The 2020 ASUN electoral debates kicked off with the College of Science candidates on Feb. 18 in the Joe Crowley Student Union.
There are four available senate seats for the College of Science and six candidates running: Abrahim Ahmed, John Kermanshahi, Gabriel Lopez, Emily McElhoes, Kavin Sivakumar and Edward Stoddard.
Each of the candidates were allowed two minutes to introduce themselves. They were also allowed two minutes to respond to questions, and after each candidate had a chance to respond, an additional two minutes for rebuttal.
The first question asked candidates how they would increase research opportunities within a college that often pushes students towards pre-med.
Abrahim Ahmed, who is currently a senator for the Interdisciplinary Studies, said NevadaFit should provide students with information on how to get into a research lab and students should connect with their professors.
John Kermanshahi said Science 110, a class which all College of Science students are required to take, should present more information about careers in research. He also emphasized the importance of incorporating more community organizations, which could help open opportunities for research students.
Gabriel Lopez pointed to his education about research opportunities from his membership in the pre-med fraternity Phi Delta Epsilon.
Emily McElhoes said she would work with the College of Science Student Advisory Board and try to create university-based opportunities so anyone, regardless of major or ability to travel across the city, could participate.
Kavin Sivakumar, a current senator for the College of Science, emphasized the importance of creating a culture of understanding and making clear that a path to the medical field isn’t the only option. Edward Stoddard echoed Sivakumar and shared his own experience where people assumed him to be a pre-med track student.
In a rebuttal to Kermanshahi’s idea to increase information about research in the Science 110 class, Lopez debated that the dorms would be a better place to advertise about research opportunities because not all students show up to class. McElhoes shared her agreement with Kermanshahi’s idea and rebutted Lopez, saying students would not want to see the advertisements in their dorms. Sivakumar shared that he thinks the research opportunities should be advertised in both the dorms and in class and said not everyone has the means to be in a pre-med fraternity, addressing Lopez’s original response.
The second question asked candidates about how they would ensure students in the psychology major, which was recently moved from the College of Liberal Arts to the College of Science, are receiving adequate resources and support.
Kermanshahi and Sivakumar emphasized the importance of reaching out to psychology majors while Lopez and Stoddard said there needs to be an expansion of opportunities for those students.
Ahmed said a first step would be to meet with the dean of the College of Science to coordinate with the college’s official plan. He also said it would be important to throw events bring psych students out.
McElhoes said she thinks it should be a requirement for senators to be a member of a club related to their college to ensure they are engaged with members of their constituency.
When asked which committees the candidates would want to serve on, Lopez responded that he would want to be on the Committee on Outreach, and later added how he is interested in the Committee on Safety, Sustainability and Wellness.
McElhoes said she would want to be on the Committee on Budget and Finance. Sivakumar, who is currently on the Committees on University Affairs and Academics, said he would want to be on the Committee on Safety, Sustainability and Wellness.
Ahmed, who is currently on the Committees on Budget & Finance and Public Affairs, said he wants to be on the Committees on Civic Engagement and Safety, Sustainability and Wellness.
Kermanshahi said he would want to be on the Committees on Academics and Civic Engagement.
In a question from the audience, candidates were asked how they would diversify the field of science.
McElhoes said ScienceFIT should include time for one-on-one conversations with freshmen. She also pointed out that she is the only female candidate running for the College of Science and how it would be important to work with the student advisory board to inform students of the resources available to them.
Sivakumar said students should be in an environment in which they feel free to explore their options. He also shared that he is a first-generation student and emphasized the importance of representation. He said minority students should be encouraged to take leadership roles.
Stoddard underlined the importance of running workshops and talking to students.
Ahmed said the College of Science is more diverse than people think and there should be a focus on informing students that healthcare isn’t the only career path available to them. Kermanshahi and Lopez echoed the view that the College of Science is diverse.
Another audience question asked the candidates if they had initiatives in mind concerning mental health.
Sivakumar said there needs to be a change in culture and reminded the audience of the Counseling Center as a resource. He later said senators need to actively seek out student-led initiatives. Stoddard also mentioned the Counseling Center as a resource and shared that joining clubs can be helpful in combating issues with mental health. Ahmed echoed Stoddard, saying clubs and organizations can serve as a home away from home.
Kermanshahi called for residential and food sources to be improved so they can better serve the students. Lopez talked about his own experience using the meditation room on campus and said he’s seen an increase in people talking about mental health. McElhoes said operation times and location of resources should be more clearly advertised. She also shared an idea for a counselor to visit the dorms once every week.
In the last audience question, the senators were asked how they would promote ethics in the field of science.
Stoddard said ethics is a part of academics and professors instill ethics in their students. Ahmed pointed out the hypercompetitive culture and its effects on students and called for a harder version of the already-required ethics class. Lopez shared his thought that ethics have to be taught outside of the classroom. McElhoes said ethics should be made a priority and that hypercompetitiveness can take a toll. Sivakumar said ethics need to be further discussed.
In their rebuttals, Ahmed and Lopez agreed that service learning classes help encourage the development of ethics. Kermanshahi called on faculty to guide students in the right direction, while Sivakumar pointed out how the competitiveness can cause isolationism. He said they need to change the culture by encouraging civic engagement.
Further information on the future debates and candidates can be accessed on the Nevada Sagebrush website.
Taylor Avery can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @travery98.