All 13 of the Associated Students Board candidates answered student questions during the AS election debates in Academic West on Wednesday, April 25.
Student concerns included the referendum to bring back the College of Ethnic Studies, the lack of advisors at Western and the movement for better protections for RAs .
The AS board members are paid for by student dollars, Hannah Spencer, director of the AS Representation & Engagement Programs, said. The members work with people who can make a real change, such as administrators and Board of Trustees members, she said.
“Not only is your money being spent upon them, they’re going to affect what happens at Western and what your experience is going to be like,” Spencer said. “It’s really important that people vote.”
Spencer said there are four referenda on this year’s ballot.
The referenda address the Sustainability, Equity and Justice fund, the College of Ethnic Studies, renewal of the Student Technology Fee and support of a smoke-free campus, according to the AS Elections website.
Spencer helped monitor the debate, along with main organizer Francesca Cruz, elections coordinator for the AS Representation & Engagement Programs.
Cruz also organized the event and helped the candidates prepare with last year’s questions, she said. This debate wasn’t limited to preselected questions. At the beginning, Cruz invited students to write their own questions and place them in paper cups for each candidate. Any questions that didn’t get answered during the debate would be answered later online, Cruz said.
One student question asked Millka Solomon, the unopposed presidential candidate, how she planned to tackle disagreements within her board and keep board members accountable.
Solomon said she had experience in dealing with restorative justice and wasn’t afraid to take on conflict.
“I don’t ever want to act as the boss of someone,” she said. “But I want to be able to facilitate a conversation.”
Sophomore Brandon Lane said the most compelling part of the event was the debate for VP for Academic Affairs. This section had the most converging viewpoints, he said, while questions became repetitive at other times in the debate. Lane was elected Thursday, April 19, as chair of the Young Democrats of WWU club, he said. After attending the debate, he knew who to vote for, he said.
There are no initiatives on the ballot this year, according to the AS Elections website. However, Spencer said students can create an initiative next year if they file a packet and collect 700 signatures. The filing process happens every year in late fall and early winter, she said, so it’s easy for students to miss. One result of a past student initiative is the absence of disposable plastic water bottles on campus, she said.
Cruz said a lot of the time, students who are the most frustrated with things on campus are the ones who don’t engage to make changes. For this reason, she said, she has encouraged students to campaign for these positions, file, and elect students who best lead in these campaigns.
“Students have a lot of power,” Cruz said. “I just don’t think they know that.”