Three candidates vying for the position of Associated Students president engaged in a battle of banter yesterday as each attempted to win over UCSB voters.

The debate, held in front of a small audience in the Hub, was the first in a series of six opportunities for the contenders in the upcoming A.S. elections to present their opinions on campus issues. Forums for candidates will continue throughout the week, with those running for the two vice presidential positions taking the stage in the Hub today at noon.

Students will be able to cast their ballots in the spring election by logging onto GOLD from April 20 to 23.

At the debate, presidential contenders Paulina Abustan of Student Voice!, Daniel Plotkin of Students With a Plan and Charlie Arreola of the Open People’s Party presented their main platforms and responded to both moderated and student-posed questions. The candidates were allowed a two-minute introduction statement and allotted an additional two minutes to reply to each question.

Plotkin said that he sees the job of president as a collaborative endeavor rather than a personal effort. He said he plans to inspire students to take action, and added that he will push for the university to adopt a joint government system that will place power in the hands of a diverse array of students.

“I feel that the office of the president is not inherently powerful, if that makes sense,” Plotkin said. “The office of the president is powerful because, from that position, you have the ability to empower an entire university of students.”

Most questions were targeted at the recent budget cuts and the effect of limited funding on student life. According to Plotkin, changes need to be made in order to guarantee student needs aren’t swept to the wayside.

“We’re moving into an era where our money is going to go straight into the pockets of the faculty,” Plotkin said. “When the administration doesn’t listen, that’s when the president needs to be an organizer. Sacrificing student resources every time the economy takes a hit is not the way to run a campus.”

Likewise, Arreola said that adopting a new mindset on campus is necessary for a stronger and more efficient governing body. When asked what should be done, Arreola said he wanted to unify the campus.

“We need to get students excited about being a Gaucho,” Arreola said. “Student apathy is a big problem on campus and we need to get people invested in the university so that they seek out opportunities to bring change. To accomplish this, we need student leaders that are approachable and proud of this institution.”

Abustan said that safety and diversity on campus were her key issues for the coming year. In her statements, she suggested a plan to establish four committees comprised of students from different backgrounds.

“I want to be in touch with the surrounding communities to get a fresh, new perspective,” Abustan said. “The president’s office is idle right now, but I want to see it working collaboratively with student groups.”

Although the audience consisted mostly of supporting party members, some students attended to educate themselves on the platforms of the presidential hopefuls.

“I think it’s important to come see the debates and actually put a face to the name on the ballot,” Rachel Sheffield, a second-year film & media studies major, said. “I definitely know who I’m voting for now.”