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Candidates for student body president discuss goals in debate Tuesday

Bailey Ekstrom
The two candidates for ASUA student body president, Pat Yango and Alyssa Sanchez, met in the Kiva Room of the Student Union Memorial Center Tuesday night for a debate. The two candidates shared their stances on a variety of issues facing campus and the greater Tucson community.

Last night, the Associated Students of the University of Arizona candidates for student body president Patricia Yango and Alyssa Sanchez took to the debate floor to promote and defend their platforms. Throughout the debate there were some key moments to help student voters make informed choices on their ballot

The candidates were first asked to introduce themselves. 

Pat Yango — listed on the ballot as Patricia Yango — explained that they are running “for the job, not the title.” 

Yango described themself as having a “longstanding history advocating and serving our cultural resource centers … ” as well as having served as a peer information counselor and mentor for the School of Government and Public Policy. 

“I have years of tangible, dedicated service to the University,” Yango said. 

Sanchez was next. “My engagement and my activity within Tucson and the University community runs deep, with years of ongoing community service, engagement through clubs, and various different student organizations here on campus,” Sanchez explained. “I plan to lead with not only an open heart but also an open mind.”

The first question asked the candidates to explain what initiative they would create and advocate for as ASUA student body president.

Sanchez had the microphone first, and explained that she is very passionate about the issue of food security. She described it as, “not only a University issue but a Tucson issue,” and explained that she plans to use her “current relationships with Governor Katie Hobbs and Mayor Regina Romero to help students fight [food insecurity].” 

Yango stated, “I’m very fortunate to have served at the forefront of the #WhyIRide campaign and frankly I’m hoping that I am able to see that work through. Whether that’s continuing to engage with key community stakeholders such as the mayor or our city council members, making sure that our transit maintains accessibility for not only students but community members is crucial.”

Question two asked candidates how they plan to engage with students. 

Yango noted that they really value the community engagement that the campaign trail has brought them. 

“I think it’s really critical that your next Student Body President is able to be critical of this institution and also of themselves. As student body president, I wouldn’t spend my time in the ASUA office. I’d spend my time on campus, engaging with students, and making sure that their needs are heard,” Yango said.

Sanchez responded next. 

“I come to you as a proud Latina student and I fully embrace my identity. I try to talk to people as much as I can,” Sanchez explained. Sanchez noted that her connections within various cultural centers and spaces on campus allow her to “understand any student’s background,” defining this trait as a “core value and skill that comes with having an open heart and open mind.”

Question three asked candidates about their prior experiences with ASUA programs and services. 

“As a student, I come to you honestly. I use the Women and Gender Resource Center, and I am very familiar with many of the staff there. I currently utilize a lot of programs and services like SafeRide,” Sanchez said. “I help out my friends in other communities, I constantly talk with them, and I am very very proud of my identity.”

Yango replied next, noting their previous role as the Director of Campus Culture and Climate under President  Patrick Robles. 

From this, they described that they have “gained a vast amount of institutional knowledge to learn how to be the best possible advocate to guarantee the desires that they have to improve their stake in our campus … ”

“I think it’s very critical that we think about what it actually means to advocate and support the student services. I recognize that student government is not a one person show,” Yango said.  

Question four asked candidates what they would tell President Dr. Robert C. Robbins on their first meeting with him as student body president. 

Yango had the floor first.

“I would like to ask what is being done to address the sheer lack of institutional support for our cultural and resource centers in addition to our students’ basic needs … we have seen tremendous fear about whether or not their funding can be guaranteed,” Yango said.

They further elaborated that the role of student body president demands somebody that is both willing to be critical of the institution and represent it. 

Sanchez replied, “as student body president, I have to be the student‘s biggest advocate. Throughout my campaign journey I’ve been able to hear some common underlying themes. Some of these themes … [include] campus safety, food insecurity and general funding being advocated to our cultural centers. I think it’s very important that we approach this with a holistic view. Once I speak to students, hear from stakeholders and have an open productive conversation, I would be able to bring all these key points to President Robbins.”

Question five asked candidates for their thoughts on the state of campus safety and what they would change if they were elected student body president. The question highlighted the murder of professor Thomas Meixner that occurred on Oct. 5, 2022. 

Sanchez took the floor first, claiming that the murder of professor Meixner was a result of “a lot of institutional failures.” 

