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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Daily Wildcat ASUA endorsements

    When it comes to our student government, it’s hard to find a more cynical group than the Daily Wildcat Opinions Board. We spend an entire year criticizing the actions of the ASUA Senate, and each spring, hoping for a clean slate, the board members sit down with all of the candidates for office.

    Over the course of multiple days, we are subjected to a parade of bland, indistinguishable candidates spouting a litany of plans and promises, most of which are entirely unfeasible and, in some cases, downright laughable. In fact, in recent years the board has been unable to endorse an entire slate of candidates, finding only a handful who are truly deserving of informed support.

    Given this history, you can imagine our trepidation when we began our annual ordeal Sunday night, faced with 24 interviews in two days. However, the cloud began to lift as the day went on, as one candidate after another proposed small, sensible and eminently possible ideas, espoused support for the openness that ASUA sorely lacks and displayed a candor and willingness to listen that is often absent from our campus leadership. Just as these are among the most difficult times our campus has faced, these surely must be among the most promising prospective leaders we’ve had before us.

    We concluded our interviews last night, and although -ÿwith a few exceptions – we found all of the candidates to have merit, we feel that these ten senate hopefuls, together with the unopposed candidates for the vice presidential seats and write-in presidential candidate Chris Nagata, are best suited to lead our student government in the next year.

    -ÿEndorsements are determined by the Daily Wildcat opinions board: Justyn Dillingham, Laura Donovan, Heather Price-Wright and Nickolas Seibel

    President

    Chris Nagata

    Since soon-retiring President Tommy Bruce ran unopposed for re-election in 2008, this election marks the first time in two years that we’ve had a genuine race for the presidency of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona.

    For paperwork reasons – he didn’t obtain enough signatures – our choice, Chris Nagata, isn’t on the ballot this year except as a write-in candidate. Here’s why we think you should clip this section, commit Nagata’s name to memory, or scribble it on your hand before you vote.

    At first glance, Nagata might seem familiar, at least to long-time ASUA watchers. He’s a dedicated ASUA stalwart with a breathless style of speaking befitting a self-proclaimed “”workaholic,”” just like Bruce and former president Erin Hertzog. Indeed, Nagata credits Bruce and Hertzog, both of whom he worked with, as major influences on his governing style.

    But Nagata can stand on his own merits. The Spanish and physiology junior is remarkably knowledgeable, and he’s on the right side of most of the campus issues we care about. He believes in keeping tuition as low as possible and class sizes as small as possible. He’s not doctrinaire on the question of new student fees, but he told us he’s interested in getting student reaction to any new ones before voting on them, and voting accordingly with the wishes of the student populace.

    His platform is sturdy. He wants to work on the Arizona Students Association’s recently founded Lobby Corps, to increase student influence on legislation. To offset the likely blow to academic advising inflicted by the budget crisis, he’s proposed that ASUA take a hand in providing advising services to incoming students, with student advisers to be selected from a pool of outstanding students by deans and department heads.

    “”Our advisers are so overwhelmed as it is,”” Nagata told us. “”These advisers wouldn’t be able to do all the things that regular advisers do, but they would help for commonplace questions.”” At the very least, it would show that ASUA has a visible role to play on campus, and assuage newcomers’ often quickly-reached assumption that student government is little more than a glorified popularity contest.

    The candidate on the ballot, relative newcomer Shane Cathers, also brings something interesting to the table: life experience and an undeniably fresh perspective. But in the end, we opted for Nagata’s substance and governing experience, with the hope that Cathers will continue to pursue a place in student government in some capacity in the future.

    Administrative Vice President

    Gabby Ziccarelli

    Gabby Ziccarelli can leave you breathless. By that we mean she can leave you amazed at how fast she speaks, and how much information she manages to pack into each breath.

    Ziccarelli, a triple major in communications, Italian and history, and a senator with a year’s experience under her belt, is determined to improve ASUA’s reputation among the student body. She places “”openness”” at the center of her platform, and she’s aware of the oligarchical tendencies of the ASUA status quo. “”I have sat in on interviews and I have seen people hire friends because they’re friends,”” she told us. “”And that is wrong.””

