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ASI executive candidates hold debate ahead of upcoming elections

Student basic needs like housing and food, campus issues that need addressing and candidates use of connections within city of Long Beach were topics tackled during the March 13 Associated Students Inc. executive branch debate.

This was the only debate between the candidates ahead of the March 18 to 20 election.

The event was co-hosted by the Long Beach State Forensics Department and moderated by communications professor Michael Eisenstadt.

Candidates for the positions of vice president of finance, executive vice president and president held separate 25 minute debates, discussing issues ranging from housing and food insecurity to how if elected, the candidates would manage ASI’s $28 million budget.

In each debate the candidates were given the opportunity for a 60 second opening and closing statement. The same questions were asked of each candidate and each were given 60 seconds to answer.

Candidates for ASI president include current ASI Executive Vice President Teresa Falcon, current Senator for the College of Education Johnny Baéza, current Senator for the College of Liberal Arts Nikki Majidi and Archie Sehgall, a computer science major.

The ASI presidential election has the most candidates of the three major executive branch elections.

All candidates acknowledged the increasing cost of living and the need to assist students in both housing and food insecurity. Some highlighted the recent decision by the CSU Board of Trustees to increase tuition next academic year.

Baéza focused his attention on working with the city government and Mayor Rex Richardson to provide more affordable housing for students.

“Working with Mayor Rex Richardson, that is something that he mentioned at the State of the City address, it was working for affordable housing. And that’s something that we can do I believe they have a coalition of alumni, students, alumni that work with the mayor,” Baéza said.

Falcon echoed that sentiment in her response adding already existing university research should inform any solution the university or ASI should put forward.

“I think we can foster partnerships off campus through apartments and hotels to offer opportunities for students, and overall just support our students throughout this really difficult time in their lives,” Falcon said

Sehgall also highlighted the need for research when addressing this problem, but said he wanted to make it easier for students to apply for emergency housing and food grants.

“Being a man of science, I would like to probably start with research as why we’re having such housing and food insecurities across campus. But as solution to it, obviously more food is always an answer. Just get like more resources on campus pantry is a good resource. But since its donation base, we need to urge more people to donate to it,” Sehgall said.

Majidi addressed the rising costs of tuition and how that is contributing to lack of access to basic needs for students.

“I had a really profound conversation with someone in higher education, where they spoke about how a lot of other issues fall on higher education. Food insecurity falls on higher education. Housing into or affordable housing falls on higher education. So I would fight for lower tuition costs, because affordability means accessibility, expanding basic needs access and also improving infrastructure,” Majidi said.

The candidates for vice president of finance included Andre Achacon, current member of the ASI Business and Finance Committee and ASI senator at-large; Mohaddisa Naqvi, former Cerritos College student body president; and Jaimin Suthar, a mechanical engineering major.

Vice president of finance oversees the ASI Business and Finance committee, which is largely responsible for the approving of grants for student organizations events. The position also recommends a budget to the ASI senate and oversees that budget once approved.

All candidates were in agreement on most of the issues presented but differed in the solutions they plan to enact if elected.

To increase ASI engagement with students, Achacon, if elected, said he would do direct outreach with student organizations and community stakeholders to make them more aware of the many events that ASI organizes.

Suthar said he hoped to increase engagement through different cultural events on campus as well as general improvements to the University Student Union (USU).

Naqvi emphasized the need for more student services to run through the USU. She included things like mental health check-ins and job workshops. She also said there is a need for more events but for those events to focus more on student needs.

Only two candidates are running for the positions of executive vice president, Sheesh Dhawan a computer engineering major and Matt Melendrez, an ASI senator at-large and ASI lobby corps senate representative.

Executive vice president is chair of the ASI senate as well as a voting member. The senate serves as both a legislative body representing the students of the university and as the board of directors for the corporation ASI. Both Dhawan and Melendrez put to rest the idea of the potential conflict of interest saying they will always put their role in representing the students first.

“I’m a student first before anything, and student issues will always be first. However, I will want to work with administration and work with staff members. But again, students will always come first,” Melendrez said.

Dhawan also emphasized in his statement the importance of his representation to students but mentioned the corporation (ASI) side of his potential responsibilities more than his opponent.

“So I think the corporation is also trying to do the best for our students. And so being transparent with everything that’s happening in our student body, and making sure that all their concerns are being heard and being solved by the corporation would be of utmost importance to me,” Dhawan said.

ASI elections will take place on March 18-20. Students can cast their vote by visiting the CSULB ASI elections website. Winners will be announced at noon on March 21 at the USU south plaza.

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