After six weeks campaigning, students will vote for Associated Students of the University of Nevada Senate, Vice President and President. The elections will run from Wednesday, March 15 to Thursday, March 16 online on WebCampus, or in person at the Blue Fish Bowl inside the Joe Crowley Student Union.
The Nevada Sagebrush sat down with the two candidates running for President of the Associated Students of the University of Nevada, Reno and the two candidates running on their ticket for Vice President. Sen. Alex Crupi and Sen. Trenton Jackson are running on a ticket together and Speaker of the Senate Noah Teixeira and Chief of Staff Sebastian Atienza are running against them.
Editor’s Note: Responses were not edited for length. For the full Q&A, visit nevadasagebrush.com.
Question 1: What Makes you the best person to serve as the President and Vice President of the Associated Students of the University of Nevada, Reno?
I believe that the leadership experiences that I’ve had in my time as a student at the university give me a more diverse perspective on how to lead, what students want and how to get things done. I have been a leader in nearly every organization I have been a part of in the last few years where I have had the opportunity to hear from thousands of students and have been able to see ASUN and leadership in general from many different perspectives.
For me personally, and I’ve talked about this with a lot of clubs on campus that my diverse in leading, I was an orientation guide for two years, I am a supervisor at the Joe, currently also a senator within ASUN, but that was kind of the last thing that I started doing was getting involved with student government within ASUN. I think all of my diverse experience with leading student leaders in different ways and with different organizations and things like that has helped to bolster my experience and my perspective on what students actually want, so I think I can serve students’ needs better than most.
I am the best candidate for ASUN president because I am simply more qualified. I have had a lot of involvements across the university. In my freshman year, I wasn’t part of any organizations because I wanted to get my grades and everything in order and find a job. So I saw there was a lot of philanthropic efforts with civic engagement, so I put on my own philanthropy in my hometown and that showed me civic engagement in a different aspect. Later that semester I became a legislative intern and I was the chair of the legislative interns, which gave me the experience of how ASUN works from an intern perspective. I’ve learned a lot about ASUN through that experience. Later that year I ran for College of Business Senator, and I didn’t win, but I got the opportunity to go and speak to so many different groups and understand what they’re about and all of these student group perspectives gave me the drive to become the policy analyst for legislative affairs. In that year was the 78th session of the Nevada Legislature. Two of the huge bills were the Brady’s bill and the tobacco-free campus and I got to testify, email the senators to urge them to put Brady’s bill back on the agenda and vote on it. So I got the perspective and the experience of working at that level – making a difference for the entire university at a policy level outside of the university. Later that year, I ended up joining Greek life and I became the philanthropic director for the Interfraternity Council and through that I joined Up Til Dawn, which is a fundraising event. That experience gave me another civic engagement perspective but also showed me involvement. When students are involved with an organization they are passionate about, they’re so much more driven to go to class, get involved in the campus community, all around when you find your passion on campus it just goes so much better. I ran for College of Business senator again and I got to work with different businesses because I was the College of Business senator. Then I ran for speaker and was working for a law firm in town. It’s for a man named Devon Reese and Devon is very active in Nevada legislature and he fights for rights of organ donors, police and firefighters and it gave me the perspective of professionalism and internships and how it constructs you as a person outside of the classroom. I’ve had a lot of different views on what the university can do for the student and how the Associated Students can be involved with that. All of the things I have done on campus have made me a qualified person for this position.
I would say what makes me the best candidate is versatility because working on the executive board this year and serving as a senator before that I really have been able to get the skill sets from all aspects of ASUN. When I was a senator I was in charge of the budget, I was the chair of the committee of budgeting and finance. With the Vice President position, I have to help the president with the operating budget. I know all of the processes behind ASUN and I think that’s what really sets me up as a good candidate because as the position of the chief of staff, I am really able to get bounced around to different things as one of the duties of chief of staff, is just to be that internal operations type guy and you’re supposed to be at the assistance of the president and vice president. Whenever Boone needed to do any type of events I am there to try all these different skill sets. I hosted a sexual assault awareness week, I’ve always been doing sexual health, as one of my big things for this campus, so that’s what I’ve done for the last three years. But then planning retreats, planning banquets, I am planning the ASUN Mackay Endowment Banquet, which gives money to students who need extra money and we can give students that money. This big scholarship banquet they are planning is super fun for that. Any task that [Boone] has given me I have been able to bounce around and I think that’s what’s really good is being versatile and when it comes to leadership skills.
