Aaron Garcia

ASR: What experience do you have that qualifies you for the position of AS President?

Garcia: Since high school I've always been actively involved. I've been ASB president, I've been my class president, I was my hall council president... so I've always just felt this duty to be involved and engaged and be a voice for the students. I've really focused my life around that. My current job as AS VP of Activities really helps me know what to expect next year and gives me an understanding of what the role of AS President is.

ASR: What are your three biggest goals for next year?

Garcia: First, outreach. Getting the word out that the Associated Students belongs to everyone. It's our [The AS's] 100 year anniversary, and it's a good time to kick off the year right and making sure all students feel like they belong to the AS... Another thing I want to work on is evaluating objectives of the AS, we have a lot of great programming and resources. I want to make sure we're following our objectives. The most important objective in my point of view being supporting and developing leadership, whether it is activities and event or providing resources and opportunities for students to organize themselves around their special interst. And if we are not meeting these objective, why not? Also, we have a new [university] president coming in next year. Fostering the relationship we have with the current administration with this new one is going to be key.

ASR: What's one or more decision(s) the Board has made this year that you disagree with or would change?

Garcia: There was a personnel decision where we had to decide on whether or not to allow someone to reapply [for their AS position] again, because we have certain policies... it was tough to say no to the person, and it was hard for the Board to separate the personal aspect of it from our mission. We gave this person the opportunity to reapply for his position, and I think it would have been better if we'd voted no, and given someone else a opportunity to learn this position. My vote was a unpopular one but I voted in a way that I felt supported the AS's goal and objectives in giving students new to develop leadership. But for the most part the Board is pretty cohesive when it comes to decisions we have agreed on a lot of the same things.

ASR: What past or present political leader do you identify with and why?

Garcia: Martin Luther King (Jr.). One of the things I want to throw out there is that I'm not a politician and I'm not an activist. The other candidates seem to have politician mindset or the activist mindset, but I'm right there in the middle. The reason I identify myself with MLK is because I admire his four steps to peaceful protest. First you have to recognize the problem or injustice and make sure you understand the whole scope of the issue. Then you sit down and try to negotiate, and do that to the fullest extent—exhaust to the extreme. Then the third step being self-purification, getting in the mind set that if your are willing to protest your willing to go to jail, willing to get mistreated and beaten without out fighting back. MLK was arrested over 30 time for causes he believed in. And the fourth is peaceful protest. I believe in peaceful protesting and I believe that WWU a very activist-minded school. And I always tell students, ‘I will go to bat for y'all, but this is how I approach things.' I will be more than willing to do things with students as long as we take a structured approach. But I have yet to meet a administrator who wont meet us at step two.

ASR: How would you represent and support Western's diverse community as president?

Garcia: I think I have a pretty good understanding of many of the issues that students bring to us, and I think I'd be really good at sitting down with the administration and discussing why those issues are around. The number one thing one must all be willing to do first is LISTEN, sometimes we get so far ahead of ourselves in trying to solve the answers we start to forget what the real questions are.

ASR: What's one problem or challenge you've faced in a previous position of leadership and how did you resolve or deal with it?

Garcia: The biggest thing I've learned is to delegate responsibilities. It's important to develop trust with the people you work with. I think it's essential—you can't do everything by yourself. When you delegate responsibilities, that does not mean you just tell people what to do, as a leader you must guide people to the right answers. Sometimes even admitting you don't know the right answer, but hey “lets learn it together.”

[page]

Erik Lowe

ASR: What experience do you have that qualifies you for the position of AS President?

Lowe: For the last 10 months I've been the Vice President for Legislative and Governmental Affairs. Through that position I've been representing the views, desires and needs of Western students to the administration, city council, state legislature and the US Congress. I've worked extensively with many people within the administration in attempts to get the best things for Western students. I have lots of experience in managing fees as Chair of the Alternative Transportation Fee Committee, and subsequently know how to use fees to get the best for students. On top of that, I have been very active in many areas not necessarily part of my job description, like going to student senate meetings and being a part of committees like the Housing and Dining Budget committee and Election Code Review committee.

ASR: What are your three biggest goals for next year?

Lowe: My three biggest goals for next year all revolve around addressing the most pressing issue facing Western students; of course, I am talking about money. Money is always tight for students, and I want to be sure that fees are minimized. Fees are typically capped at 5 percent increases, but that doesn't mean that we have to raise it to that 5 percent every year. I want to make sure that the raises we do have are in the best interests of the Western students. Creating a high level of organizational efficiency in the Associated Students, as well as holding the university accountable in the handling of fees is crucial. One thing that I am extremely passionate about is ensuring that all students have access to buses at all times of the day. We need to make sure that students can get to and from campus or to anywhere else in Bellingham without being on a crowded bus or having to drive somewhere. So minimizing fees, making sure that the AS and the university are accountable to how those fees are implemented and ensuring that we provide the best possible service for students are my main goals. I have many others, addressing a wide range of topics, but you asked for three and I don't want to keep you too long, so I'll leave it at that.

ASR: What's one or more decisions that the Board has made this year that you disagree with or would change?

Lowe: I'm on the Board, and I think overall we've done an excellent job this year. So I think realistically I'm in support of all the decisions the Board has made over the past year. I think, especially when we were getting our ‘sea legs,' you could say, some of our decisions might have been slightly rushed. But I think that's just the learning experience of being a Board member. The Board members this year have been really good about communicating why they were voting one way or another, and have always had excellent reasons, so I fully support the way my colleagues have voted.

ASR: What past or present political leader do you identify with and why?

Lowe: I look up to a lot of political leaders, but I can't really identify with any one political leader. I don't see myself as the next FDR or anything like that, so it's an difficult question for me to answer. Personally, the political leader I have looked up to most growing up has been John F. Kennedy; he left such an indelible mark on America in such a tragically short amount of time. His ability to inspire the nation amazes me even today, and I am of the opinion that he's the reason man landed on the moon.

ASR: How would you represent and support Western's diverse community as president?

Lowe: For the last 10 months, I think I have done an excellent job of representing the interests of the students who come before me. It is my job to represent all students on campus, not just those I agree with. I would definitely make sure that everyone's views are heard and that everyone feels that they have a part of the AS, because they should. Sometimes it is difficult when you are presenting something to a group like the Board of Trustees to represent all those different views, because you can't give mixed messages. At the same time, my experience working with diverse groups this year has given me the ability to ensure everyone is represented while still providing a strong and cohesive message.

ASR: What's one problem or challenge you've faced in a previous position of leadership, and how did you resolve or deal with it?

Lowe: I've faced a lot of challenges this year. I think the biggest challenge I've had is my time management. I spend a lot of time in the office, and I have often gotten in trouble for spending too much time in the office. But I can't think of anything that's turned out to be a total failure. It's a very challenging job that I'm in right now, and AS President is even more challenging, so it's just a matter of taking things as they come and learning from whatever problems you might encounter. It's always a pretty steep learning curve for everyone on the Board, and I hope that people see that I've dealt with that learning curve pretty well.

ASR: What problems would you anticipate dealing with as AS President?

Lowe: There are a lot of problems on the horizon that may or may not come up. One big one is how Washington state will deal with the impending recession. Washington state currently is in a relatively good economic place, but that is not to say that it will be next year. It's important to look to that and see how the state will deal with that, especially when it comes to higher education. Higher education is one of the first things that gets cut or gets overlooked when it comes to a recession, so it's important to remind legislators that it's more of a high-return investment than just a loss of money. Western and President Morse have done an amazing job of getting that message to the legislature, and it's my hope that the new university president and I can continue to do that. Realistically, no one can anticipate all the problems that will come up during a specific year. The only thing I can really do is to be ready for anything thrown my way, and this year has shown me that I am ready to take on that task.

[page]

Karim Ahmath

ASR: What experience do you have that qualifies you for the position of AS President?

Ahmath: There are many experiences that I have had at Western that qualify me to be the AS president, including working in the Resource and Outreach Programs, the Social Issues Resource Center, AS clubs and the Ethnic Student Center. I have programmed and was involved in many events, workshops, and teach-ins that are well attended by the student body. Some of my events included the creation of the Student Free Expression Art Wall, performing the emcee role in the 2008 Naked Truth Fashion Show and speaking on the Jena Six Panel.

ASR: What are your three biggest goals for next year?

Ahmath: I have many goals for the next year that would impact the institution for years to come, including outreach and making the AS more accessible to all students. I have been working with the AS club Students for Sustainable Food in acquiring space for a student-run co-op that would act as a community cafá© with art and performance space. Having a student-run co-op would give students the ability directly participate in the democratic process of running a business and choosing what goes on the menu. They would support produce from local and organic farms. Another goal of mine is committed to the rights of students and ensuring that all students are enjoying their time at Western. Yes, I am for democracy and free speech but I do not feel the university is being accountable by allowing the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) on a campus for pure shock value. The way that GAP operates does not allow for dialogue as they are not accountable in their provocative actions that are emotionally damaging to all genders on this campus. If they are going to be on our campus they need to be accountable for their actions and provide a forum that would allow for discussion and questions to be asked in a structured setting. The way that GAP functions currently infringes on the rights of other students.

ASR: What's one or more decisions that the Board has made this year that you disagree with or would change?

Ahmath: I feel that the current AS Board is doing their job to the best of their abilities, but I don't feel like they have reached out to the students like they promised they would and like they are saying they will do next year. The two other presidential candidates are currently serving on the Board, have had one year to do outreach and still students are unaware of the AS and the AS elections. I have not seen or experienced any student programming yet from the current Board yet that has meet my needs as a student. As a student organizer I have programmed many events that have brought together diverse communities and I would be able bring in more students to the AS if elected as the AS President.

ASR: What past or present political leader do you identify with and why?

Ahmath: I can't say that I identify with any particular leader. I like to take the ideas of many leaders such as Angela Davis, Cornel West and bell hooks and apply them in a meaningful way to my own life and commitment towards social justice.

ASR: How would you represent and support Western's diverse community as president?

Ahmath: A good leader is one that knows how to equally distribute the power and responsibilities to accomplish the end goal but to also have an empowering experience through the process. I have worked in many organizations and student groups whose decision process is based off a consensus model which has been very effective in any type of organizing, whether it is social, political or environmental issues. It shows through my experience that I am already doing a good job at representing the student body in their academic and extra curricular needs.

ASR: What's one problem or challenge you've faced in a previous position of leadership, and how did you resolve or deal with it?

Ahmath: I have not had many problems as a student leader. I feel that I am great at the work I do and have been effective in the organizations that I am involved in, due to the fact that there has been great collaboration and distribution of power and responsibilities. Through using a consensus model we are able to break down hierarchies and not see one or two members as a leader but we can view all members of the group as equal leaders with different or overlapping responsibilities. Consensus models break down hierarchies which can be effective in alleviating any tensions within a group.