Advisement, spirit main focus at election debate


An optimistic agenda in increasing advisement and school spirit for CSUN students was the dominant theme at the Associated Students candidates’ press conference March 29.

The meeting that was held in the Satellite Student Union’s Shoshone Room offered a forum for candidates to publicize their platforms and answer questions from the sparse audience.

All four presidential candidates – Zach Mendelsohn, with the “V.O.I.C.E.” slate; Ken Barrow, with the “Support U.S.” slate; Adam Salgado, with the “111 You Decide” slate; and Taranika Echols, with the “It’s All About You” slate – emphasized the importance of clubs and organizations on campus.

“We used to have 250 clubs,” said Sarah Jackson, who is running for vice president with Salgado. “Now we only have 160 recognized organizations. ? We want to work on budget workshops. (We want) to give organizations the skills to budget for what they need.”

The majority of the two hours was spent on questions for the A.S. Senate candidates. When the president and vice president candidates were given the chance to speak, however, they made their goals known in concise ways that made it clear that this year’s election could be hard to call beforehand.

Advisement was another key issue. Nearly every candidate mentioned the need for better advisement (which would hopefully lead to less six-year plans for CSUN students) at the school, though their ideas were all relatively similar.

Salgado suggested a plan in which department advisers would advise students, who in turn would advise their own peers. This could make some students more comfortable and secure with their decisions in the registration process. This need for trust in the advisement process drove an idea that Barrow had to change the advisement system.

“I believe that one of the most important things is” having a mentor, Barrow said. “We would build a mentorship program. Advisement has a lot to do with who you trust.”

Brief tensions flared, however, during the presidential debate. Gallego had made a remark on the attendance to the event (which A.S. director of elections Steven Vanover said was low) and said that it pleased him to see a large number of people in the audience. Sixth-year student Kalic Chambers, a Pan-African studies major who is vice president of the Black Student Union, challenged Gallego’s assessment of the audience and argued that what the vice president candidate said illustrated a problem within A.S.

“We like to play make believe and say that there is student representation (but that is not the case),” Chambers said, adding that “anyone with eyes” could see that attendance was sparse. Chambers said that Gallego’s statement about the audience showed the lack of communication within the student body and A.S.

Mendelsohn emphasized school spirit, as did Echols in her written platform and several senators in their prepared speeches.

Sophia Recalde, Mendelsohn’s running mate, said their slate planned to raise students’ spirit and awareness of campus events in several ways, including the establishment of a marquee to better inform students of activities.

Three of the slates had similar ideas of how to handle an A.S. fee increase of $2 and ways to spend the extra money the organization would receive.

“We want to focus on giving back the money to students, to clubs and organizations,” Salgado said, adding that he and Jackson would also focus on using the money to increase school spirit and student involvement on campus.

Mendelsohn agreed. He said the money would go right back to the students to help fund clubs and organizations, and perhaps help students create new ones.

Peter Gallego, Echols’ running mate, said that he and Echols would make it clear to students where the extra $2 would go, and exactly how it would benefit students, if they were elected.

Senate candidates spoke in a press conference before the presidential debate, and most candidates focused on problems regarding advisement and school spirit.

“I want to take care of juniors and seniors so they can end up graduating on time,” said Pablo Murillo, who is running for upper division senator with the “111 You Decide” slate.

One of his competitors, Dina Cervantes of the “It’s All About You” slate, pledged to work with transfer students in their transition to the university, with help from CSUN offices, such as EOP and Admissions and Records.

Of the two candidates for the office of lower division senator who made appearances at the debate, one pledged to increase school spirit, while the other focused on diversity within the election and at the school.

“Using RA (resident adviser) skills, I’m learning a lot about risk management,” said Yolie Vasquez, who is running with the “111 You Decide” slate. “With more risk management, we can have school dances” and other events that could increase school spirit and involvement.

Her opponent, Mandip Grewal, said her slate, “Support U.S.,” would be beneficial for the student body because of the difference among its candidates.

“Our slate is very diverse. Each of us can offer something very different,” Grewal said.

The Senate candidates for the various academic colleges emphasized advisement and a connection to A.S. in their speeches, but a few focused on how they could help the college’s students.

“I plan to ? take the culture CSUN has already and strengthen that culture,” said Kevin Lancaster, the Arts, Media, and Communication senator candidate for the “It’s All About You” slate. He said he would “bridge the gap” between the college and A.S. if elected.

Other candidates focused on graduation rates and club involvement within their own colleges.

Juana Zamora, a candidate for College of Humanities senator, said she would focus on graduation rates within the college.

“It is my goal to help students in my college and CSUN graduate in four years,” Zamora said. She also emphasized the importance of students being more aware of how to receive advisement.

Maria Antonette Co, a candidate for the College of Science and Mathematics, had plans already in place to help her accomplish her goal of reviving clubs within her college and at CSUN. She said she would work with existing clubs and the Matador Involvement Center to achieve her ideas.

Stanette Dixon, a freshman social welfare major, said she appreciated that some of the Senate candidates knew what they were talking about and spoke with the audience rather than reading off a sheet of paper.

“I think a couple of them actually did stand out with what they said,” Dixon said. “They weren’t that repetitive.”

Attendance was not only sparse among audience members, however; while all of the president and vice president candidates were at the debate, nine senate hopefuls were no-shows for the press conference.

As of March 30, 37 individuals are on the ballot. The A.S. elections for the 2006-07 school year will take place on April 4 – 5 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.