File Photo/ Nevada Sagebrush
ASUN candidate signs stand on the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center lawn on Monday, Feb. 29, 2016. ASUN Senate candidate debates will continue on Tuesday, Feb. 26 and Wednesday, Feb. 27.

The first of the Associated Students if the University of Nevada Senate debates took place in the  Joe Crowley Student Union theatre on Tuesday, Feb. 19 and Wednesday, Feb. 20. The colleges of Division of Health Sciences, Engineering and Interdisciplinary Programs were represented on Tuesday and the College of Liberal Arts was represented on Wednesday.

All candidates were given a two minute answering period to questions asked. Questions were not provided to candidates prior for purposes of keeping debate fair. Audience members were able to ask questions if time allowed.

College of Interdisciplinary Programs

The first round of debates was kicked off by the College of Interdisciplinary Programs. Interdisciplinary Programs is only allocated one senator position for the ASUN session. Currently, two individuals are running for the position.

When asked what the biggest challenge was for each college candidate Abrahim Ahmed, who is currently a Senator for the College of Interdisciplinary Programs, said the college has a lack of central organization. He said he hopes to unify the college by creating an online database or potentially a newsletter to connect all programs offered in the college.

Candidate Ashle Love said the biggest struggle she has faced and feels other students in the college face is a not knowing who their peers are. Love added she feels meet and greets, as well as holding events catered to the college, will help students feel connected.

Love and Ahmed were then asked on how to plan to connect and try to get a better understanding of issues faced in all programs in the college. Both Love and Ahmed presented the possibility of using social media as a form of reaching out to their constituents and meeting face to face with as many students as possible.

Division of Health Sciences

The second round of debate was for the Division of Health Sciences. DHS was allotted one Senate seat for the following session and Valeria Ampié is the only candidate running for the position.

When asked what she felt the reason for no other students running for the position and what she planned to do to change that outcome, Ampié said she felt there was not enough advertisement to run for any ASUN position. With a lack of knowledge, Ampié hopes to work closely with ASUN public relations to better advertise positions offered through the use of social media.

Ampié added she hopes to be an advocate for mental health issues on campus and increase communication with students.

College of Engineering

The final debate was for the College of Engineering. The college is allotted three seats and currently has four candidates running for a position — Ava Banfer, Savannah Hughes, Jay Don Scott and Steffany Yang.

When candidates were asked how they plan to achieve gender equity in college enrollment, Hughes, who is the current speaker pro-tempore, said she feels the issue does not only affect women, but also affects those who identify as transgender and nonbinary. Hughes added she hopes that with increased outreach to clubs and organizations on campus who promote gender equity, there will be increased enrollment. Hughes also said she wants to use some of the funds that come from differential fees — fees college of engineering students are charged when entering higher division courses — to create scholarships targeted to groups not really represented in engineering departments.

Yang and Banfer said they think increasing outreach from the K-12 level they can encourage girls to enter Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematical industries will achieve gender equity. Banfer said she hopes to host a yearly conference for middle and high school aged girls to begin the process of recruitment for the College of Engineering and encourage girls to enter STEM. Yang added she hopes to model already existing programs that encourage girls to enter STEM.

Scott said he hopes to provide support groups for women in engineering with help of college administration.

Candidates were also asked what they felt the biggest problem the college faced and how they plan to combat it.

Hughes said there were not many issues that the college faced, but there was a lack of understanding of what is required from engineering majors, such as a national test and mentorships that must be done to be classified as an engineer at graduation or for graduate school.

Baner, Scott and Yang all agreed there was a lack of opportunities for underclassmen in the college. Scott proposed the possibility of having mentorship programs for all specializations in the college. Yang said she hopes to partner with more local agencies to provide volunteer and internship opportunities that do not require as much experience. In doing so, more opportunities may open up for underclassmen.

College of Liberal Arts

The second Associated Students of the University of Nevada Senate election debate took place in the Joe Crowley Student Union ballrooms on Wednesday, Feb. 20, featuring candidates for the College of Liberal Arts.

COLA was allotted five Senate positions for the following ASUN session and currently has eight candidates running — Patricia De La Hoya, Conner Doyle, Kevin Finkler, Lauren Harvey, Homes Hassen, Tori Supple, Victoria Yeghiayan and Izzy Westerman. Candidate and current Senator Victoria Yeghiayan did not attend the debate.

When candidates were asked how ASUN can create a culture of civic engagement to help the university reach Carnegie Classification of Service, Harvey responded saying it needs to be done in three ways: get students involved in ASUN, inform students on resources offered and upkeep. Harvey added that by informing students on their resources, such as clubs and organizations, there could potentially be more student involvement. Candidate Hassen agreed with this point and added on by mentioning increasing the use of GivePulse.

Westerman, Supple and Finkler all agreed hosting more town halls will an increase student attendance at town halls as well as it helps inform the Senate on issues the students are facing. In rebuttal, De La Hoya said as much as she likes the idea of town halls, students get discouraged because they do not see direct change or aren’t informed on efforts made by senators to address the issues brought up.  

Harvey added in rebuttal civic engagement is not only done on campus, but done in the community. Harvey brought up No Walls 2025 — an initiative to transform Reno into a college town by 2025 — and said by increasing civic engagement in the community, ASUN can meet the initiative.

Senators were then asked how they plan to address affordability and sustainability at the university.

Doyle said ASUN senators need to pass legislation to update policies on recycling and composting as a way to expand sustainability on campus.

De La Hoya, Finkler, Harvey and Supple agreed there needs to be increased education for scholarships offered by the university and outside scholarships. Finkler and Harvey said as first-generation students, there needs to be increased awareness of programs offered to first-generation students such as First In The Pack, as well as TRiO and McNair.

Finker added ASUN should also address the rising cost of student housing on and off campus.

Hassen said if elected he hopes to create a textbook bank to address the high cost of textbooks. The system would work in where students would donate textbooks at the end of the semester and when a student needs the textbook for a particular class, they would go to the bank and rent the book out for the semester.

During rebuttal, Westerman said there should be more workshops offered on how to properly fill out financial aid forms to encourage students to fill out FAFSA on time.

Senators were finally asked how they plan to conduct outreach to their constituents. Every candidate said the best way was to meet with their constituents face to face. Suggested ideas included going to clubs and organizations and hosting events where students could come meet with the senator representing their respective colleges.

During rebuttal, Finkler and Westerman added increasing the use of social media would directly target students more and allow for more honest feedback. De La Hoya added that ASUN should reach out to clubs and organizations that are geared towards minorities on campus. De La Hoya said she has personally seen many groups representing minorities do not see a value in ASUN because they are not addressing the issues that affect them.

The next Senate debates will kick off next week in the Joe Crowley Student Ballrooms. Tuesday, Feb. 26 will showcase candidates for Senator of College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources and Community Health Sciences. On Wednesday, Feb. 27, candidates for Senator positions in the College of Education, Reynolds School of Journalism and the College of Business will debate.

Students who are unable to attend the debates will have the opportunity to live stream each debate on ASUN social media outlets.

Andrew Mendez can be reached at or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush