The three candidates running for Associated Students president squared off in the Hub Wednesday afternoon to defend their qualifications for the office and to promote their respective party platforms in this year’s election.

Fernando Ramirez of the Student Action Coalition (SAC), Ginger Gonzaga of Student Unity Now (SUN) and Cervin Morris of the Students’ Party took the stage at 1 p.m. after the noon A.S. representatives-at-large candidates’ debate. The presidential hopefuls answered questions from the audience on their specific involvement in campus, local, statewide and global politics. The audience questions came mainly from party supporters and were read by A.S. Elections Committee Chair Alejandra Luna.

In his opening statement, Morris spoke about his party, the Students’ Party, as well as the reasons he and his running mates had for creating the party this year.

“Students’ Party was formed because I realized not many students knew what was going on within A.S. and they don’t know where the power is. We formed Students’ Party based on three goals: progress, involvement and good times,” Morris said. “I understand that students are apathetic, but if you connect with them socially then you will be able to connect with them politically.”

Gonzaga received the endorsements of both her competitors when all three were asked which candidate they would be most likely to vote for instead of themselves. Ramirez said he supported Gonzaga, and emphasized the need for experience in a comment that made reference to Morris’ eligibility, which was hotly debated at last week’s A.S. Legislative Council meeting. At the meeting, members voted to waive the 60-unit eligibility requirement for Morris due to a family crisis that kept him from completing the necessary amount of units.

“I would vote definitely for Ginger – she’s got experience in A.S., which I think is vital,” Ramirez said. “A cause to run for president is that you have to have a certain number of units to run for president and I think that for that reason you need experience to run for president.”

Ramirez said he is currently chair of both A.S. Student Lobby and A.S. Finance Board, as well as member of the I.V. Recreation and Park District (IVRPD). He said he would continue to be involved if elected. Several members of the Students’ Party in the audience continued to talk amongst themselves while Ramirez spoke, prompting him to pause several times and ask them to be quiet.

“Sitting on the park board [IVRPD] has really given me a really good understanding of the local issues that really are affecting I.V. … I think just making the connection between students and community and really engaging those two is something I have been doing and will continue to do and won’t just start doing if elected,” Ramirez said.

Moving on from the topic of past experience, candidates then answered a question on what programs they would implement specifically for incoming freshmen. Gonzaga said she would focus on cultivating more diversity education through classes for freshmen.

“Something that I wish would have been talked about at convocation my freshman year is awareness about different issues like rape prevention and queer issues,” Gonzaga said. “Right now INT 20 [Introduction to the University] is a freshman seminar, but there’s a lot that’s lacking. It doesn’t have locked in as part of it things like rape prevention and sexual assault awareness. It doesn’t have peer sensitivity issues involved in that, so I’d like to change INT 20.”

Luna, who has moderated all of the candidate forums both this week and last, said she was pleased with the professionalism of the candidates, but commented that the audience was sometimes too loud.

“There were some very strong, very confident candidates; they all had really great plans,” Luna said. “I think they were a spirited crowd, and that’s to be expected. It’s biased for each party and I encourage spiritedness, but I specifically encourage more respect of the space the candidates were given.”