want to improve publicity aspects by using nontraditional methods.’
Victor Wilson and Eric Williams, candidates for vice president of administrative affairs, were asked to name some of the biggest problems facing UCI.
‘[One problem is] lack of communications between organizations and ASUCI and administration,’ Williams said. ‘[We need to take] a proactive role in that by going in, meeting with clubs and organizations, talking with individuals, seeing what everyone wants. … Student apathy is [another] big problem on the campus. … [We should] create more programs that are focused on students, not just what they should want, but what they do want, what they … will get involved in.’
‘Cost affordability [is an important issue] on our campus,’ Wilson said. ‘The parking administration arbitrarily raises student fees from year to year, and I think this can be regulated by a student parking committee. … [Another issue is] housing. Often, first-year housing spaces are allocated to incoming freshmen, but all the freshmen who housing approaches with the opportunity aren’t able to attain this dorm housing.’
Jose Gonzalez, the only candidate for vice president of academic affairs, addressed the difficulty of fostering respectful academic debate.
‘I think it’s a shame that when we have programs on campus, most notably when we had the [showing of Danish cartoons of the Islamic prophet Muhammad], so many people come to these events with their minds made up,’ Gonzalez said. ‘When I plan to bring a speaker on a campus, I hope it opens up people’s minds.’
The executive vice presidential seat is the most hotly contested in this year’s election, with five candidates vying for it: Jain, Vera Konkankit, Andre Ramirez, Joe Le and Nicole DeCuollo.
Executive vice presidential candidates were asked about changes they would make to the ASUCI constitution or bylaws.
‘If [I were to change the constitution], there would be some type of new amendment to help out and make ASUCI more prominent,’ DeCuollo said.
‘I don’t think the constitution is specific enough,’ Jain said. ‘I also think the constitution should be made available to all the clubs and every club should get a chance to read it.’
Ramirez refuted Jain’s concern that the constitution was not readily available.
‘The constitution and bylaws are very available,’ Ramirez said. ‘You go to www.asuci.uci.edu, click on ‘documents,’ and they’re right there.’
As for changes to the documents, Ramirez said, ‘According to the constitution right now, the president is in charge of the UC Student Association, but currently the executive vice president takes care of that. … I feel that the executive vice president should be responsible for some of the commissions that are currently in the office of the president.’
Konkankit and Le both agreed that the constitution and the bylaws were already in good shape.
‘Everything’s been working well and efficient already,’ Konkankit said. ‘There are some changes that could be made with specificity, but as far as taking the time to look through and amend it, I think that that time should be allocated to something more important.’
‘I think that, for the most part, ASUCI runs like a well-oiled machine, so I don’t think that … we need to amend bylaws or the constitution,’ Le said. ‘I was an intern in ASUCI my freshman year, and I had no idea what was going on in any other office, and I think that simple reports that every officer can make to every other office would be very important.’
The three presidential candidates were asked what they would discuss with the chancellor if they had only five minutes with him.
‘I would definitely look at the campus and see what issues the students had been addressing,’ Rodriguez said. ‘And that issue that I have seen is definitely the labor movement on campus. … Based on the efforts of those students, that’s the issue that I would talk to the chancellor about.’
‘[If I was given] five minutes to speak with the chancellor, I don’t think I would be able to pinpoint one specific issue to last … for the entire year,’ Johnson said. ‘For those five minutes, I would work strongly with the chancellor to recommend that he and I … have a regular meeting time to speak about issues.’
Kim said that he would opt to discuss continuing student concerns about textbook prices.
‘I would ask the chancellor to find ways to make textbooks more affordable, [such as cutting extras or putting coursebooks on reserve],’ Kim said. ‘I would … ask him to find ways to [decrease textbook prices] through the professors.’
Gil Weisner, a fourth presidential candidate, was unable to attend the debate because it coincided with the first night of Passover.