Her primary concern was with the UAlerts that went out that day that provided a false description of the shooter, later revealed to be Murad Dervish. 

“The information that was given was information that targets the black and brown community,” Sanchez said. “Being able to fully utilize UAlerts on time and with accurate information is something I’m very passionate about. I would also like to stress the importance of being able to protect students and get student answers without the militarization of campus.”

Yango expressed a desire to involve students in these discussions about campus safety and turn these conversations into concrete actions to protect the student body.

“I’m sure I speak for all members of our community when I say that shocked, outraged and saddened does not begin to describe how we felt after losing Dr. Meixner. After those events, I worked closely with President Robles to establish a Student Safety Task Force committee. From that we’ve been able to have good conversations about what needs to be done, but that’s my primary issue. Those conversations can’t just be conversations. It’s time we turn these into tangible actions,” Yango said. 

Yango also said that “as student body president, I will ensure that every syllabus on our campus has clear and specific examples and plans for escape routes and for emergency exits in the same way that we have COVID-19 absence policies.”

Question six asked candidates how they would ensure that cultural centers have a good relationship with ASUA as a whole.   

“There is so much work to be done when it comes to building relationships based off of trust, transparency and continued respect to ensure that those student groups are allowed to thrive and celebrate each other … These relationships need to be out of more than obligation,” Yango said. “ASUA needs to attend cultural center events, engage with the staff and student body in those spaces and build those genuine connections in the same way that I have been fortunate to do so.”  

Sanchez said that this is a core value that she has in mind in pursuing the role of student body president. Sanchez wants to see an ASUA advocacy committee full of representatives from each of the cultural centers. 

“This would enable them to talk directly into my ear … This will allow me to get to know everyone and will allow other centers to get to know each other and come together,” Sanchez said.

Question seven asked how ASUA can increase their outreach to the student community as a whole. 

Sanchez said that her strategy would revolve around social media. 

“It’s very easy to give a weekly or biweekly update … a simple email,” Sanchez said. “That’s one thing I’ve heard about throughout most of my campaign [from students]. I’ve heard that they don’t even receive emails once a month. I believe that giving an update using Instagram stories or even having an advocacy committee will be an easy way for ASUA to recognize and talk to all of these [cultural] centers directly.”

Yango said that their strategy would revolve around initiative from student leaders. 

“Campaigning, I met hundreds of students who didn’t even know we had a student body president. I think access to information is a part of that, but initiative is another giant factor,” Yango said. “I want to champion a student government full of student leaders who are willing to take initiative and utilize their leadership roles … seeing that the student government is as transparent and accessible as possible is quintessential in ensuring that our student resources are being utilized.”

The final key question in the debate asked candidates how they plan to combat food insecurity on campus, noting that Campus Pantry distributes food to over 1500 people a week. 

Yango responded first, mentioning that meeting students’ basic needs is a focal point of their campaign. 

“Working with the senior leadership team to guarantee them funding is very critical,” Yango said. “As student body president I will push to increase the number of restrooms that include free menstrual products for students to use. I don’t think any student should ever have to be forced to make the choice between menstrual and hygiene products and food. This will take a lot of burden off of our feminist pharmacy, who would then be able to direct more of their financial resources to purchasing things like Plan B, condoms, special products and other resources that are crucial to our sexual health on campus.”

Yango reiterated that “It’s also important to continue to engage in the difficult conversations, like working with our unions to determine who should have access to a meal plan waiver and making sure that those decisions are made with the most equitable and inclusive frameworks in mind.”

Sanchez responded second, emphasizing that food insecurity not only affects campus life but Tucson as a whole. 

“I would like to fully utilize the connections I have made … utilizing the established relationships that I have with Tucson city officials and the Governor in order to battle this together,” Sanchez said. “We need to be able to have productive conversations with Governor Katie Hobbs in order to increase and extend SNAP benefits for all students and everyone.” 

Sanchez emphasized that qualifications for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits need to be more lenient and accessible. She explained that in order to qualify for SNAP benefits in the future, “students will have to work over 20 hours a week … This will risk students’ academic integrity and livelihood just to be able to qualify to get food. This is something I want to stress not only to the Governor but also President Robbins.”

The deadline to vote in the ASUA general election is Thursday, March 2 at 8:00pm. 

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