The Associated Students Inc. (ASI) Presidential Debate for the Special Election was held on Tuesday, April 26 at the University Student Union (USU).
The debate – which took place again after candidate Edward Thurber was disqualified – was hosted by The Collegian and featured D’Aungillique Jackson, Aidan Garaygordobil and Cynthia Arriaga Sanchez.
Candidates were given the opportunity to introduce themselves at the start of the debate.
Jackson, the current ASI president, said she served as ASI president at Fresno State for the past three semesters and led a Black Lives Matter protest in May 2020 that drew nearly 3,000 people. in downtown Fresno.
Garaygordobil, the current ASI senator for the College of Arts and Humanities, said he has been involved in several campus programs, including Fresno State Athletics, student housing and Greek life.
Sanchez, a Fresno State student majoring in recreational therapy, is on the Fresno City Council’s Measure C committee, a group aimed at improving the transportation system in the city.
Presidential candidates were asked how they could improve student turnout in the ASI vote. There was a turnout of 13.46% for the ASI 2020-21 elections, down from a student turnout of 15.01% for the ASI 2019-2020 elections.
“Especially since we (ASI) promote certain projects on this campus. It is important to show that we have people representing you,” Garaygordobil said in response.
Jackson said the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for many people, including students in Fresno State, and that efforts should be made to help everyone transition into person.
Sanchez said she wanted to improve communication within ASI and suggested starting a partnership with the City of Fresno to create drop-off boxes throughout the city.
The debate also highlighted that Thurber’s recent disqualification marks the second time since 2020 that an ASI presidential candidate has been disqualified. Candidates highlighted the need for changes to avoid further incidents.
Jackson referenced the 2020 disqualification of Ruby Muñiz. Jackson said that as Fresno State NAACP President, she led the campaign to get the ASI to hold a special election because there was a lot of “pushback”.
“I actually created a resolution, which was passed by the ASI, to amend their election commission to expand it and add additional policies to ensure that candidates can be held accountable and that they can follow the rules,” Jackson said.
Garaygordobil stressed the need to clarify what candidates can and cannot do during their campaign.
“It all really comes down to [communicating] about what ASI is,” said Garaygordobil. “I think that [there should be] more promotion of the ASI presidency and elections.
Sanchez said students and families should be made aware of ASI resources, while advocating more on social media.
“I believe knowledge is power, and having these resources publicly available will be of great benefit to the state of Fresno,” she said.
In his closing remarks, Garaygordobil said that trust should be maintained in ASI and underlined the importance of improving communication within ASI.
“I think it was evident during this last campaign period that many students felt they were not being represented in the right way by ASI… We need to make that effort to connect with the students and better represent them in order to strengthen ASI,” he said.
Arriaga Sanchez focused on raising awareness and advocating for the resources available on campus.
“I don’t want to just look at this as another position of power,” she said. “I plan to host a lot of creative projects for students so they can express themselves. I know school can be very stressful.
Jackson said she wanted to build on what she was able to create during her first term as president.
“And just know that if you decide to vote for me again, I promise you I won’t let you down. And next year, we’ll be able to accomplish even more than we’ve done since we began the process of laying this foundation,” Jackson said.