Question 2: Diversity and inclusion have been key topics on campus, what are you going to do to make sure groups on campus are included?
I specifically intend to make sure that every person on this campus feels welcome in all of our events and that they are proud to be a part of the Wolf Pack. The most important steps toward improving diversity and inclusion are first understanding where we might need to focus on improving ourselves (both Trenton and I and as a University). Trenton and I have had a lot of talks on this topic and have specifically gone over strategic plans of what we’d be looking for in our Executive Board to make sure that we are able to provide a diverse and approachable staff that can reach out to every group on campus and be sure that they are continuing to improve and thrive.
What we have already said to groups in the diversity realm that we have talked to Queer Student Union, Black Student Organization, I believe Alex talked to Ambition, Beauty, Leadership Equality Women and Sisters on a Move as well, it’s also a point to make sure we are reaching out to them consistently, so making sure that out of myself, Alex and our cabinet that someone is going to their meetings, making sure they are aware of things that are going on in ASUN and as well as things that they can do to have their voices heard. That constant communication, that back and forth and having them have more of a hand in planning diversity events, like having the Director of Diversity and Inclusion working with those groups consistently on a weekly or monthly basis to plan those events like Ally Week and Unity Week and things like that. This way they feel more included and more invested in things that we are doing to help their experience in college as well.
Diversity and inclusion, like I’ve already talked about, creating that assistant director position, but that’s not a fix all. That doesn’t just say, “Well we just fixed our diversity on campus.” That’s not how that works. It’s creating a culture around diversity and partnering, collaborating, actually going out and putting on diversity events. We had the first Director of Diversity this year, Gabriel Rojas, did a great job, an amazing job, but I wish there was more attention on him. We through a lot of programming events this year, they were awesome, they were great, they catered to a lot of students, but I believe that if we put more attention on the diversity inclusion position, programming these events and actually catering to a more diverse and having inclusive events, we could do so much more with the diverse communities we have on campus. The Assistant Director would essentially be the start of the culture within ASUN and of including everyone’s voices. On top of that, I believe every board within ASUN has public meetings. So the programming board approves budgets where the public can come in and talk about that. It’s having a voice at those meetings as a public. We are spending public funds, we should have everyone at those meetings that feels passionate about those funds. The board would also get it out that, “Hey they are voting on this budget next week. You guys should come and look at the budget and have a voice in them.” Being a welcoming campus. So we can’t be a sanctuary campus because the federal government doesn’t allow us, but we can be a welcoming campus, and that’s what the City of Reno is working on right now is a welcoming state. President Boone released a statement about DACA and different things like that. Students came up to him and were so happy. He didn’t have one student be mad at him about that. It’s acts like those that make students comfortable on campus. Those diverse groups, they just want to feel like they’re not hated on. They want to be included. Becoming a more welcoming campus would make every student on this campus feel like they are welcome. Another thing I talked about on my Facebook page was creating a diversity workshop. It would be during orientation. If we are going to start the culture we need to start it from the largest amount of students possible, and that’s orientation. Diversity [workshop] could be, “This is what diversity looks like on the university campus. This is how you speak to people.” They have their identities, so recognize their identities. This workshop would also show students where the allies are for the LGBTQIA group. Those zones are huge because these students are on campus every day and they feel like they are almost not liked. These ally zones can show them, “Hey we appreciate you and we recognize their identity. You can be a student on this campus and you can have that identity. This diversity workshop we would have during orientation would teach all of those things and it would show the newest students on campus what diversity looks like. To me, that’s one of the key parts of the culture change is teaching it. Enacting it goes even further. We partnered and we did Pride Week, and that was a great event. Personally, I think we should have a LGBTQIA week on campus and a diversity week on campus. Talking about a week is one thing. I believe if I become president that Spring semester I would be able to put on the diversity week with my in a fraternity, I am not in a diverse group, so I want to hear those voices so I can help them Diversity Director. I know that I could do that. I believe I could do that. I am a white man. During that week we would hear from students, we would program those students, we would have a speaker come to campus, we would go all around the university so we can hit different groups because not everyone is hanging out at the Joe Crowley Student Union and the Knowledge Center. There are people in the journalism building, in the business building, all the way down to the Mackay School of Mines, there are people in the quad. Have events everywhere on campus. We hand out t-shirts to everyone. If we made a massive t-shirt that says, “I am an ally,” and every student on campus wore those during that week, that’s huge. There’s a lot of things I want to do with diversity.
