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ASUA holds election debates

Six UA students running for ASUA executive positions debated on Sunday, touching on issues such as diversifying ASUA, increasing service to club’s needs and keeping tuition affordable despite budget cuts.

Presidential candidates James Allen and Daniel Hernandez addressed how they would help lower university costs.  

Allen said he plans to look at lowering costs without involving the Arizona Legislature, which he said has not prioritized higher education. He said he wants to “”get creative”” by starting to look at increasing UA’s endowment, increase class availability, have more night and hybrid classes that offer a mix of online and on-campus components, and increase community college transfers, all which he said would offer students discounts.

He also said he wants to educate students on what specific fees mean and how they would affect particular groups of students.

“”If they don’t know (what the fees mean), how can they (the students) vote for them?”” Allen asked.

Hernandez refuted Allen’s statement, saying that as future student representatives, they cannot give up on the state Legislature. He said he wants to re-introduce a work-study bill in the Legislature that proposes relying on more funding from corporations and organizations who say they value education, such as Raytheon.

“”If they say they value it (education), they will put their money where their mouth is.”” Hernandez said.

He also addressed student fees, saying he wants to balance student feedback on fees between a referendum and a tiered survey that would ask underclassmen and upperclassmen different questions. He also plans on enforcing “”sunset clauses,”” which would allow fees to be re-evaluated each year instead of rolling into tuition or other fees.

Both explained how their previous experiences made them the most viable for the position; Allen as the presidential chief of staff and Hernandez as an ASA director.

Executive vice presidential candidates Bryan Ponton and Monica Ruiz discussed aiding current and future UA clubs.

Ponton proposed creating a “”club matchmaker”” to pair bigger clubs with smaller clubs in order to increase fundraising and membership. He used the annual Spring Fling event as an example where clubs with five members can pair with 100-member clubs to work the event and generate more revenue, giving the smaller club “”more opportunities.””

Ruiz said preserving “”precious gems”” that are UA clubs, she would not propose big changes to the Club Resource Center, but instead increase accessibility through changes to funding distribution by having ASUA senators and club advocates visit clubs, improve recruitment to the club fair and create an easy-to-search online database.

An audience question expressed concern about proposed decreases in club funding that the ASUA Appropriations Board allocates, which might cause the future executive vice president to fall behind in meeting future club demands.

Ponton said he would encourage clubs to fundraise for themselves while being “”very clear”” with clubs what ASUA could and could not fund. He explained that he would act as a “”middleman”” for clubs, keeping club spirits high and offering cuts to ASUA stipends if it meant funding an important club event.

Ruiz said she plans to be “”straightforward”” about what funds clubs can get and offer help to find alternative means to funding. An example, she said, was expanding club-funding budgets by cutting other programs within the executive vice presidential cabinet and research ways for clubs to cut costs, like connecting them with a catering company who would waive services fees for a club.

Administrative vice presidential candidates Brett Ponton and Brittany Steinke both spoke about making ASUA more diverse.

Ponton said he wants to create more diversity within programs and services by recruiting people from different majors, races and genders through the help of the diversity director.

“”This will be the best way to represent all students,”” Ponton said. “”We do not want carbon copies of ourselves.””

Steinke also explained the need for integration, saying ASUA has fallen short in increasing diversity within programs and services and working with multicultural centers. She said if elected, she plans to create various events targeting social, racial and diversity issues on campus that students can participate it.

Both candidates addressed student and community outreach. Steinke said she plans on bringing Spring Fling back to campus, which she said would increase student attendance and university revenue. In order to do so, she said she is working on compromising with the Sam Hughes Neighborhood Association in asking for a one-year trial.

“”I want to keep good relations and give them an option,”” she said.

Ponton said he wants to create an online blog that allows each area of Programs and Services as well as the administrative vice president to update weekly on developing events and recruit freshmen to volunteer with ASUA events like Family Weekend to see how student government functions.

“”Running for my second term, I know what needs to be fixed,”” Ponton said.

Senate forum

ASUA also held a forum for its senatorial candidates on March 3.

Candidate Raymond Arvizu, a political science student, said that increasing collaboration between ASUA and its network of clubs and promoting increased student feedback on ASUA dealings were two of his biggest goals if elected.

“”When the matter is pressing and there’s very little time, the senator certainly needs to have a sense of what the student body wants,”” Arvizu said.

Jarrett Benkendorfer, a political science junior, expressed his desire to see open student referendums on all potential fee increases to limit what he said could be “”a back-door way to get money out of our (the students’) pockets instead of raising tuition.””

Benkendorfer also said he would support increasing the number of ASUA senators as the student population grows and basing representation off of colleges.

“”If you have a representative from each college, students actually know who their representative is,”” Benkendorfer said.

Jason Brown, also a political science junior, said ASUA doesn’t need an overhaul, but should work to better represent the international student population on campus.

“”They have a large population on this campus but very little representation,”” Brown said.

A common theme during the forum was using technology to make ASUA more transparent and accessible. Marielos Castro, a pre-public health freshman, said she wanted to put a tab for Scholarship Universe, a financial aid help site, on UAccess so students could better utilize it. Carlita Cotton, an anthropology junior, said she wanted a centralized website listing all student activities and events to be developed.

Blanca Delgado, a sophomore studying public health and Spanish, said she wanted to work closer with ASA to lobby the state Legislature against further budget cuts.

“”As students, it’s really effective to at least try and go there and speak up,”” Delgado said.

Danielle Dobrusin, a political science sophomore, advocated moving senator’s weekly office hours outside of the ASUA offices and into a more accessible location such as the UA Mall. She also said she wanted to create a “”Collegetown”” program to offer leadership development and community building resources to the UA Greek Life community.

Brenna Goth contributed reporting to this story. 

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