CSUN executive debate wrap-up

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Unity candidates Dyana Melchor and Isaac Hernandez (left) and Starting Line candidates Zach Billot, Rey Ruiz and Nadia Harrara (right) listening to moderators Jimmy Romo and Mia Nakamura (center). Photo by Mark Credico.

CSUN held the debate for its upcoming executive election between the candidates for the Unity ticket and the candidates for the Starting Line ticket on April 11. 

For Unity, Issac Hernandez is running for CSUN President, Dyana Melchor is running for Vice President and Jesse Welsh is running for Senate President. On the Starting Line ticket, Zach Billot is running for President, Rey Ruiz is running for Vice President and Nadia Harrara is running for Senate President. The debate was moderated by Jimmy Romo, the news editor of the Scarlet & Gray, and Mia Nakamura, a reporter for University Speaks. 

Jesse Welsh did not attend the debate due to mental health issues, according to Hernandez during the debate. 

Starting Line began by talking about their experience, a point they brought up throughout the debate. All of the ticket’s candidates have a lot of experience as members of CSUN, and this makes them confident that they know what they’re doing and what they can get done. 

“What sets Starting Line apart is that we have experience,” Harrara said. “We know what works and what doesn’t. And at the same time we aren’t so stuck in our experience that we have tunnel vision.”

Unity highlighted their desire to change CSUN. Multiple times the candidates criticized CSUN’s current government and portrayed themselves as newcomers who can make serious changes to the government. 

“The first comment I got from an alumni was, ‘Nothing has changed on campus,’ and keep in mind they graduated about 15 years ago,” Hernandez said. “Hearing that comment from alumni, it kind of shocked me a little bit, but it woke me up in a way that just provided me more motivation to make change at a larger scope.”

Student engagement was also a central focus for the Unity ticket. They criticized CSUN’s current administration’s lack of engagement. Their stated plans for improving was through increases in outreach by CSUN to both individual students as well as RSO’s, and a focus on marketing and collaboration with other organizations. 

Starting Line highlighted projects that they’ve carried out through their current involvement in CSUN, such as an iPad in the Student Union for feedback. They also talked about future projects they would carry out if victorious, such as a possible program for giving hot meals to the less fortunate and touched on programs for achieving sustainability. 

“We have a good amount of knowledge and foundation to start on,” Harrara said. “Right away, we want to get started on these projects that we want, and that more importantly, the students want.”

Unity was asked how they plan to keep their emotions in check, after a reported outburst at a recent CSUN meeting by their Senate Presidential Candidate. They responded by saying they’d hold themselves accountable, and apologize for any mistakes that they make. 

Hernandez also made a point that the first planned action for Unity in the fall if they win, would be to expand mental health resources on campus. He said that they would work to destigmatize mental health issues as well. 

“The number one thing that we do want to do is expand accessibility to (mental health resources),” Hernandez said. “We want shorter time periods as to when you can actually schedule an appointment.”

Starting Line concluded by highlighting their experience as a major reason for why they believe they’re the right choice. 

“I know that if we are in office, we can really do what’s best for students,” Harrara said. “The three of us are ready, experienced, have ideas and are ready to go.”

Unity concluded by using their lack of current positions within student government as a reason they can bring positive change. 

“What we want to do is we want to shake things up,” Melchor said. “Neither of us hold current positions…through that I think that we are able to give a fresh voice. “The debate was a collaboration between CSUN, University Speaks and the Scarlet & Gray Free Press. The full debate can be viewed on the UNLV Journalism and Media Studies YouTube channel.

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