The second debate for the Associated Students of the University of Nevada happened on Feb. 17 in the Davidson Math and Science Building. The colleges scheduled to debate were the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Science.
Senatorial candidates in the College of Liberal Arts were Brayden Taubel, Olivia Ngo and Nathan Noble. Fayzah Salah and Nivetha Nithyanandan were the candidates for the College of Science. Candidates Laura Clark and Yeshu Cano Sanchezwere not present, but their profiles remain on the ASUN elections page.
All candidates were running unopposed.
College of Liberal Arts
Brayden Taubel is a sophomore student studying political science, if elected he will be in his first term as a senator. Last year he served as a legislative intern.
As a senator he plans to open more opportunities for liberal arts, increase club fairs, help students find their passion and enhance awareness of mental health resources.
Additionally he hopes to increase ASUN transparency by letting every student know what happens in ASUN through social media and tabling.
Olivia Ngo is a sophomore musical theater major and political communications minor, if elected she will be in her second term as a senator. She also serves as the chair for the committee on Democratic and Civic Engagement.
Her goals for the next session are to increase liberal arts presence, civic engagement, and diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
During the eighty-ninth session she authored legislation in support of LGBTQ+ safe zones on campus and is currently working on legislation to add menstruation products to all bathrooms on campus.
Nathan Noble is sophomore political science student, if elected he will be in his second term as senator. He claimed that he has worked to make his paycheck worth it because ASUN workers are paid in student fees.
During the current session he has authored legislation in support of the vaccine mandate and in support of updating sexual misconduct policies at UNR. Additionally he sponsored a piece of legislation about raising minimum wage, but it has been tabled and remains at committee.
The first question asked was what they plan to do to build community as a senator onc campus.
Noble stated that he plans to maintain his outreach efforts as he has this session with his program “get Baked with Senate,” where he makes baked goods to talk with constituents. He claimed that he values communication whether in person or over social media.
Ngo stated that she hopes to increase turnout at college programming events. She hopes to destigmatize the word “engagement” claiming that it does not have to mean going to places and doing things.
Taubel wants to create a safe space for students to come to events, even if they feel isolated or alone. He plans to do so by creating events that represent all students on campus.
The following question was about what diversity means to you and how they plan to ensure DEI efforts will be at the forefront of ASUN.
Taubel stated everyone has a seat at the table and everyone’s opinion matters. Taubel also stated for those like him who may have more opportunities, it is his job to create opportunities for others who otherwise wouldn’t have them. He plans to sit on the DEI committee if elected to hear all students’ voices.
Ngo stated her job as a senator to perform outreach to students and turn that into legislation. When writing pieces that affect certain groups she claimed it is important to reach out to those students first. DEI includes elevating others as they are, not how you want to see them.
Additionally, Ngo stated that she sits on the DEI committee and works with the Multicultural Center to get resources. She acknowledged that ASUN has historically been very white.
Noble stated he plans to meet others where they’re at and bring the table to them rather than just holding a seat. He claimed that the diversity that they pride themselves upon as a university is sometimes surface level. He plans to invite groups to committee to give feedback either anonymously or in person on pieces ASUN is working on.
The next question was about what the greatest challenge is facing students at UNR.
Ngo believes the first amendment affects students’ safety on campus when they are voicing their concerns. She hopes to push students towards success to help them find their community where they feel comfortable to speak about these issues.
Noble claimed parking was the biggest issue facing students. He believes every student should have a place to park on campus.
Not being able to park serves as a barrier to get to work and class according to Noble.He urged the university to reconsider their stance and budget on this issue.
Taubel believes class load shouldn’t affect fees for students, specifically for online classes. Students taking an online course at UNR are required to pay an extra fee. He hopes to make college affordable in any way he can to open more doorways for students from different backgrounds.
The floor was then opened up to the audience for questions. The only one asked was about the criticism the eighty-ninth session has received for passing legislation and how they plan to change this in the ninetieth.
Taubel believes legislation is most efficiently created in collaboration with others to increase productivity. He also acknowledged the new perspectives of the first term senators coming to the session to bring new ideas.
Not representing student voices is the biggest concern Noble sees with the current session. He claimed that himself and Ngo have been the most productive senators this session.
Ngo noted a lack of follow up when it comes to turning outreach into legislation. Her plans are to conduct frequent training for the ninetieth session to ensure that conversion is made.
The word outreach was used heavily during the debate, so the next question was about what they will do to ensure more transparency with outreach efforts to make sure people aren’t faking outreach.
Noble made time every Friday to meet with students and held ASUN events, which he plans to continue. He also attends other university and ASUN events as a means of outreach.
Ngo explores town halls to hear student voices.
Rather than in meetings, Taubel hopes to have one-on-one conversations with students and constituents to ensure they are being heard.
College of Science
Fayza Salah is a pre-medicine student who centers inclusivity, accessibility and increasing diversity in her campaign. She also hopes to make the College of Science more accessible through online courses. If elected she will be in her first term as a senator, but served as a legislative intern for the eighty-ninth session.
Nivetha Nithyanandan, a sophomore biology major, will be in her second term if elected. She hopes to continue her fight for open education resources for students, increase engagement and visibility of the Honors College with the College of Science and smoothen the transition of high school to college for incoming freshmen.
The first question asked was about the greatest challenge faced by students on campus and what actions as senator would you take to address it.
Nithyanandan believes that finding food choices is an issue for students, along with making connections with people to help expand their options further.
Salah believes that student retention and mental health is among the major issues for students. This is especially important to her due to COVID-19 and the declining mental health rates that go along with it.
Additionally, Salah believes that meal plans are a waste of money, especially for her due to dietary restrictions.
The following question was about what diversity means to them and how they will ensure a diverse group of needs is met. Follow up was how the College of Science could increase diversity.
Diversity means all students regardless of backgrounds are included and given access to opportunities, according to Salah. She also hopes to keep the majority female population of the College of Science.
Nithyanandan believes diversity means equal opportunity to all students and wants to promote all backgrounds in the College of Science.
The preceding question was about what the senate meant to them and what their role is within it, how they plan to communicate with constituents and what their knowledge is on the legislative process.
Nithyanandan believes that her role as a senator is to represent students, write legislation and to help support student voices. Doing outreach is a priority for her to help discover those concerns and represent them within the student body.
As a current senator she conducts outreach and polls to seek out students’ needs and concerns. Her typical legislation process consists of writing a piece, presenting it and then collaborating with others to find loopholes and get feedback.
Salah hopes to actively seek out constituents to find areas that need improvement.
As for legislation, she has some knowledge due to her work as a legislative intern. Her process will consist of doing outreach with faculty and constituents and focus on an emphasis in social media, compiling the information gathered and then writing the legislation.
The next thing asked was what made them interested in being a College of Science senator.
Salah has a background in student government and has developed a love for civic engagement.
Nithyanandan was a class representative in her senior year of high school which is what initially got her interested. She applied for an ASUN internship in a different department, but got the senate internship and saw her potential there.
They were then questioned on what passion project they plan to take as a part of their platform.
Nithyanandan has found a recent passion for reducing cost of textbooks due to the costs that science students spend on them. She believes adequate resources can be found online for free or at a cheaper price
Salah hopes to support research for minority students by increasing outreach with advanced researchers to connect them with students. She also hopes to help students find financial resources through either Pack Provisions or something new.
Another question was what the University of Nevada, Reno experience is to you and what they plan to do to improve this experience for constituents.
Having a well rounded student life between academics, athletics or clubs, trying new things and new opportunities is all part of the UNR experience for Nithyanandan.
Salah sees working towards student success and fostering an academic career through engagement activities as the UNR experience.
A follow up was about if the UNR experience interferes with their future career plan and where UNR falls short.
Nithyanandan hopes to see more opportunities for research programs due to her difficulty with finding her own research programs for pre medicine internship.
Salah hopes to increase research for students and freshman and sophomore professional development programs.
The next question was about how they plan to build community at the university as a College of Science senator.
By actively reaching out to constituents to make sure they’re aware of opportunities the college provides is what Salah plans to do.
Nithyanandan strives to talk to students about the issues UNR falls short on and find ways to address them.
The floor was then opened up to the audience for questions.
The first question was about their favorite part of the College of Science and how they promote this aspect to the Reno, UNR and ASUN community.
Nithyanandan thinks that the laboratories College of Science uses for anatomy and dissection are amazing and she wants to showcase them more.
Salah went to the “See It to Be IT” program and saw it as an eye-opening experience. She hopes to expand programs of a similar nature.
The last question of the debate was what kind of priorities and topics due they have in mind for the next legislative session.
Nithyanandan has no projects in mind currently, but hopes to gain more insight through outreach.
Salah agreed with the following statement and hopes to build on past senators’ unfinished work.
Emerson Drewes and Rachel Jackson can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.