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Friday, September 25, 2020

AS Election Candidates address student concerns at Young Democrats of WWU forum

Illustration by Shannon DeLurio

By Bryant Hill

Candidates for the Associated Students Executive Board of 2019-2020 sat amongst each other for a two-hour forum hosted by Young Democrats of WWU on Thursday, April 18.

AS Executive Board elections will open Monday, April 29 and will last through May 3, according to AS Elections Coordinator Alec Willis, who oversees and regulates all AS elections. Thirteen candidates are in the running for the seven AS Executive Board positions.

At the forum, candidates addressed different topics, varying from implementing greater transparency within the administration to ending Western’s contract with Aramark. to.

Each candidate took turns laying out their goals and ambitions for office in prepared statements, and responded to written questions that were moderated by members of the Young Democrats. Candidates also took questions from an audience of around 50 people.

AS presidential candidates Lani DeFiesta and Abdul Malik Ford drew the largest crowds of the event. Both candidates expressed an interest in not renewing Western’s contract with Aramark and to improve the campus bricks to improve student accessibility. Both Ford and DeFiesta also said they feel the AS does not adequately seek student input while making decisions.

DeFiesta suggested livestreaming after meetings with the board of trustees and the faculty senate as well as providing students with transcripts and executive summaries of the university’s budget as a way to increase transparency.

Collaboration, transparency and accountability issues were recurring themes during the forum, with many candidates expressing varying solutions to increase student engagement and access to the governmental system within both with the AS and the administration.

This election brings in two brand- new positions, AS Vice President of Sustainability and Senate Pro-Tempore. The Senate Pro-Tempore presides over and facilitates the newly created Student Senate, working closely with the AS President.

“We’re both working on the same things generally,” said unopposed candidate and current at-large Sen. Adah Barenburg. The 21-body Student Ssenate is composed of two senators for each college as well as four at-large senators.

According to Barenburg, improving the communication between the senate, executive board and faculty will be a crucial next step for the position. “The senate is new this year, no one knows about us. All faculty go to the executive board first, they don’t think about the senate, and the senate can have a really important factor in specifically representing college interests.”

Running for AS VP of Sustainability are Trever Mullins, Jesse James Bass and Crow Chlonpek. Chlonpek could not attend the forum and a prepared candidate statement was read in their place.

Running for AS VP of Governmental Affairs are Grace Drechsel, Tatum Eames and Astrid Dueñas Diaz. Diaz was also absent and a prepared candidate statement was read in her absence.

Candidates Yesugen Battsengel and Josiah Scott are in the running for the position of AS VP of Diversity.

Running unopposed are AS VP for Activities candidate Selome Zerai, Senate Pro-Tempore candidate Adah Barenburg and AS VP for Student Services candidate Emily Gerhardt.

After the forum concluded, Young Democrats of WWU members stayed behind to vote on candidate endorsements, which were announced on their Facebook page the next morning at 9 a.m. The club’s official endorsements are:

  • Lani DeFiesta for AS President
  • Grace Drechsel for AS VP of Governmental Affairs
  • Yesugen Battsengel for AS VP of Diversity
  • Trever Mullins for AS VP of Sustainability
  • Selome Zerai for AS VP of Activities
  • Adah Barenburg for AS Senate Pro Tempore
  • Emily Gerhardt for AS VP of Student Services

Official candidate forums will be hosted by the AS on Wednesday, April 24 and Thursday, April 25 in Academic Instructional Center West 210 from 6-8 p.m.

“I feel incredibly optimistic about this race,” Willis said after listening to all of the candidates speak. “I love all these candidates and they continue to show to me that these are quality, experienced and passionate candidates who love the Associated Students. Seeing them interact with each other in this way allowed me to once again know that the AS is going to be in good hands next year.”

Voting stations will be available for students in Red Square by Skyviewing Ssculpture and outside Arntzen Hall by Log Ramp sculpture. Students can cast their votes online via: win.wwu.edu.

The Western Front broadcasted the forum via Facebook livestream. The footage is available to watch online here.

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