The four Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) presidential hopefuls met Thursday during UU Hour to discuss the concerns and responsibilities they would face if elected. Political science junior Chase Dean, business administration sophomore Archie Mitchell, biomedical engineering junior Davis Negrete, and agricultural sciences junior Riley Nilsen participated in six rounds of debate, each given one minute to answer a question and 30 seconds for rebuttals.
Dean led off the first round, briefly explaining the three pillars of his platform: affordability, equity and community. He spoke about the need to “give marginalized people a platform to speak on,” and mending the relationship between permanent residents of the San Luis Obispo community and students.
Nilsen followed, drawing upon her experience in student government to establish her qualifications for the ASI presidency and explaining her understanding of the issues facing each college at Cal Poly.
Mitchell highlighted the importance of “making students aware that there is someone out there fighting for them,” and expressed hopes to unify the student body under his leadership.
Finally, Negrete emphasized his “campaign on character” and stressed the fact that he represents the average student at Cal Poly. “I’m campaigning because I truly care,” Negrete said.
Candidates were asked to talk about a time they worked on a team with conflicting viewpoints and how they approached that challenge.
Candidates spoke of different experiences, with Nilsen reflecting on the collaborative environment she helped foster as chair of ASI Board of Directors, and Davis remembering the intensive team effort that was required as a resident advisor to plan programs for students.
Similar to Nilsen, Dean discussed how his role as College of Liberal Arts representative on the ASI Board of Directors taught him how crucial it is to “build relationships outside of the board room and outside of meetings” in order to achieve compromise and collaboration that can benefit every student.
Mitchell, an international student from Sheffield, England, discussed his first-ever group project at Cal Poly and the coordination that was needed to successfully complete the assignment.
All candidates explained how they would apply the lessons learned from their respective experiences to the ASI presidency.
In the following round, candidates spoke about their ability to balance their personal and professional lives.
As a first-generation college student, Negrete described how he balanced two jobs to pay for college, along with maintaining a full course load and helping as a student assistant at the Multicultural Center. Negrete walked the audience through his morning routine, demonstrating his preparedness to take on and balance the additional workload that comes with the ASI presidency.
“I’m passionate about working well under pressure,” Mitchell said, referring to when he trained upwards of 20 hours a week for his swimming career at Cal Poly while managing an intense round of classes. “I understand it’s going to be hard [as ASI president], but I love public speaking and connecting with people. I’m excited to work tirelessly to give students what they want and need.”
Nilsen opened up about a personal experience, explaining how stressors from the previous fall quarter pushed her to reach out for support at the counseling services on campus. “It made me realize how much students need these resources,” Nilsen said. “Regardless the stress I was undergoing, I felt the need to create the campus-wide initiative of Buck the Stigma, and I couldn’t have asked for a better event.” She explained that the “end goal of serving students” motivates her to work endlessly for the student body.
Dean demonstrated his ability to balance school, personal life and relationships with peers by discussing his current packed schedule and the success he still achieves because he is “committed to what [he does].”
“I’m taking 20 units, I’m on the ASI Board of Directors, I tutor people in English downtown and still take time off for myself,” Dean said. “I have written resolutions, endorsements and held the necessary conversations while maintaining this balance, and I can more than handle the plate put in front of me.”
Primary role as ASI president
An audience-submitted question asked candidates to consider what they see as the primary role of the president, other than being the voice for students.
Mitchell argued that the role of ASI president is to unite 20,000 students together to champion common causes.
“When we all rally together behind someone who can lead us, we can initiate change that will impact all our lives,” Mitchell said.
In a similar response, Negrete also advocated to push for and solve students’ concerns.
Dean spoke passionately about leading by example, particularly when addressing the problems faced by minorities on campus.
“I will be out there advocating, making sure we are sitting down with those students at those meetings, hearing them out instead of assuming what they’re saying,” Dean said.
Nilsen asserted that “the primary role is always to serve the students, regardless of what you are doing.” She emphasized how important it is for the ASI president to prioritize building relationships with local government and administrators in order to best serve students.
The second audience-submitted question focused on how the candidates plan to ease tensions between students on campus.
“We’re all people, we’re all trying to have a good experience,” Mitchell said. “We need to expand our understanding of people from all groups, be more empathetic and approach conflicts in a mature way.”
Mitchell added that he would love to see more open interactions from people of different backgrounds, and create a climate that is ensured to be inclusive and diverse.
Dean spoke of his goal to create more open forums and initiate dialogues that will uncover the root of the animosities directed toward minorities.
Under his leadership, Dean said, “hate speech will not stand on this campus. This is our home, and the right to free speech doesn’t mean that hate speech can spread. We need to call it out for what it is.”
Nilsen also recognized the need to dissect why students feel the way they do. She discussed how diversity roundtables are “a great way for students to share their voice, collaborate and learn from each other.”
“We need to make sure students feel safe on this campus,” Nilsen said.
In accordance with his campaign on character, Negrete asserted the power of empathy and compassion in addressing tensions on campus.
“Try to put yourself in their shoes, ‘Why do they feel this way? Why are they hurting?’ That is the fundamental breakdown and I will always promote this,” Negrete said.
In her closing statement, Nilsen pointed out the asset that makes her the most qualified candidate for ASI president.
“I am the only candidate with the experience and established relationships to implement change [from the start],” Nilsen said.
Dean concluded by reminding the audience of his resolution to make tangible changes if elected ASI president.
“Some people say change is hard, but when students like all of you look around and say, ‘The status quo is unacceptable,’ that’s how real change starts. We are running on the idea that these issues have tangible solutions,” Dean said.
Negrete established an appeal to the “regular Cal Poly student,” explaining his motivation for running for ASI president.
“I am doing this solely because I see the issues that you face, and I’m tired of those issues just like you are,” Negrete said.
Mitchell focused on the long-term impact he would leave if elected. “I want to leave a legacy for future students to feel safe, to have a great experience on and off-campus. I’m invested in Cal Poly,” Mitchell said.
Voting for the 2017 ASI election opens Wednesday at 9 a.m. on the student portal, and closes the following day at 9 a.m. The winner will be announced Thursday at 11 a.m. in the Julian A. McPhee University Union plaza.
For the full debate, watch here:
Video by Connor McCarthy