AS Elections: The Great Debate
Amid pizza and sunshine the candidates for top offices in the Associated Students presented their platforms and visions on Tuesday morning during a debate and discussion session held in the quad area.
The debates began promptly at 11:15 A.M. as all the candidates sat behind two long tables fit with microphones and not only explained how they would deal with pressing student and campus issue, but took questions from students who would stop their daily routine to watch the debates.
There was a free flowing attendance, the audience would easily number from 40 to 70 people. As a bonus free pizza from Domino's Pizza was being handed out to both students who voted in the elections and presented a voting ticket, or those who would ask for a slice and inquired about the day's proceedings.
Among the candidates there was inter-slate chatting and fraternizing before the main event. There was Adela Kormanova, a Director of Technical Support candidate for the"Si, Si Puede!" slate cavorting with Ali Kahn, candidate for Vice President for the "Wolves Of Pearl Street" slate.
Before the debate all candidates, for president and other AS spots, were invited to introduce themselves before the masses and in Athenian fashion describe their agendas.
Angelica Panosian, candidate for Director of Student Outreach for the slate "S.I.M.B.A," was one of the first to step up to the podium. "I want to raise awareness about AS, whether you are a member or not. Some may not be aware they are and so this is my main goal to raise awareness. Then I want to emphasize the benefits that are already in place," she said.
After a few more introductions from candidates such as Robert Espinoza for Director of Student Outreach for the "Si, Se Puede!" slate, who shared his personal story of growing up in South Central Los Angeles and stated "I want to put Santa Monica on the map!," it was time for the presidential candidates to step before the podium and press their cases before the gathering plebs.
Candidates such as Kai Perez of "Si! Se Puede!" appeared in a suit and tie and described how he began as a music major but realized it wasn't a financially wise move and decided to switch to Business. Perez emphasized, among other goals, to try and make cafeteria food more healthy and affordable "through subsidies."
He invited people to walk up to him because "I'm a really friendly person," he said.
Another candidate, Courtney King, dressed in ram horns meant to evoke the ancient Greek custom to acknowledge royalty, greeted the audience by calling them "my fellow conquerors" and went on to say that she understands what it takes to get far in a new home having moved to California from far away Tennessee.
Her platform was summarized as "curiosity, creativity, Courtney" and will put special emphasis on club involvement and making it easier for students to form clubs. King also pointed out that she will make an effort to get Manuel and his music back on the quad.
When the forum was opened to questions from attendees one of the first issues that arose was the difficulty in finding parking. S.I.M.B.A. candidate Pablo Garcia admitted that while the AS has little power regarding this issue, "we can promise to keep an open dialogue with the administration and let them know this is an issue the students want answered."
Perez recommended that students consider using the free parking offered at satellite campuses such as Bundy to which there also runs a free shuttle.
During one moment when KIng emphasized the need to make more clubs and fix their schedules so they don't interfere too often with students's class hours, Perez retorted by saying "I've heard you say that twice now. Clubs are pretty easy to start and if we make them any easier clubs get a certain amount of money permitted to them each semester so people could easily take advantage of that."
Another question focused on what the candidates would do with an issue like Manuel and if the administration simply refuses appeals to allow him back on the quad. King said "we will do what we can to reach out regardless." She and Perez both touched on the fact that a petition has already begun in Manuel's favor with over 1,000 signatures collected.
"They key is to be persistent," added Gutierrez.
The forum was also opened to questions for all the candidates.
Other questions came from the revolving audience on issues such as better Wifi access, education accessibility and AS fees when getting a student I.D.
Diana Gutierrez, S.I.M.B.A candidate for for Director Of Student Advocacy said regarding I.D. fees "we need to raise this awareness. We have to make events to make people curious and ask 'am I an AS member?' That way when they find out they are AS members they can use more of the benefits that come with that."
SMC is of course an international campus and one question wondered how the candidates would react to a major conflict breaking out in Eastern Europe in the current, ongoing crisis between the United States and Russia over Ukraine.
King said that "I would try to make students aware of Putin's actions and all that was going on, we would also have some sort of event to keep people from freaking out. We would do things to make sure public worry wasn't too high."
Yana Demeshko, S.I.M.B.A's candidate for Director Of Publicity who is herself from Ukraine, said "it's important for people to feel included and for others to understand what international students are going through with something that's going on in their home country. I would love to create a culture week."
The proceedings were soon closed. A larger line formed for the pizza as students continued casting their votes. The candidates made their cases and now the masses will make the final decision.