Myself and Noah do have the idea of making the Assistant for the Director of Diversity. One of the biggest things is I don’t think that ASUN honestly does enough outreach for diversity in groups in our community. I really think with this assistant position it’ll be really awesome to have ASUN officials go to these diverse groups and check up in their meetings, not just making it where “Here we’re just talking to you because we want to be elected,” but we’re staying consistent, going and getting the concerns of those students. With myself working for First in the Pack, I work with a lot of underrepresented students on this campus. I teach them basic skills like how to fill out the FAFSA and stuff. One of the things I was able to do was the gender diversity conference. This year, one of the bigger things I’m trying to do is a conference just for first-generation students. That’s something the TRIO McNair Scholars Program has given me a lot of details on and something they really want to see happen. Even that conference I think would be awesome if we were having different programming and events that are targeted to these students because there is way more than just your traditional student on this campus. We always preach this is a diverse campus and with the State of the University Address that we’ve really said that we are going to try and push for inclusion as much as possible, and I think it’s really about time we start acting.
Question: What are the three most important things you plan to focus on if elected to serve as the ASUN President and Vice President?
So, we have our five goals outlined on our social media pages and when Trenton and I are presenting them I usually go with three specific ones that hit home for me. Financial Transparency, Access to Advisors and a Shared Sidewalk Program. The first is directed toward the university and how it spends its money. I believe that we could be much more transparent about where our money is coming from and how it is being allocated on projects around campus and through each fiscal year. The second is important to me because I want to be able to make sure that students are able to access their advisors when they need them and that if they change colleges or see a different advisor they are still being helped effectively and their academics are progressing efficiently. Finally, the shared sidewalk program is a specific separation of what areas would be meant for pedestrians and another area that would be specifically geared toward facilitating alternate forms of transportation.
I definitely want to expand on the water sustainability within campus, you probably have heard that the 84th session of senate just passed that bill about passing legislation for having one hydration station in every academic building on campus, we want to expand that further and go into at least one in every floor of the residence halls. Currently, in the residence hall there is only one in the Living Learning Community and a small handful in Peavine Hall, there are none in any other residence hall. For me personally, I want to expand on the PackFit campaign because I know that the current Vice President, Jacob Springmeyer, ended up helping out founding that. I would like to expand it further as well into the avenue of mental and emotional health because those are things that students experience on a daily basis along with physical health things like that, so still keeping that, but also working on partnering with the counseling center for health week or wellness week. The third thing is working on advising is something Alex and I want to cover. Currently, as it is, the state of advising from college to college, sometimes even major to major, is a little skewed. One advisor could tell you a completely different thing than another. We just want to make sure there is more of a streamlined process so that transfer students are able to get a better handle on advising when they first come here. Freshman don’t have to be completely bombarded with all of these numbers and things they have to do that will probably get lost on the wayside. And for people like me who have switched colleges, I went from the Engineering college to the Science college to now Business, and I’ve been told many different things in terms of advising and a lot of it just chalked up to me just going by myself because I could not understand all the information advisors were giving me because it was so contradictory. We want to streamline that process, make sure the advisors of each college are talking to each other and making a better process.
The things I am most passionate about in my platform are specifically mental health and physical health. We can do so much more than [PackFit]. We can have different classes around campus and cater to different students on campus that they might not be into the intense cross-fit workouts or the Zumba workouts, they might just want a dance class, functional fitness that is not cross-fit. So change the way fitness is seen on campus from hard work to fun fitness and classes all around campus like classes on the Quad, classes in front of the Knowledge Center. Then mental health, the other side of that: mental health on campus. We have a counseling center; we pay a fee for it. It’s free to all students and a lot of students don’t take advantage of it. We also have an influx of people going into it, so, really make mental health, the counseling center, all of these initiatives on campus better for students and change not only the stigma but the culture around mental health. It’s okay to not be okay and to talk about it, things like that. Campaign for Compassion: being a compassionate campus is incredible because when a student walks on campus the first thing they’re going to interact with is the people. If they meet a ton of nice people, they’re going to absolutely love it here. So just being a compassionate campus because that goes back to your mental health. The more nice people around the more you feel better about things. The second thing is getting every voice heard on campus. As everyone has known the Twitter scandal, but on top of that it sucks because people think I am forced to put diversity in my platform but, no, I have been talking about how I want to create an Assistant Director of Diversity and Inclusion. This position would go to smaller organizations on campus or organizations that have expressed