Presidential nominee’s special message

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The following column does not signify an endorsement of Dina Cervantes for president. Rather, the Sundial is giving Ms. Cervantes an open forum to discuss the issues her slate is focusing on. Due to an elections scheduling conflict that was out of her control, she was not able to speak out at last night’s presidential debate; the following reflects what she would have said if given the chance at the debate.

– Lauren Robeson

My name is Dina Cervantes, and I am P.E.D.R.O. which stands for Peers Empowering Diversity and Representation Of and for students. I am running to be your next President of Associated Students, and I would love the opportunity to serve you. I wanted to introduce myself, since I will not have the opportunity to formally do so at the A.S. Presidential Debate because of a last minute change to the elections calendar.

On Monday I will be in Sacramento Lobbying on behalf of CSUN students. We will be meeting with the Governors office, the Chair of the Appropriations Committee, Anthony Portantino, and the offices of two other elected officials; Senator George Runner and Assemblyman Cameron Smyth.

While lobbying in Sacramento, we will be focusing on a number of issues. We are urging the legislature to buy back the tuition increase and to restore funding for student services programs, such as EOP. We will also be asking them to support and coauthor the Hector De La Torre Assembly Bill 302, which would make both Cal Grant A and B recipients eligible for grants to cover their first year of college. We would also like them to support and co-author the Curren Price Assembly Bill 175, which will increase the Cal Grant B cost-of-living stipend to help needy college students cover additional costs of attending college such as textbooks, supplies, transportation, and housing. Finally we will be focusing on the Gill Cedillo Senate Bill 160, The California Dream Act, which allows AB540 students the opportunity to apply for financial aid at California public colleges and universities.

As you can see, there are very important issues on the table for CSUN students, therefore it was more important for me to be in Sacramento lobbying for CSUN students rather than be at the presidential debate.

My running mate Monica Mc Neeley, will also not be able to attend because of the same reason. On Monday, she will be hosting a Child Advocacy Forum, “Stolen Childhoods,” in order to expose the truths on child labor. Monica has worked closely with CSUN students over the past year as a president of the Child and Adolescent Development Association, or CADA, which has really flourished under her leadership. She has also served as Student Advisor to CSUN students in the Child and Adolescent Development Department. She has a passion for advocating for her own beliefs and providing opportunities for others to express theirs. She has been very involved in political awareness at CSUN and has organized a number of events which have helped students achieve a higher level of consciousness. I am proud to be running with someone with such a great passion towards helping her fellow students and those things for which she believes in. I have no doubt that she will be an excellent vice president.

But let me introduce myself. I am a student who is very passionate about education, and I believe everyone should have a fair chance at achieving their educational goals. I am first in my family, both sides, to attend a university, and I am a transfer student from Santa Monica College, which is where I got my first taste of student leadership.

It was at SMC that I learned about the importance of fighting for students. In 2003 the college was facing severe budget cuts which threatened to increase tuition and locally cut 10 vocational programs. Along with the support of our faculty, we organized students and faculty against these unfair cuts. We organized letter writing campaigns and two years in a row we took approximately 200 SMC students to go lobby and march up to the California state capital for the Community Colleges March where we were joined by thousands of students across the state. These experiences empowered me to get more involved.

At the Community College level, I served as California State Association of Community Colleges (CalSACC) Region 7 President and State Representative, which coordinated efforts for the 14 community colleges in the Los Angels Area, and representing the voice of over 400,000 students at the state level. I served as the Santa Monica Colleges District Student Trustee where I was a liaison and represented the best interest of over 32,000 students to the SMC governing board of trustees. As the A.S. Inter-Club Council President, I represented the interests of over 75 student organizations on the A.S. Board of Directors. I was also President of the Early Childhood Educators Club and the founder of the SMC Automotive Club.

These previous experiences motivated me to get involved here at CSUN. I am currently the A.S. Director of Political Awareness, which has again afforded me the opportunity to represent students at the state level on the California State Student Association, where I serve on the board of directors. I am a member of the Internal Revenue Board which assists in choosing the State Student Trustee. I also co-authored a state resolution in Support of CSU Faculty, which successfully passed.

I believe in the importance of holding our elected officials accountable for their actions, but in order to do that we must vote! Locally I coordinated a voter registration drive last semester, “Do It In A Booth,” and successfully registered over 400 CSUN students to vote.

The previous year I served CSUN students as Senator of Upper Division. As an Upper Division Senator I co-authored a resolution against Anti-Immigrant Legislations which would affect CSUN Students. I have been involved with the following organizations: Phi Alpha Delta International Law Fraternity, Child and Adolescent Development Association, and MEChA, and I am a writing tutor in the Chicano Studies Writing Lab.

The following are VOTE FOR P.E.D.R.O.’s top 3 GOALS:

OUR #1 Goal REPRESENTATION, which means that We Are Not Afraid To Take A Stand; neutrality is not an option! Students have the right to know what issues are affecting them. We understand that our number one job is to be student advocates, which means fighting for NO MORE TUITION INCREASES, Quality Education, Affordable Book Prices, and Healthier More Affordable Food Choices on campus! We will be on the forefront of those issues affecting students; we will not wait around to take action. We believe that student apathy is correlated to lack of representation, when students are adequately represented we feel that students will become more aware and engaged and connected to the campus and the issues affecting them.

Goal #2 FINANCIAL RESPONSABILITY, We understand that many students count on Associated Students financially, to help them and their organizations be successful, whether it comes to programming events, representing CSUN at conferences and games, culmination ceremonies, and other such events; and we have also witnessed how many times you have left our meetings disappointed. We believe that the Associated Students must LEAD BY EXAMPLE! For instance, it’s not fair that a club will receive $500 for an event and yet A.S. turns around and give themselves thousands. Why should A.S. events be more valuable than yours? How is it that AS has over a hundred thousand of dollars to invest in a concert, but when it’s time to lobby and take students to advocate for their education there is no money? We understand the importance of fiscal responsibility to ALL students. Please do not misunderstand, we like to have fun like everyone else, but we understand that our first priority is to represent you, and support our students, clubs and other organizations through our there endeavors; then and only then it’s time to party.

Goal # 3 ACCOUNTABILITY, We understand th
at we are here to represent students and not our own interest, students have a say into what direction we take. We want to put a stop to friends appointing friends, which will create more accountability to CSUN students. In the past, we have seen how during elections students run to become senators, they get elected, and as soon as they’re in office they resign for executive cabinet positions. By leaving their positions they are no longer accountable to those students who elected them and believed their promises and plans for the following year. We believe this creates an inconsistency in A.S. and hurts students because positions then have to be replaced by students who were not elected by students. We can promise that this will not occur in VOTE FOR P.E.D.R.O. We are committed to the position for which we are running.

Another way to create more accountability to students is by opening up the Executive Cabinet positions to be elected by students, which are currently appointed by the president; they should be accountable to students especially because they are paid with student money! By doing this, we feel that we will be able to empower more students to become active and participate in student government. If these positions are elected by students, they are accountable to students not the just the president.

We hope that if you are ready to see a change you will join us. We believe that students, can move mountains and restore the quality and affordability of the CSU, but we first have to believe in ourselves and the power that we embody! I hope that you will join us and support a year of reform for the Associated Students. It is necessary to lay a new foundation in order to create positive change for the future of our students. If you are ready for change, I ask that on April 17th and 18th you VOTE FOR P.E.D.R.O!