2016 AS Elections: The Corsair hosts the Associated Students Election Debate for the first time

Last Thursday, candidates for the Associated Student (AS) Elections gathered at the clock tower quad on the SMC Main Campus for a debate hosted by The Corsair.

A crowd that numbered close to 200 students listened to each candidate give a short speech summarizing their campaign, followed by debates between those running for the positions of Student Trustee, Vice President and President. The debates were moderated by Adam R. Thomas, News Editor for The Corsair, and Filipp Krasovsky, a former member of the Speech and Debate Team and founding member of the Community College Association for Student Advocacy.

Among the attendees was Ian Sikes, president of the SMC Programming Club, who sought out the event to become more informed. “I want to hear what they’re going to say because I don’t want to base my vote off of their posters,” Sikes said.

Of the 13 positions on the AS Board of Directors, five seats are uncontested. This includes the Director of Activities, Director of Publicity, AS Secretary, Director of Student Assistance and Director of Student Outreach.

Jeannie Joo, running for Director of Activities, focused her speech on the well-being of the students, saying, “Campus life should be enjoyable because you work so hard.”

Running for Director of Outreach as a member of the New Wave slate, Rashisul Haque talked about connecting with the student body in order to inform them of the benefits offered by the school. Jazzmin Sardin, a member of the Fresh Start slate running for Director of Student Assistance, had a similar message, saying, “I want to make sure the students know about the programs offered here.” She also mentioned her plan to start a program for the LGBT community.

Dane Cruz of the Fresh Start slate, running for Secretary, was not present.

The candidates for Director of Community Relations — Stephany Triska of the Unity slate, Brittany Riley of the New Wave slate and Daria Kudryavtseva running independently — all focused on the need to provide a sense of community on campus. “Community is what we need to establish a strong educational base,” said Riley.

Both candidates running for Director of Instructional Support — Stephanie Mendez of the Unity slate and Madeleine Turner of the New Wave slate — talked about the need to provide blue books and scantrons that students can afford. Turner added her plan for a complete remodel of the Cayton computer lab and Mendez finished her speech by saying, “I’m doing this for the students I care so deeply about.”

Of those running for Director of Sustainability, Anthony Hengsathorn of the Unity slate discussed integrating arts and humanities into the model of sustainability. Abderezak Azib of the New Wave slate talked about his background in environmental engineering. Sharon Nat of the Fresh Start slate focused on her plans to bring healthy and vegan food options to campus and rid the smoking section of cigarette butts.

Running for Director of Student Advocacy are Walther Perez of Fresh Start, Paris Taylor of the Unity slate and Micca Cao, who is running independently. “I represent you, I represent all students at SMC,” said Cao. Taylor discussed her history as an advocate for both animal and human rights, while Perez talked about wanting to provide free Metro passes for students with long commutes.

The Director of Budget Management position is the most contested, with four candidates vying for the position. This includes Dario Gentilleti, who used his time at the podium to talk about creating a public website that shows how money is being spent at the school. Running against him are Auguste Gezalyan of the Unity slate who wants to provide more financial support for students in need, Orlando Gonzalez of the Fresh Start slate who talked about his job at the Latino center and the importance of student involvement, and Vladyslav Verchenko of the New Wave slate who said to the gathered crowd, “We can make our college better.”

The debate portion of the event began with the Student Trustee candidates, Laura Zwicker of the Fresh Start slate and Alfredo Gama of the Unity slate. Gama began by pointing out how the position does not hold any voting power within the board, leaving them solely in an advisory role. Zwicker, who supports having a vote, instead highlighted the responsibility to be the voice of the students, saying that there are other important issues to be concerned about.

When asked about their role working with the Board of Trustees, Zwicker stated the need to be able to work together so both parties would feel heard and respected. In response, Gama said, “I’m not into respectability politics.” He continued, saying that the community college system currently doesn’t work for minority students and that they need to dismantle the institution in order to make them listen to the students. Zwicker felt they needed to be more realistic, saying they would have to show respect or they wouldn’t be listened to at all. They agreed on the need to lower the unit minimum requirement to be on the AS Board, both saying it would allow more students to participate.

Next up were the candidates for Vice President, Edward Tang of the New Wave slate and Adrian M. Restrepo, running independently. Both began by discussing the responsibility to represent the students and make their voices heard. Tang talked about the need for more full-time faculty and to make school feel like home, while Restrepo stated his desire to solve equality problems on campus.

The Presidential candidates, Daira Bustos of the Unity slate, Steve Maldonado of the New Wave slate, and Terrance Ware of the Fresh Start slate, rounded out the event. After their initial remarks, the amplified sound from the microphones was cut due to the start of classes. Interested attendees were forced to move closer and surround the candidates as they continued.

Throughout the debate, Maldonado, who is the current AS Vice President, focused on his plan to institute a new social media platform that would ease communication between students for things like clubs and employment opportunities. Both Bustos and Ware disagreed with this solution.

Bustos said, “We need to focus on the students.” She stated that she believes face to face interaction is necessary to build relationships. Ware expressed his feeling that change has to be made internally and that instead of creating new systems, current ones should be enhanced.

Other issues discussed by Ware included the need for a peer counseling service, a better solution to the campus's parking problems, and a way to inform students about the various programs offered at the school and Bustos talked about the need to provide more access to current resources like the library.

When asked what they believed were the biggest problems at SMC, Maldonado said parking and communication, Bustos agreed that communication was a major issue, and Ware said the lack of full-time faculty.

“The presidential debate got pretty heated,” said Sikes. “I wish that they were more talking about their own ideas and their own platforms.”

Avelina Kim, Vice President of the SMC Students for Bernie Sanders Club, said, “I was kind of disappointed that a lot of people ran unopposed or just didn’t show up.” Sikes agreed, saying, “It’s just always nice to have an option.”

Elections begin Monday, April 4, and end Thursday, April 7, at 4 pm. Ballot boxes will be located at the Main Campus library and cafeteria. Registered SMC students can also vote online through Corsair Connect.