The Associated Students of the University of Nevada presidential candidates take the stage for their debate on March 7. The candidates include Dionne Stanfill and Leslie Ramirez.
Stanfill currently serves as the ASUN chief justice and is running with Bayla Fitzpatrick, senator for the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, under the campaign name “Stronger with Nevada.”
Additionally, Stanfill served as a senator for the College of Liberal Arts during the eighty-eighth session where she was awarded senator of the year for her work with undocmented students.
Ramirez serves as a second term senator for the College of Business and serves as the chair for the committee on Budget and Finance. Her running mate is Autumn Kidd, senator for the College of Public Health. The pair is running under the campaign name “For ALL Students.”
Furthermore, she is a first generation Latina college student and is an active member of her sorority Delta Gamma where she holds leadership positions such as director of funds and house management.
Both candidates claim to come from low-income backgrounds and praised both campaigns for being composed of all women.
Questions were being asked by Amanda Vaskov and Dawson Frost, co-directors of elections. Candidates were given two minutes to answer each question and two minutes each for rebuttal.
The first question asked was what is the biggest problem facing students today and how do you as president plan to tackle it.
Stanfill responded stating there is a lack of communication between students and ASUN, Nevada System of Higher Education and local governments. She hopes to work with students to help represent them in the best way possible.
Ramirez stated it is a lack of motivation plaguing students—whether it be motivation to go to class, events or sports games.
Ramirez additionally hopes to share more resources for students and make them aware of what the university has to offer.
In her rebuttal, Stanfill disagreed with Ramirez, claiming students already have the motivation and she wants to foster this through her campaign.
Ramirez stated the lack of motivation stems from students being disappointed with the association due to their empty promises not giving them exactly what they want or need.
The second question was how do you plan to bridge the gap between ASUN and the university, what divides them and how do they plan to address it.
Ramirez hopes to start more tabling events, as she views it as the most beneficial means of outreach. One example of her experience with tabling is when she did one for EdPass, which enables students to get a free RTC bus pass. Many students did not know this was available to them until told.
On top of the previous statement, she believes systemic racism at the university is something which divides students, especially considering the University of Nevada, Reno is a predominantly white institution. She hopes to foster a welcoming community for all who have common goals of making sure students feel safe.
Stanfill touched on one of her four pillars, association. She hopes to rebrand ASUN through marketing to make sure students are aware of the resources they provide. To implement this plan, she strives to hire a qualified Director of Public Relations who will work with Inkblot and through social media.
Stanfill also hopes to push heavily on the ASUN internship programs and work with clubs and organizations.
Ramirez disagreed with Stanfill on the social media marketing in her rebuttal. She claimed to have statistics which prove social media marketing has not worked in the past with ASUN. She reiterates through tabling there are more prospects of increasing her visibility on campus as a peer and not just a president.
In Stanfill’s rebuttal, she claimed ASUN gained over 1,000 followers on Instagram when promoted properly. Additionally, she does not expect students to come to ASUN, but rather wants to reach out to them for their needs through “grassroots conversations.”
Both campaigns have pillars they plan to operate within. In the third topic, both were asked to address one pillar and explain a tangible policy they plan to implement with it.
Dionne cited their pillar of advocacy. In advocacy they strive to make sure they have different backgrounds represented within Nevada students. Their campaign plans to push different types of opportunities ASUN has, specifically the internship program.
Additionally, Stanfill plans to create a senior leadership committee where members from different backgrounds will be invited into an open conversation to voice concerns about university policies.
She also hopes to work with the Department of Legislative Affairs to help support students’ lobbying efforts during the 2023 Nevada legislative session. In doing so, she wishes to bring students to the state capital on ASUN’s dollar to voice their opinions.
Ramirez chose to highlight her campaign’s diversity, equity and inclusion pillar, which she stated to feel very passionate about. The event she hopes to implement is a women’s and men’s week which will have reproductive health education sessions, pop-up clinics and educate students on how it feels to be a woman or a man.
Another event planned is a financial literacy week to help educate students of all backgrounds on all things money. This will help students invest, read contracts or set up retirement plans.
With housing costs skyrocketing, UNR is experiencing increased fees and next year is a Nevada state legislative session, candidates were asked in the next topic how they plan to address these issues and circumstances facing students.
Ramirez hopes to tackle this issue by working with the president’s cabinet and the department of legislative affairs. Rising housing costs is something she claims to struggle with and believes students should not have to pay over $1000 a month to live close to campus.
On top of the previous statement, Ramirez made it evident Nevada is a food desert and the food on campus is very expensive. She hopes to cap the profit margins for food on campus, so companies cannot overcharge for their food services.
This is an issue Stanfill claimed to have addressed in the past during the “Roadmap to Recovery” listening session when Nevada treasurer Zach Conine came to campus. She wants to work with Brian Sandoval, president of UNR to address these concerns and make sure they are communicated.
Ramirez in her rebuttal stated members in ASUN and current president Austin Brown have had issues communicating with Brian Sandoval about affordable housing. She reassured she will not back down from authority and is not afraid to be “annoying.”
Stanfill backed up her statement claiming most of it is strategy, with regard to leadership and planning. She plans to tackle this lack of communication by having organized meetings with Sandoval with agendas and other leadership members present.
