Associated Students presidential and vice presidential candidates discussed issues of transparency from the administration during the Debate and Open Mic event on Tuesday.
The candidates unanimously agreed the administration hasn’t acted in a transparent way regarding situations that include students when asked what changes could be made between the relationship of the university president, Dianne Harrison, and AS.
Michael Meeks, presidential candidate for the slate “Stronger Together,” suggested having summits between the president of the university and student leaders, which have happened in the past. His main concern is creating a dialogue between AS and Harrison so students are better informed on situations that occur on campus.
“I just want more transparency,” said Meeks. “If that’s expected of AS and our student leaders then we should expect that from the university president too. We’re not afraid to let (Harrison) know that we have issues that need to be addressed.”
Micah Moore-Tarver, a presidential candidate for the slate “Rise Up,” voiced concerns over the lack of communication between the university president and students. Moore-Tarver stated it was “unacceptable” that he is very involved in school activities and organizations but has never met Harrison. He suggested having weekly or biweekly meetings with Harrison to break the lack of communication.
“There’s so much we can learn from (Harrison),” said Meeks. “She’s a representation of us. When people on higher levels say California State University, Northridge, she’s the first person they think of.”
Navid Hariri, presidential candidate for the slate “Matadors First,” agreed with the other candidates, saying that getting Harrison more involved with students would prompt her to make “better decisions” regarding topics which affect students and would break that communication barrier.
Diana Vicente, presidential candidate for the slate “The Voice You Deserve,” described the relationship between Harrison, student leaders and the student population as “damaged” and wants to repair the relationship by holding mandatory meetings between student leaders and Harrison.
“We want to bring that voice back to the students,” said Vicente. “We want President Harrison to be out there talking to our students, we want her to be walking around and making connections (with) the students that she’s representing.”
The topic of fee increases was also discussed during the debate. The four presidential candidates and their vice presidents stated their position to support the three fee referendums regarding AS, the Klotz Student Health Center and the Instructionally Related Activities account that will appear on the election ballot.
“We would have to cut out programs that are provided for our students,” said “Rise Up” vice presidential candidate Kalkidan Yigezu. “We support every fee referendum so students won’t be paying such a high price for these programs.”
If the referendums pass, fee increases would go into effect in fall 2019. The AS fee would rise $7 and another $4 every fall semester after.
According to the AS 2019 Referendum webpage, the increase is broken down, and states: “$3 will go to student organizations through Unassigned Contingency and the Sports Clubs program. $4.50 will be allocated to AS Programs, Transportation passes and Outdoor Adventures.”
Fees for the Student Health Center would include a one-time $5 charge for two full-time psychiatrists and a $10 charge to support the SHC services for the fall 2019 semester. Each subsequent fall semester would add $1 to the fee and will continue for 10 years following. A list of SHC services can be found on their CSUN website.
Fees for Instructionally Related Activities are currently $15, which is paid during spring semesters. The referendum would include a $3 charge for the fall 2019 semester, and an increase of $1 following annually.
“All of these fee increases will increase employment opportunities and internship opportunities for students, which is a big reason we’re looking to support the increases,” said Samantha Crende, vice presidential candidate of “Stronger Together.”
The last topic discussed was how each candidate will increase the AS presence and student engagement. Each candidate agreed that AS has to have a stronger presence which would result in more participation on the student’s part.
Meeks discussed having a heavy social media presence and continuing with the Red Couch Tour, where members of AS set up an area for students to come and voice concerns directly.
“We have to go to where the eyes are, so social media is a big part of that because this is a school where a lot of people come and leave so we have to go to where the people go,” said Meeks.
Moore-Tarver focused on making the university a networking beacon.
“College is just more than getting an education,” he said. “Creating events where people can network and socialize will be more appealing.”
Moore-Tarver also said having events will give AS an opportunity to engage with students who have concerns in a more relaxed setting.
Hariri agreed with other candidates that there is a disconnect between AS and the student population. He suggested speaking directly to the smaller campus organizations first and hearing concerns that could be lost in the larger organization’s concerns. His vice president, Sam Sabzanov, added that many students are unaware of what AS is. He said by meeting with students they will be more inclined to use the resources AS has to offer.
Vicente’s concerns are in the efforts to raise awareness of the student’s participation is AS. She said this could be achieved by having the eight different programs which are a part of AS outsource and market to students, which would recruit them to get involved. She also suggested holding a few AS meetings outside where students can sit in without having to feel timid about walking into a building.
“Students don’t feel like they can be a part of Associated Students,” said Vicente. “But at the end of the day we have to bring it back to what it truly is, which is an organization run by students for the students.”
Candidates’ personal statements and fee increase information can be found on The Sundial’s coverage of the candidates and referendums. Voting booths will be set up at the campus bookstore, Sierra Lawn and Arbor Grill on April 3 and 4 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Voting can also be done online through the CSUN Division of Student Affairs website.
4/3/2019, 2:15 p.m.: This story was updated with a corrected spelling of Diana Vicente’s last name.