    Since she’s running unopposed, it might seem pointless to dwell on Ziccarelli’s platform – which is sparse, to say the least. (While we’re on the subject: It would be nice to see more competitive races. Stagnant politics breed stagnant policies.) But Ziccarelli is honest and enthusiastic, and we think she’s got the ability to bring more students into the governing experience, as she promises to do via more town hall meetings and campus organizing.

    Her vision of ASUA is “”a strong organization of people who want to do work and are passionate about it,”” and it’s difficult to think of anyone who lives up to the description better than Ziccarelli herself.

    Executive Vice President

    Emily Fritze

    We admit it: Despite our on-the-record quibbles with the Collegiate Readership Program (“”Readership program a misleading venture,”” Nov. 25, 2008), this candidate’s most notable accomplishment thus far, we like Emily Fritze a lot.

    Fritze told us that she’s gotten all of her best ideas from people outside ASUA, and that may be why she’s so interested in bringing outside perspectives into the institution. She emphasizes open government as much as any candidate running; she’d like to see ASUA meetings made available as podcasts online.

    We asked all the candidates for their perspective on the prevailing sentiment that ASUA is little more than a trumped-up student council for ambitious university students. Fritze had the best answer, and the best reason for ASUA’s continued existence, even in the face of continuing indifference from the bulk of the student body: “”We have access to information that the average student doesn’t.””

    Precisely. A student representative has the ability to find out what’s going on and a prominent platform from which to spread that information. Even if she does nothing else, we’re heartened by Fritze’s clear understanding of what a student government is for: the enlightenment and empowerment of the student body.

    Senators

    Daniel Wallace

    Daniel Wallace has more reason than most of us to want to keep tuition low: he’s an out-of-state student who’s paying his own way through college. A double major in ecology and evolutionary biology and interdisciplinary studies, Wallace is an active member in a host of campus organizations – everything from Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity to the UA Icecats -ÿand he told us coming into contact with so many different people has given him a knack for seeing everything from multiple perspectives, a welcome quality for someone about to enter the somewhat insular world of ASUA. We aren’t sure how viable his proposal to reform the general education system is, but it can’t hurt to focus more student attention on it. With a minimum of bureaucratese infecting his informed critiques of the way ASUA works now and his vision of how he’d like to see it workÿ(he’d like to see a more independent Senate acting as a more active check on the executive leadership),ÿWallace is as smart and level-headed a potential senator as we could wish for.

    Nick Jones

    Nick Jones knows ASUA. He knows it the way a dedicated scholar might, if student government were a major. Both earnest and dryly funny, Jones’s conversation is peppered with the inside lingo of student governing, testament to how many meetings and forums he’s patiently sat through. He’s open about why he wants to become a senator, too. “”I never really liked ASUA,”” Jones said flatly. “”I’ve always felt like there was a real lack of transparency.”” That’s what he’s determined to change: Jones was the only candidate to sign the Arizona Desert Lamp’s pledge to vote against the introduction of any and all new student fees, and he vows to fight against using student dollars to fund political causes. “”That’s not really ASUA’s job,”” he told us. Democratic politics thrives on the occasional infusion of dedicated, principled outsiders into stagnating systems, and we couldn’t hope for a more principled candidate than Jones.

    Katherine Weingartner

    Katherine Weingartner might be a freshman, but don’t let that fool you. The international studies major has a firm handshake and a surprisingly sure grasp of the fundamentals of governing. “”A lot of improvements need to be made, and I’m the person to make those improvements,”” she told us. Weingartner is already a member of the ASUA Sustainability Committee, where she’s been working to bring solar paneling to residence halls -ÿa project she says she’ll pursue whether she’s elected or not. That’s the kind of dedication the ASUA Senate badly needs.

    Sarah Bratt

    Sarah Bratt’s platform is a grab bag of diverse ideas. She’d like to put “”fun facts”” on campus recycle bins to catch the attention of passersby. She’d like to create a ASUA website to serve as a “”suggestion box”” for students to contribute. She’d like to see more time for discussion when proposals are placed on the table at student government meetings. None of these are exactly earth-shattering proposals, but we liked the pre-communication freshman’s forthrightness and sincerity. The Senate needs fresh voices, and there’s no one else running this year who brings quite what Bratt does to the table.

