ASI presidential debate in 2021 addresses mental health, inclusiveness and student success

Continuing the 2021 Associated Students, Inc. election, the two presidential candidates took part in a Zoom debate on Thursday, in which they discussed issues such as inclusiveness, food insecurity, homelessness and student engagement in the online landscape.

Hosted by Rachel Thibodeaux from Beach forensics, the debate featured candidates Jesus Gonzalez, senator of the Supervisory Board, and Shay Hashemi, vice president of the CSULB Financial Management Association.

Thibodeaux first asked applicants how they would increase student participation in a virtual learning environment.

In response, Hashemi said he would create a separate ASI outreach committee to help “unify” the three branches of student government.

“I think the primary responsibility of organizations on campus and among students is to market the benefits of getting involved in college. So to do that, what I’m going to do is standardize and completely reorganize the way ASI communicates, ”Hashemi said.

Gonzalez said he will launch an outreach program that will allow ASI to build bridges with other organizations in the hope that students will join Senate board meetings to discuss issues and concerns.

In rebuttal, Hashemi said he felt that meetings were not enough to engage with students and that a line of communication needed to be more “standardized,” to which Gonzalez responded by saying he was using the platforms of social media to communicate with the student body.

“I’m continuing these efforts and the promotion within our social media accounts hosting Instagram Lives, you know, because we also have the Student Wellness and Recreation Center events that will help students engage more. “said Gonzalez.

Thibodeaux then asked how applicants could ensure that the administration provides sufficient funding for campus clubs and organizations.

Acknowledging that many student organizations have limited funding, Gonzalez said he hopes to allocate a $ 300 grant, like the one paid in fall 2020, to support virtual or restrictive in-person club events.

“I hope students can find creative ways to raise funds,” Gonzalez said.

Hashemi advocated for the campus to reopen, while operating under Los Angeles County Public Health Department guidelines below the red level, citing that clubs have lost revenue due to a lack of events in person affecting recruitment. In response, Gonzalez argued that reopening the campus would risk spreading the coronavirus to households and student communities.

“Senator, the clubs are dying,” Hashemi said. “There will always be a risk, there has always been a risk for anything, me driving on the street, you can have a car accident any day.”

The moderator then asked how the applicants plan to retain and increase the number of students and faculty from under-represented communities.

“One thing we need to do is make sure that we look for more equal representation, not only our staff but our student leaders,” Hashemi said. “Over 60% of our students are non-male students, and yet only two people have registered to run for president, right, one person has registered to run for vice- presidency. “

He said he planned to develop outreach committees that would network with students and their organizations, similar to university outreach for early academic preparation to increase diversity among faculty.

Gonzalez advocated for greater diversity among staff to more accurately reflect each college, working closely with places like the Career Development Center, the SRWC and the Center for Women and Gender Equity.

“What kind of systems are you going to put in place to recruit African American students and different student demographics from our local high schools in Long Beach? Hashemi asked Gonzalez.

In response, Gonzalez said he is working closely with the university and the outreach committee to promote the importance of higher education in high school recruitment.

Continuing, Thibodeaux asked candidates for their thoughts on how students can focus on their emotional well-being and receive mental health care during the pandemic.

Gonzalez said he believes there should be an increase in counseling and psychology services advisers, although he realizes that it might be difficult to achieve. Instead, he suggested that different counselors speak to students based on their background, such as CAPS counselor Nidia Morán Canales, who works closely with undocumented students.

To help students facing food insecurity, Hashemi offered to increase awareness of ASI’s Beach Pantry program by creating brochures and sending out newsletters.

Gonzalez responded by saying that emails are already being sent announcing issues such as food and housing insecurity under the Department of Student Affairs. Basic needs program. Hashemi argued that the program, and mental health in general, needs more awareness and suggested posting a newsletter “on every CSULB page in the footer.”

Hashemi closed by saying he stands up for students facing issues like housing and food insecurity, and prioritizes mental health. For Gonzalez, he represents the students who he believes are struggling during this time.

“My efforts are basically to support underrepresented students, low income communities, early generations, undocumented students, students of color because they are the ones who are struggling, especially during this virtual formatting,” said Gonzalez.

The ASI presidential elections will be held virtually from March 15 to 17.

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