Associated Students election debate

About 100 students gathered on the quad Thursday to witness Santa Monica College’s Associated Students election debate. Although it was advertised as a debate, the format was a question-and-answer press conference. Arya Shirani, the moderator, said candidates were allowed time for argument and rebuttal.

However, no candidate made any attempt to do so.

Shirani, an unofficial commissioner to Yacob Zuriaw, AS director of financial support and student advocacy, helped Zuriaw write questions for the candidates. Time limits for questions ranged from 30 seconds to two minutes in length.

The debate served as a medium for candidates from every slate, including independent candidates, to publicize themselves to the student body and communicate their intentions in office.

Presidential candidate Chioma Ojini, accompanied by her running mate Alexander Mody on the Synergy Motivation Co-creation slate, said at the debate that she plans to “redesign the SMC website and make it more mobile-accessible."

The Corsairs Connected slate voiced aims to utilize social media, including a Twitter and blog for the campus, that would keep students informed.

Ryan Downer, running for director of publicity on the slate, emphasized improving the appearance of the campus.

“I will gladly go in there and clean up 10 of the bathrooms myself,” Downer said.

Presidential candidate and leader of Corsairs Connected Alex Abramoff did not lose his temper, despite being interrupted during his time speaking.

“Why can’t we separate student government from regular politics?” Abramoff said after the debate.

Also on Abramoff’s slate is Brandon Arrevillaga, who is running for student trustee. Arrevillaga is the current commissioner, as well as the boyfriend of current student trustee Michelle Olivarez.

“I’ve been to meetings, I’ve seen Michelle talk, I went to Sacramento for the March in March,” he said. “The AS should have informed you. That’s the point in Corsairs Connected, to spread the word on campus [using] emails, Facebook, and social media.”

The Voice We Need, the Change We Deserve slate has eight candidates on the ballot. Srishty Armarnani running for AS vice president was the only representative present at the debate. Presidential candidate Noke Taumalolo said he was absent from the debate due to a midterm.

Armarnani, a recent commissioner to the AS board of directors, would like to preserve the experience of student government for future generations.

“The board was very welcoming; I’d love to continue doing that,” she said. “Some miscommunications going on, I’d like to minimize. I think everyone should be working as a whole.”

The United Students, perhaps the most vocal of all the slates, vocalized one clear message in their campaign.

“I think the publicity is very inefficient at the moment,” said Taynara Moura, presidential candidate and leader of the United Students. “Not many people know about this event or the elections. We were expecting a bigger crowd, but it’s OK."

Her running mate Michael Greenberg, who is running for director of publicity, echoed the same notion.

“I think it’s really important that we outreach information and knowledge of AS events and SMC events to the students,” said Greenberg. “Not a lot of students know about AS. The overwhelming majority of students aren’t even aware voting is going on.”


Independent Student Outreach candidate Araceli Carrera agreed, and said that after surveying the student body for a week, approximately half of the students she talked to were not aware of the benefits available to them through AS.

“We need an outreach program to show the students we care and that we’re here,” she said.

Not every presidential candidate was present, not every candidate stayed from start to finish, and less than five percent of the student body attended the debate.

“I wish we could have debated each other and the issues,” said Jon Kent Ethridge II, United Students' student trustee candidate. “Politics doesn’t move unless the people are behind them.”

The final day to vote for the 2013 AS election is April 4. In the event of a tie, there will be a run-off election on April 23-24.