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ASUCI Presidential Candidates Debate Issues

ASUCI presidential candidates Felicia Martinez and Parshan Khosravi held a back-and-forth discussion last Thursday night, fielding questions about their plans as next year’s chief executive.

Both candidates shared common threads as they talked about  reforming Transportation and Distribution Services for more transparency, expanding health and mental services for students as well as bringing back the liaison council for dialogue between disparate student communities.

Although the debate attended mostly by members of ASUCI, the two candidates fielded over a dozen questions about their prospective presidential initiatives.

Balancing between students and administration

Even with his students-first rhetoric, Khosravi said that he recognized the importance of working with administration, as well as holding them accountable, in order to achieve students’ needs He cited the Black Student Union demands, which he said have been met with relatively silence, as well as those of DREAMers and students facing mental health issues as those that he’d advocate for as president.

“I think we all know admin is very heavily run on this campus,” said Martinez, whose platform is founded on being a neutral bridge between administration and students, especially during a climate of tuition increases.

“We need that accountability and affordability,” she said.

UC Council of Presidents

Martinez’s priority on the council of presidents would be to make sure that students across the university system are aware of the tuition increases in clear and understandable terms.

For Khosravi, whose experience with the University of California Student Association has afforded him a statewide political perspective, he would work to ease the latent tension between UC presidents, who comprise the council, and external vice presidents, whose domain is UCSA.

“We work with each other–both UCSA and Council of President–to advocate for students,” he said.

Central administrative policy

Expanding mental health services is Khosravi’s main presidential priority, one that he’s already working on now in the EVP office. As part of a two-pronged strategy, Khosravi said he hopes to open a new space for students’ counseling needs.

Martinez said that returning liaison council to its original form, with representatives from different student communities coming together to collectively discuss issues, is her top priority. Before it morphed into different commissions under the Office of the President, the liaison council was Martinez’s project last year in ASUCI.

Senate Constitutional Amendment 1

If approved, the state legislation would divert autonomy from the UC regents to state legislators.

Martinez declined to answer the question of her stance on the proposal due to a lack of knowledge, opting instead to ask for clarification.

Khosravi, on the other hand, recalled his opposition to the legislation, which he characterized as very vocal.

“Our state legislature can’t get their stuff together,” he said. He said that although he doesn’t enjoy dealing with the regents, he said dealing with the state legislature is far worse.

Most-pressing issue

Khosravi was unsure about the most pressing issue facing students is, because according to him, ASUCI has failed to take a strong stance on issues.

His counterpart took the opportunity to draw attention to the food pantry efforts headed by Alex Fung, a member of her slate, in the midst of a declining UC affordability. Additionally, she also called out the rising costs of parking, which she said have been exponential in recent years.

Campus climate

Khosravi, who has been on the front lines of student protests, criticized what he characterized as the administration’s propaganda about UCI’s sterling campus climate.

“I know we can learn,” Martinez said, on behalf of the Greek community, regarding recent problematic incidents that raised concerns about the Greek community. She said that she sees an improvement in campus climate that she hopes to continue with the reestablished liaison council.

Presidential veto ability

Recently, the ability for the ASUCI president to have sole vetoing powers over legislations passed in council was briefly introduced into the revised constitution before it was pulled.

Both contenders agreed regarding the importance of equity among the five executive cabinet members.

Napolitano and Brown’s committee of two

At the last UC regents meeting, Napolitano and Brown, to much disappointment, provided few concrete details about the progress of their select committee tasked with addressing rising tuition costs.

“Why should we not have a voice in this?,” said Martinez, who said that if elected, she’d need to be in that space in order to advocate for students.

Khosravi said that students should be skeptical about the committee, and critical of both members, because it’s entirely comprised of the two parties responsible for the money troubles the UC is facing.

Undocumented students

Khosravi drew attention to the barriers undocumented students face, including not having a designation on graduate school applications and not having control over their own website.

“Let’s be real–DREAMers need their own space to work on their own issues,” he said.

Martinez, who admitted that she couldn’t speak for students whose issues she wasn’t well-versed about, said that, if elected, she would give undocumented students the latitude to advocate for themselves.

“We should be making sure their vision is being pushed forward,” she said.

Solutions to rising tuition

As a member of the Student Fees Advisory Board, Martinez said that careful allocation and usage of student fees are crucial as to not waste students’ tuition dollars.

For Khosravi, continued direct action in the forms of protests and rallies was the solution he offered. Regardless of whether or not he becomes president, he said that he would continue to be present at student demonstrations, ideally until tuition was rolled back.

Student Outreach and Retention Center

Khosravi, who was a central organizer behind the campaign to secure permanent funding for the center, said that he believes its space should be expanded.

Along with a student representative from the center, Martinez helped bring SOAR into liaison council discussions last year. In an interview afterwards, she said that the representatives on her her reestablished council would be chosen by their constituent communities in order to ensure that they will be properly represented.

Gap between Cross-Cultural Center and Greek Life

Answering a question directly addressed to him, Khosravi said that ideas like the liaison council are crucial in order to dissolve the tension between the two communities, which often clash on campus climate issues.

“There shouldn’t be be that kind of gap.”

Greek Life accountability

“We need to actually accept there have been incidents on this campus that have been harmful to students,” Khosravi said.

He said that during the Phi Gamma Delta incident last year, the Interfraternity Council failed to show up to public discussions held in legislative council.

“This discussion shouldn’t be internal,” he said. Although he said although internal discussions are sometimes helpful for organizations to learn from their mistakes, an open discussion should have been had between the Greek and Cross-Cultural communities.

Martinez pointed to a special campus climate class that members of the Greek community are taking.