A.S. presidential candidates face off in debate

Photo+by+Chelsea+Massey%2C+Staff+Photographer

Photo by Chelsea Massey, Staff Photographer

by Briana Stanley

Associated Students presidential candidates Gabriel Torres and Jonathan Cole took part in a public debate today at noon in front of Hepner Hall. They were each asked 15 questions by The Daily Aztec moderators and five questions by students at large.

Both candidates agreed the average student isn’t fully aware of the role of A.S., but argued about the severity of the problem.

“I think we’re in a crisis situation where students don’t believe in Associated Students,” Torres said. “We need to target those groups (that) feel they aren’t represented on campus, and make every organization feel equally involved.”

Though Cole agreed with Torres, he was optimistic that A.S. could rebuild a relationship with students.

 “Students don’t see the value,” Cole said. “It starts by building those relationships and then continuing forward.”

Torres said Cole’s view of the relationship between A.S. and students was one of the main issues with the elections.

“To say that we are going to engage students is a platform that we bring up in every election,” Torres said. “The best way to look at what a leader is going to do is to look at their track record.”

Torres and Cole also differ on their definitions of the role of the A.S. president. Cole defined the role as a CEO of a nonprofit organization and also the role of the student body president.

“It’s important to make sure that our students are getting the services that they need, that they deserve,” Cole said.

 Torres said the role of the A.S. president is represent all students.

“The number one role is that you are a face of all the students here,” Torres said. “You need to be in front of students constantly engaging them and making them believe in the entire process.”

The candidates were also asked their opinions on the recent $200 Student Success Fee recommended by the Campus Fee Advisory Committee.

“On a personal level, it’s really hard for me,” Cole said. “I’m the oldest of four boys. My little brother couldn’t go to Long Beach State because my family couldn’t afford his tuition. So he goes to community college. But I voted for the fee anyway.”

Cole said he voted for the fee because he thinks it will benefit students by shortening the time it takes students to graduate.

“At the end of the day, I’m going to be paying more money if I have to stay for a fifth or sixth year,” Cole said.

Torres said he disagrees with the fee. He said philanthropy is an untapped resource that should be used to supplement any sort of fee increase for the students.

“You should stick to your guns and have action,” Torres said. “That’s what we’re supposed to do as leaders.”

In a rebuttal to Torres’ statement, Cole said he personally struggled with supporting the fee increase in CFAC because he knew it would put more of a burden on himself and his friends.

“It was not an easy decision,” Cole said. “To hear some of my friends on the other side put me in a bad spot. I did not walk out of that meeting happy, I was actually depressed.”

Both candidates agreed the on-campus bans, such as the smoking ban and the skateboard ban, are ineffective.

Torres said he believes the problem stems from a disconnect between A.S. and the student body.  

“The bans were done without input from all of the students, which is the number one problem,” he said. “Students don’t even realize what A.S. is implementing and they don’t believe in what they’re standing for.”

Cole said he has been major proponent for skateboarding on campus and was even one of the main forces behind a pro-skateboarding resolution currently sitting on the current A.S. president’s desk.

“I believe that skateboarding is something that we do need to have on this campus,” Cole said. “It’s part of our culture, it goes along with the lines of sustainability, which is one of our core values, and its cheap and convenient for our students.”

The candidates delivered a set of passionate closing statements to end the debate.

“I just hope that today you see that you have two people who truly care,” Torres said. “You have one that’s part of a leadership that we currently have that really hasn’t sparked any inspiration on this campus or any actual change. And what I’m going to bring to the table is someone who’s passionate. I’m going to bring someone who will leave a legacy on this campus.”

Cole countered Torres’ argument for a change of perspective by highlighting the benefits of his pre-existing campus connections.

“Yes I’ve been on this campus, I’ve had leadership positions, and at the same time I’ve been able to build relationships with a lot of student organizations on this campus,” Cole said. “I think that’s really where it starts. When you’re serving students, having personal relationships is really where it starts.”

Voting for the general elections will take place March 17 – 20 via SDSU WebPortal. If students want to vote for anyone other than the candidates, the write-in applications are due in the A.S. Government Affairs Office by tomorrow at 12 p.m.

Assistant News Editor Luke Henning also contributed to this report.  

Photo by Chelsea Massey, Staff Photographer