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The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

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ASI presidential candidates campaign for advocacy and safety during debate for upcoming elections

Fresno State ASI presidential debate for the 2024-25 academic school year. Two candidates are running each one advocating for safety and inclusion on campus.

Election season is upon Fresno State as Associated Students Inc. elections are scheduled only one week away. Tension and excitement filled the air of Resnick Student Union Room 207, which served as a platform for a diplomatic debate between two students running for 2024-25 ASI student body president.

“During today’s debate, we will ask each candidate a series of questions, [in] which they will have 1.5 minutes to respond,” said Jazmin Alvarado, news editor of The Collegian.

Collegian Copy Editor Carlos Rene Castro, and Alvarado mediated the 2024 ASI Presidential Debate yesterday. Candidates Jaden Baker, a first year business entrepreneurship major, and Faith Van Hoven, a third year philosophy major, both shared their campaign goals to an audience of over 30 people.

Each candidate was given two minutes to share their opening statements at the beginning of the debate.

“I’ve been involved with leadership, really my whole life, dating back to elementary and middle school,” Baker said. “Touching down here at Fresno State, I got to work immediately and became the youngest Black Student Union president of Fresno State history.”

Baker presented five key pillars behind his campaign goals: making areas adjacent to campus safely walkable, academic support for those from marginalized communities, more support for clubs and organizations, advocacy for Palestinian students and longevity due to his young age.

Van Hoven, current sen. of the College of Arts and Humanities, opened with the information that she is campaigning alongside Marco Florez, current sen. of the College of Social Sciences, who is running for vice president of external affairs.

“Our slogan is ‘Back and better’ because we are members of ASI currently, but intend to come back, but also to be better,” Van Hoven said to the audience.

She said that she is Bulldog bred because her parents graduated from Fresno State in the 80s. During the debate, Van Hoven presented three pillars: access, safety and student involvement.

Van Hoven said she wants to aim to open the library for longer hours and get more than the current five of the emergency blue light systems working on campus. She compared Fresno State’s campus size to the University of Southern California, saying Fresno State’s is larger, yet with hundreds less emergency blue lights. Before she could finish her opening statement, she was cut off at the two minute mark.

“Why did you choose to run in this year’s elections and what makes you the ideal candidate for ASI President to lead a campus of nearly 25,000 students?”

Baker said that when he was formulating his campaign, he knew he needed to include his community because he felt they weren’t being represented properly.

“As I said, I became the youngest BSU president here,” he said. “A lot of what I was hearing in regards to on campus, I had an influence. I could change. Realizing how much change needed to be made within my community kind of propelled me to step up into this limelight and propel myself to be that leader.”

Van Hoven mentioned how she’s a philosophy major and thinks a lot about the ethics involved in government.

“Socrates had this idea that people that don’t want to lead should actually be the leaders,” she said.

She touched on how her and Florez have “varying reach” because he is involved in Greek life and she is a part of multicultural life on campus, making them have things representative of Fresno State as a whole.

“How important will transparency and accountability be during your term as president, and how do you plan to execute this?”

Baker said transparency is his number one priority and that he has already tried to incorporate this by setting up a link that students can submit feedback about the changes they’d like to see on campus in his Instagram bio with a Linktree.

“I feel like the leaders running for ASI don’t have all the answers. I don’t have all the answers. My opponents don’t have all the answers,” he said. “The answers lie within the students here on this campus.”

He said that in the past, some senators have not engaged with their colleges or communities on campus. Baker said what he and students can do is put those that can lead that are involved in their communities into ASI positions who are self-driven that do not need to be held accountable.

Van Hoven said her and Florez are already running a transparent campaign by giving their three platforms of what they want to do in office.

“We’re given three ideas and those three ideas have given concrete, stainable ideas, and so that leads into the idea of accountability,” she said. “That’s how we’re going to maintain [being] accountable during this. And that’s also the idea of transparency. Our three points point to the idea that we are going to be transparent in every action that we do.”

Efforts on Instagram, flyers and other parts of running a campaign is how she is going to remain accountable by pointing to the idea of remaining transparent to every action they’ll do.

“What are some initiatives that current or past presidents have done that you want to build from?”

Current ASI President Karen Carrillo’s food security voucher initiative is what Baker immediately pointed to because as a student who lives on campus himself, he thinks programs like that and Essential Needs are necessary.

“I don’t think people realize how hard it is to ask for help,” he said. “Being someone in that position of having to ask for help is humiliating. It’s tough. You don’t want to do it. We need to create resources for these students.”

Van Hoven agreed that she’d want to continue pursuing Carrillo’s initiative that combats food insecurity, especially during breaks when the dining hall and other food options are closed.

“There’s between 200 to 300 students that stay over in the dorms during those breaks and there’s no allotted food for those students,” Van Hoven said. “I would really like to continue that and commit to bringing more food to Fresno State students.”

Post-debate reactions

“I really liked Faith’s point on the blue light system,” said Emily Villaseñor, third year health administration student. “I didn’t know we were at that much of a disadvantage with only having five. And for Jaden, I really liked how he spoke about the Palestinians and speaking out about the genocide because I felt like Fresno State hasn’t had a stance on that at all recently.”

Villaseñor said she’s never voted for ASI elections and that this is her first time getting involved.

Krysalyn Jacobs, a third year women’s, gender and sexuality studies major and secretary of the BSU, said she admired how quick Baker responded to the questions and how he carried himself. What stood out to her from both candidates was addressing that there needs to be funding for clubs and that food options need to be more accessible to students who live on campus.

“It would be nicer if it [dining hall] was open longer,” Jacobs said. “Maybe more time to get food because I go out late. I might not be in. I might take naps and not wake up on time to go to the dining hall… it’s like the little things that matter.”

Carrillo said one thing that neither of them really talked about, but briefly touched on was basic needs in the form of mental health, financials and food security.

“Personally, I think that if your basic needs aren’t met first, you don’t perform academically well,” she said.

Florez told The Collegian what stood out most about the candidates was Van Hoven’s preparedness.

“I know I am running with Faith, but I understood that she was prepared for this debate. She came with statistics. She came with facts, and I feel like it’s important to understand what you’re running for,” he said.

Baker told The Collegian he didn’t come to the debate with notes for a reason.

“I was up there with nothing but my mind and my heart,” he said. “I hope my responses were intelligent enough to show just how adaptable I am on the spot… I think that’s what Fresno State needs. They don’t need somebody to just think for them. They need somebody to feel for them.”

James Martinez, director of ASI operations, said that the voting student percentage has slowly increased since the pandemic. Martinez said ASI wants to increase the percentage from 7% last year to 10% this year.

He said there will be a polling station at the library and a new station either in or outside the RSU.

“Students have two and half days to vote,” Martinez said. “All eligible voters will receive their username, password and ballot link by 9 a.m., hopefully, on the 19.”

Students will receive ballots in their email on Tuesday, March 19 and voting will close on Thursday, March 21 at noon. For more information visit the ASI website.

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