Associated Students presidential candidates debate campus issues

A small crowd gathered in the quad yesterday as candidates for the Associated Students presidency made their first public appearance at a forum where they discussed their views on key issues ranging from the funding of student clubs to campus parking woes. Candidates Tiffany Inabu and Kayo Johnson attended the midday event, but candidate Eli Appel had religious engagements, and was represented by trustee candidate Dona Davoodi.

Inabu has been involved with the school in many different arenas and sits on the AS board as budget director. She has been commissioner to the ICC chair and current president of the AS.

Davoodi, representing Eli Appel, stressed their mission to heighten the communication between the faculty, the student government, and the general student body. In response to the issue of transparency between employed faculty and enrolled students, Davoodi said, "I would like to thank you for being a great AS but some of our policies need tweaking."

Running independently, Johnson focused on strengthening the connection between the student body and those involved with student government.

"I feel like student government has been one thing and the student body has been another," said Johnson. "It's supposed to be a family and when the family's not together it says a lot."

The debate allowed for each candidate to take a stance on subjects such as sustainability practices at SMC, CALPIRG funding, parking issues and other questions the student body wants answered.

Each candidate's responses to the debate questions are summarized below.

1) If elected, how do you plan on working with SMC to focus on sustainable practices around campus?

Inabu is generally in support of what she called the "go-green wave" sweeping across the campus. She supports the Big Blue Bus and all that it provides for students. She sees transportation as an area of student life that needs to be improved through the pending approval of the ride-share program Zimride, which may solve the parking problem.

Davoodi opposed Inabu's proposal to fix the carpooling situation. She questioned where the money would come from for insurance coverage for Zimride particpants. Davoodi's solution is to focus on the bus system and to encourage an expansion of SMC's involvement with public transportation."If you are going to carpool, you might as well take the bus. In my mind there is no difference," said Davoodi.

Johnson steered away from the issue of transportation and focused on SMC's attempt to do away with selling any kind of plastic bottles in vending machines or cafeterias.

How do you feel about the AS allotting CALPIRG $76,000 of AS funds?

Inabu and Johnson stood firm behind the proposed $1.50 fee increase for AS fees, but felt that all student clubs should benefit, not just CALPIRG.

"CALPIRG is not the only organization here on this campus," Johnson said. He believes that "we should fully understand what we are doing when we are funding an outside organization."

Inabu emphasized that the school has been getting legal counseling regarding the subject and that control over an allocation of funds for off-campus groups is out of their hands.

On behalf of Appel, Davoodi said that the fee should only be implemented for students if they vote for it.

"[The AS] should bring it to the students for a democratic vote," Davoodi said. She stressed that although her slate fully supports CALPIRG's efforts and the fee, they still believe that it should only be implemented if students approve it.

2) What experiences make you qualified to lead the Associated Students?

Inabu listed her previous experience of being on the AS board as Budget Director, and her seat on four campus-wide committees. With this experience she believes that there would be "no transition time needed" for her to become familiar with the responsibilities of a student government position.

Johnson has been heavily involved with ICC, and although he lacks any official appointments within the student government, he has made the effort to publicize his platform through personal student connections. Johnson is also involved with the Pico Community Board of Students.

During the debate, Davoodi only spoke of her direct experience in leadership positions within the community, but presidential hopeful, Appel, has had experience as a commissioner for the ICC chair, an internship position held during a recent city council election, and involvement with Pearman Law.

3) How will you help international students with regard to increased unit fees, and the requirement to maintain 12 units a semester even as classes are being cut?

Inabu proposes to work with the Board of Trustees and "will exhaust every possible way to work with whoever can get international students' voices heard."

Johnson proposed that money automatically allotted by the school cover international students' expenses.

On behalf of Appel, Davoodi proposed that the school have a program like the Scholar Program, implemented to give international students priority status when enrolling for classes at the beginning of each term.

4) How will you contribute to the issue of transportation?

Inabu commented that the AS budget, which exceeds $1.2 million, is substantial enough to continue utilizing the school's Big Blue Bus program. She urges students to take advantage of options like parking at the satellite campuses and disagrees with the suggestion of requesting more non-metered parking spaces on surrounding community streets.

Johnson recommended that SMC take the steps to close the gap between different transportation entities from all over Los Angeles. Having access to only the Big Blue Bus simply would not suffice, said Johnson.

Appel's rep, Davoodi, proposed approaching the city of Santa Monica for money to build another lot, or to allocate more parking spaces exclusively for current students within adjacent neighborhoods.

5) Following the debate, all candidates responded to further questions by making closing statements:

Inabu guaranteed the students that she would govern realistically and thoughtfully. "We are not going to make any empty promises," she said, while assuring students that their concerns would be heard by her slate.

Johnson concluded that "leadership is an action and not a position. It doesn't matter if you hold 15 positions on campus. That does not mean you are doing something, it means you are in a position." Although he respects and admires his opponents for being involved with student government, he plans to utilize his position as AS President to make active changes.

On behalf of Appel, Davoodi said, "We are the students, we are the underdogs, we are not in the spotlight." She supported her slate's position as an outlet for the silent majority of students whose voices are not heard.

In a pep talk following the debate, incumbent AS President Cameron Henton advised all running candidates to remember why they are running.

"Please treat each other respectfully," said Henton. "You are running on who you are and why you're the best person for the job; not why the other person is bad."

The polls are open until midnight on Thursday and results will be published on April 9. Elected candidates will begin their term in the fall semester.