A.S. presidential candidates debate

    All five A.S. presidential candidates squared off at the 2004 A.S. presidential debates in Price Center Plaza on April 2. Students First! candidate Harish Nandagopal, Unity candidate Jeremy Cogan, and independent candidates Jenn Pae, Kris Saradpon and Steve York voiced their positions on various campus issues.

    The debates contained heated arguments and advertisements for the 2004 Fusion dance competition and concluded with two candidates taking off their shirts.

    Elections manager Tom Chapman was responsible for selecting the final debate questions for the candidates. Chapman first asked the candidates what their number one priority would be if they were elected as A.S. president.

    “My number one priority as A.S. president will be to change the A.S. structure so we get more students involved,” Nandagopal said. “Right now we have an A.S. structure that doesn’t facilitate students getting involved.”

    Saradpon focused on increasing student activities on campus, while Cogan emphasized the importance of uniting students through campuswide projects. Pae took a slightly different approach in her answer, citing a lack of UCSD name recognition as a problem.

    “My number one priority is to make sure that this college feels like a college campus,” Pae said. “We don’t have enough name recognition and I see that as a problem. We are such an amazing university, and I think everyone should know that, not only within the local San Diego community, but on a state level and a national level.”

    York, however, argued that life on campus is good.

    “My opponents are trying to scare you,” York said. “I think campus life is great, and if you don’t think so, you’re a social retard.”

    York stated that his priority as president would be to get more students involved in Associated Students.

    “A.S. is nothing more than an advisory board to the administration … and the way to deal with that is to get more people involved in breaking down this campus ideology that you have to be really liberal to chase after A.S. goals,” York said. “A.S. is a closed-door club.”

    The candidates were next asked to discuss how they would address parking problems.

    “It’s the job of the A.S. president to make sure they research all different avenues,” Pae said.

    Nandagopal stressed the importance of having more student representation on parking committees.

    “We need to get more student reps on committees to ensure the student voice,” he said. “We only have one student rep on the parking and transportation committee; [and] we need to have at least two.”

    Saradpon answered that he would advocate for more parking at higher costs. Cogan’s solution was to expand options for parking permits. York claimed that graduate students receive better parking services than undergraduates.

    “If you look at these parking garages, we’re paying most of the money on them, and the grad students and the faculty get to park all their nice little BMWs in them,” York said. “A.S. really has no control over parking.”

    Chapman next asked the candidates what they would do to increase student participation in campus life. Pae’s solution was to be more visible to and supportive of student organizations. Saradpon mentioned the lack of student involvement after a certain time on campus.

    “I want more student involvement because it seems like the campus dies after a certain magical hour — like everyone has fairy dust put upon them and falls asleep like in ‘Sleeping Beauty,’” Saradpon said.

    Cogan stressed that outreach to student organizations should occur throughout the year, not just during the elections period.

    “We need to be going around to the student organizations year-round, completely, all the time,” Cogan said.

    York claimed that the campus environment does not encourage students to get involved, bringing up the disqualification of the entire Students First! slate during last year’s election as an example. Nandagopal responded by criticizing York’s campaigning techniques and defending the Students First! slate.

    Cogan took note of the animosity during this particular debate.

    “There’s a lot of anger here at the table right now for some reason, and I just think that a lot of what needs to happen on campus to make people feel comfortable … is cutting down the anger, cutting down the bureaucracy, cutting down some of the craziness that goes on,” Cogan said.

    York and Nandagopal agreed with each other on the next debate topic, which focused on ensuring that the Price Center expansion and renovation would be completed efficiently. Both York and Nandagopal claimed that the administration often lies to students for the referendum and the construction process. All the candidates agreed that more student representation and administration accountability was needed for the referendum and the construction.

    The last question asked the candidates how they would deal with the lowered A.S. budget, which is projected to decrease by $175,000 next year.

    “The reason the A.S. balance is lowering is because there’s going to be less students,” York said. “If we cut down across the board evenly because there’s less students on this campus, it makes sense. It’s all about proportionality.”

    Saradpon agreed with York’s response. Cogan’s solution was to look into sharing resources on campus and increasing internal audits. Nandagopal emphasized that major campus events and outreach programs should not be cut. Pae stressed the importance of an open budget process.

    “We need to make sure that students come in and help put input into the budget process,” Pae said.

    After the debate session, each candidate asked a question to his or her opponents. The questions focused on student diversity, representation and apathy. York surprised the candidates and the audience by asking his opponents which “Star Wars” character they would be.

    Throughout the debate and in his closing remarks, Saradpon publicized this year’s Fusion dance competition on April 4.

    During the closing remarks, Cogan took off his Unity shirt to stress that slate status does not really matter, but that voting does. York followed by taking off his own shirt.

    Overall, Chapman felt that this year’s debate turned out well.

    “I think all the candidates did really well, and there was a good turnout this year,” Chapman said.

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