The GPSA presidential race kicked off Wednesday with the first of four debates, and candidates discussed student fee allocation, departmental cuts and student government transparency.

Candidate Katie Richardson said GPSA should set an example as an open, inclusive government for the University. She said Athletics is over-funded and should not be propped up by student fees.

“I absolutely am against using student money for these purposes,” she said. “Student fee money ought to be used towards the academic success of students — towards our recruitment, our retention and ultimately our graduation rates.”

Richardson, Patricia Caballero, Jacob Candelaria and Joseph Dworak are among the four candidates.

Arguing that Athletics is a useful recruitment tool, Candelaria said it attracts minority students to higher education, and he said it should be financially supported.

“I don’t think we can do a carte blanche, anti-Athletics approach because there are unintended consequences when you shrink those programs,” he said. “What we can do is make it open and transparent, and we can get to a level of subsidization that everyone is OK with.”

Cabellero said GPSA should insist on participating in the budgetary process and gaining accurate facts to influence future departmental cuts.

“Information is power, and we have not had the information,” she said. “The questions have been asked, and we all know that something is happening at that level that is not making sense, but we have not been forthright in demanding to see reports.”

Positive change can only be brought about through council and presidential collaboration, Dworak said. He said the $120,000 legislative cuts to graduate research will force GPSA to get creative in seeking alternate sources of funding.

“Currently, each graduate student pays extra $22 more than undergraduates in student fees,” he said. “That is well over $100,000 and could be used to supplement graduate-only programs, like graduate research. Realistically, it wouldn’t be possible to allocate it through SFRB process, but we need to look at every option.”

Richardson said she favored redirecting SFRB student fees to graduate research.

Candelaria said UNM’s graduate research financial problems can only be solved at the state level.

“We must attempt to bring all the resources of this University together in a coordinated way to adequately leverage and build the largest pot of money as we possibly can as an institution,” he said. “This problem is not going to be solved by this University alone. I would bring this to the table to the proper areas of state government because if we don’t act there, we are never going to solve the problem.”

Richardson said she is willing to work with undergraduates, but her loyalty lies with graduate students.

“We need to be the leaders on this campus and reach across the aisle to undergraduates,” she said. “Where we share common interest, work together, but my priority is to protect the interests of graduate students. I will always stand with graduate students.”