    Tyler Quillin

    Tyler Quillin has an impressive resume as a volunteer worker and organizer with everything from UAVotes to Ben’s Bells to the University Activities Board, where he currently serves as Special Events Chair. But it’s the English and philosophy senior’s emphasis on the importance of government transparency that really impressed us. Transparency isn’t one of ASUA’s strong points, to say the least, and Quillin wants to see that change. It’s one thing to hear a journalist talk about the importance of open government, but hearing a potential senator testify to his commitment to that principle is something special. We look forward to seeing what he’ll do first.

    Dominick San Angelo

    There aren’t many candidates in this race who can claim a quieter-sounding platform than Dominick San Angelo. The Tucson native, a public management and policy freshman, wants to see club sports like rugby and men’s soccer given more exposure on campus. He’d also like to see renewed focus on finding a source of weekend transportation to replace the defunct CatsRIDDE, and his proposal was one of the most innovative we heard: he’d like to see a self-sustaining program available on a voluntary basis to students, who would be able to participate by paying a fee. He clearly recognizes the importance of limiting new programs at a time when the future of many existing programs is uncertain. “”I don’t think there’s a student who isn’t concerned about whether they can even be a student next year,”” he told us. It was a refreshingly realistic, even conservative platform in a season of flashy promises.

    Ryan Ruiz

    Let’s face it; for a representative body, the ASUA Senate isn’t a particularly representative group of students. That’s one of the reasons agri-business sophomore Ryan Ruiz is running. “”I want to be the voice of the unrepresented, and I feel like on our campus, the majority of students are unrepresented,”” Ruiz told us. His top priorities are ensuring that the Women’s Resource Center gets a paid director and continuing to support social justice programs. We also liked his strongly affirmed support of government transparency and his vow to fight to ensure that tuition remains as low as possible.

    Eduardo Atjian II

    Eduardo Atjian II has played in a mariachi band since 1996, and it shows. With his strong emphasis on a rather enthusiastic brand of super-pragmatism -ÿ””I love getting stuff done; that’s the kind of person I am,”” he told us -ÿAtjian comes off as nothing so much as an ASUA version of Barack Obama (candidate edition, not presidential edition). We weren’t quite convinced by his proposal to hold textbook prices down by forcing professors to put the material from underutilized books online instead of assigning them – it’s a good idea, but seems far outside of ASUA’s jurisdiction – but if anyone can bring it to the public’s attention, Atjian is the man to do it.

    James Brooks

    If there’s one thing all students can agree on, it’s that textbooks are too expensive. James Brooks has a smart solution. The pre-business freshman thinks professors ought to be pushed to choose textbooks they’ll use over and over, allowing more students to rent their books instead of paying exorbitant prices for books they’ll wind up selling back anyway. Brooks rented his first textbooks last semester, and was impressed at the difference it made for his wallet. He’s also interested in holding monthly events on the UA Mall to highlight clubs and other campus activities. A strong platform from an impressively sensible candidate.

    Leo Yamaguchi

    In person, Leo Yamaguchi doesn’t seem like your average senatorial candidate. He’s likable and self-deprecating, and he popped into the interview fresh from a chemistry exam. But there’s depth to this 19-year-old physiology and nutrition freshman. He’s knowledgeable, with a readiness to spout numbers that suggests he’s done his homework. He’s interested in expanding food services to provide students with healthier eating options, as well as shoring up campus safety by decreasing SafeRide’s response times. Nothing revolutionary, perhaps – but ASUA doesn’t need revolutionaries, it needs enthusiasm tempered with prudence, and Yamaguchi had ample quantities of both.

    Also…

    Students will also have the chance to vote today and tomorrow on whether to fund PIRG (Public Interest Research Groups), a non-profit, non-partisan public interest group, via a $2-per-semester student fee.
    We say: no. We’re all for active citizenship, but we’ve already got one student lobbying institution on campus funded by a student fee – the Arizona Students’ Association – and we don’t think we need another one. With its vaunted organizational skills, PIRG shouldn’t have any trouble raising enough money to make up for the loss of that $4 a year from every student.

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