that ASUN doesn’t have their best interests or can’t even hear their voice to begin with and they pay a $5 credit fee so why don’t we send someone to them to talk about it? The Assistant Director of Diversity and Inclusion essentially would be a liaison to these clubs and they would go to their meetings twice a semester and say, “Hey this is what’s going on with ASUN, this is what we’re working on.” And on top of that he or she would head up a board and the board would comprise of these organizations that have a vested interest and believe that their voice isn’t being heard. They would hold meetings weekly about what’s going on in Senate, what initiatives are being worked on across ASUN, what’s going on through campus not through ASUN and through different organizations so the word is spread everywhere. We see that resolutions get passed within ASUN like the gender-neutral bathroom resolution. It was two years ago and I was there, I gave testimony for it. There was a ton of people there. I truly believe if the word would have gotten spread through this board that I would create and going to these meetings we could’ve had 300 students testify at that, and it really would’ve been senators voting on behalf of their constituents. Further than that, I sometimes believe that we don’t partner with enough organizations on campus or involve the right students in the organizations we’re having. We brought a speaker two years ago, Laverne Cox, that sold out in minutes. There were a ton of students there and there were more people that couldn’t get in there. We could have partnered with the basketball stadium and had a massive speaking occasion. We could have partnered with The Center, the QSU, MGC, all these different organizations that never get partnered with ASUN and they could have had their voice and everything they represent at this event. I believe partnering with students on campus is huge. The third thing I want to work on is cooperative extension and involvement within the Reno community. Cooperative extension is an office on campus that forms classes, forms a curriculum around civic engagement. Half the class, or a certain amount of time is spent in the classroom and the rest is spent implementing that in the local Reno community doing those things. We see this with dental programs where half of it is learning how to clean a tooth and they go out there and clean homeless people’s teeth. In the accounting department, we see they that they take a class on how to do people’s taxes and they go out to less fortunate people and do their taxes for them. I want to expand that program so that everyone from science majors to journalism majors can go out and they can do cooperative extension classes where they can learn about a curriculum and implement it in the society. I think that’s huge because the more involvement we have with the Reno community, the more Pack Internship Grants we have, the more partnerships with local transportation, just everything will get better. I want to focus on creating more civic engagement opportunities for not only in the classroom but out of the classroom as well.
My biggest one has always been sustainability. This year we were able to get the new Director of Sustainability for the executive board. The Director of Sustainability gets to handle the SNIF program, which is the Sustainable Nevada Initiative Funds and they basically get grant money to students, so that was something I was able to do. They used to be under the Deputy Chief of Staff position and then we changed that position to the Director of Sustainability because the Chief of Staff was kind of doing the same job so it was smarter and it made more sense to have the Director of Sustainability, so I recently co-sponsored the bill to get all the refill the water stations and all the academics by 2018. So that was myself and President Boone who kind of did all the logistics for that and working with Shannon Ellis and she actually matched our funding which was super awesome, so we got to do that. I really want to make sustainability a part of the Nevada experience, making sure that students can get things like grant opportunities and know what the SNIF is. Right now we are working on a project and getting more recycling bins in all the different buildings and that idea kind of stemmed because we got to go on a road trip to look at all of the sustainability efforts at University of Utah, University of Colorado, Boulder, and we gained all these ideas about sustainability and that’s what really made us want to progress it here on our campus because I think that’s something that could use a lot of work. My number two is the Pack Internship Grant Program. That’s one of the biggest duties for the Vice President. We are working right now with the state legislature to hopefully get more funding and have the state match the amount of funding that we are putting in so it’s a lot of work with the Career Studio and a lot of advocating so we do have a legislative affairs department working on that so I want to make sure that we are working well with the Career Studio and giving them whatever resources or availability they need so this program can keep expanding in the Reno community. My third one would have to be mental, physical and sexual health. I have been such a strong advocate for sexual health on campus and there’s a ton of events that we really want to get going. Even this year with the sexual health week I got “It’s On Us” stuff, like “It’s On Us” sexual assault. We just bought brand new stickers for that too and brand new T-shirts. We are doing that during the health week. I sit on the PackFit committee. Through that we have one of the days just for sexual health and we’re doing a “coffee and condoms” event and “don’t be a chicken, vote for consent” and then we’re handing out chicken stuff, so just really advocating the services and the health of our students. Working as a peer mentor for First in the Pack, I really get to work with all the different services in the Pennington building, having the counseling services right next to us and the tutoring center right there, I want to make sure that students are taking these services and being able to use them, try and change the stigma that people might have on that because myself and Noah have gone to use the counseling services. It’s free, it’s in your tuition, so you might as well make the most of it.