The final question asked by the co-directors was how they plan to amplify the voices of historically marginalized students at UNR, which is a predominantly white institution, and how diversity is implemented in their campaign plan.
Stanfill wants to work with diversity clubs to ensure DEI efforts are at the forefront of their agenda. Another plan she touched on heavily is hiring a diverse president’s cabinet and pushing the special election in the Fall 2022 semester to ensure everyone feels empowered.
Stanfill also stated many students do not feel comfortable within the association, so she wants to hear their concerns and create a more comfortable space for them.
One of the Ramirez-Kidd pillars is DEI, therefore Ramirez claimed those efforts hit near and dear to her heart. At the university, Ramirez stated she only recently found her safe space when she attended a women of color retreat.
She does not want to force ASUN on anyone who does not wish to be associated and strives to support them in other ways.
Ramirez additionally stated many DEI clubs efforts and initiatives were taken over by ASUN when she reached out to hear their concerns. To help support them she hopes to increase and sustain funding for those clubs.
During their rebuttals, they were asked a followup on what policies they plan to implement to ensure DEI is on their agenda.
Stanfill stated ASUN is representative of the student body, therefore she will be pushing the association onto everyone. She also mentioned the senior leadership committee will help put forward more DEI efforts by having them in the conversation.
Stanfill also wants to reallocate funds to the DEI department and claims it is the least funded department in ASUN. Ramirez argued in a reply that Kaeli Britt, current director of DEI, stated they do not need much money and Britt wants to make sure money is spended where it is needed so there is no rollover.
Ramirez re-clarified in not pushing for ASUN, does not mean she won’t advocate for them. She claims it is of other people’s free will to decide if they would like to join or collaborate with them.
Going to high schools and lower income schools to help recruit is something Ramirez hopes for as well. She did not believe college or university was available to her until a recruiter told her about UNR.
The questions were then opened up to the audience.
The first audience member asked how they plan to support ASUN lobbying initiatives in 2023 considering it is a Nevada legislative session year.
Stanfill wants to hire someone who is passionate about legislative affairs and can lead the department well. She also reinforced her plan to bring students to lobby at the state capital.
Ramirez claimed to not always be aware of what is going on in the community and wants to increase her awareness by working with legislative affairs. She wants to help them lobby for the state legislature as well.
One audience member stated accountability entails taking ownership to make sure things are actually achieved. Following this, they questioned how students can hold them accountable during their presidency.
Ramirez wants to have an open door policy and is not afraid of critique . She wants to create tabling events for students to voice concerns on what they are doing right and wrong.
Stanfill claimed their campaign is ever growing to meet students’ needs. She hopes students critique ASUN and invites them to do so. She claimed her role is based entirely on accountability and wants to bring that into her presidency.
One audience member mentioned they both touched heavily on accountability and asked how they plan to make sure their cabinet is held accountable for making or not making change.
Ramirez stated this is something she resonates with and claimed there is not much accountability within the association currently. She hopes to have her cabinet keep her accountable for her actions. To ensure she gets all things done, she wants to start with small goals and plans to work tirelessly on them.
Stanfill claimed as chief justice she loves checks and balances. She hopes to start initiatives within each cabinet and have a positive relationship with every branch to ensure they are getting the help they need.
The following question was aimed towards Ramirez. She was asked how her campaign plans to include non-binary individuals in their planned women’s and men’s week.
Ramirez stated that her goals and events are ever flowing and changing. Now that non-binary individuals have been brought up, they are involved as well.
Stanfill was allowed a rebuttal on this topic. She hopes to improve and strengthen the relationship with the Multicultural Center on campus and amplify what they have going on already.
Their potential priorities or ideas for the department of Legislative Affairs was brought into question by an audience member.
Ramirez stated there is none she can currently bring to the table, but is excited to support her cabinet in those efforts.
Stanfill wants to bring affordable housing to the table of legislative affairs and wants to hire someone in her cabinet that prioritizes that.
According to the question asked via Zoom, the current president’s cabinet has created a tense environment for members of all branches. Following, they were asked how they plan to tackle this environment created this session.
As a current ex-officio member of the president’s cabinet, Stanfill believes it trickles down to who is hired. She wants to bring in every student from every background to ensure other students feel comfortable to come to student leaders.
Ramirez stated that anyone and everyone has a voice within the association. To make sure of this she wants to hire a diverse cabinet and will not be hiring people based on nepotism to give everyone an opportunity.
Inkblot, a marketing service, is used by ASUN to create all of their flyers, t-shirts and any other marketing materials needed. One audience member asked how they plan to improve communication with Inkblot and ASUN.
Stanfill claimed to have worked with Inkblot before and hopes to improve the relationship with them by setting harder deadlines and increasing resources.
Ramirez stated Inkblot is a good starting point, but wants to have it more condensed. She wants to improve communication by hiring a strong set of people in Inkblot.
The final question asked was how they plan to ensure every voice is heard regardless of political background or affiliation.
Ramirez claimed to have friends from all political backgrounds and walks of life. She made it evident that there is an olive branch, a symbol of peace, in their campaign design. She encourages civic engagement and free speech.
Stanfill also encouraged civil discourse to make sure everything was seen at this university. She claimed people are afraid to speak out because of the heat they will receive, but she hopes to bring every voice from different backgrounds.
Emerson Drewes can be reached via email at email@example.com or via Twitter @EmersonDrewes.