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Thursday, December 3, 2020

Students represent Western in Olympia

Student representatives from Western went to Olympia to lobby at Viking Lobby Day.

Western students pose for a final photo on steps outside Capitol building. // Photo by Robert Johnson
Western students pose for a final photo on steps outside Capitol building. // Photo by Robert Johnson

Final update 6:24

Western students were looking at ways to eliminate all barriers barring people from voting. One of these measures includes having prepaid stamps on ballot envelopes.

“I agree,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “Where do you even get a stamp on a college campus?”

Patrick Eckroth, AS VP for governmental affairs, was in attendance during Viking Lobby Day.

“The reason that we are here lobbying, is that if we weren’t, the legislature wouldn’t hear us,” Eckroth said.

The student lobbyists did a presentation for the representatives. In the presentation it was shown that increased registration leads to increased voter turnout. In Whatcom County’s midterm, there was a 47% voter turn out, but 84% of registered voters will come to vote.  

“The reason that we are here lobbying, is that if we weren’t,

the legislature wouldn’t hear us.”

Patrick Eckroth, AS VP for Governmental Affairs

In the presentation the students brought up student support. In that they mentioned Western employs 11 counselors for its 15,000 students. In the tutoring center, there are about 800 people that come through the center, but resources for only about 400. Funding has decreased since the 2008 recession and has never bounced back, even with last year’s tuition cuts.

The Associated Students want to see an increase in support for greater success outside the classroom. Most students receive tutoring for low level STEM classes, which are not only required parts of our general education, but also open the door for required classes in almost every major.

Among the representatives present was Rep. Gerry Pollet.

“Students have a voice that is often totally ignored,” Pollet said.

Not all representatives were able to be spoken with about the students’ concerns.

AS Voter Education and Registration Coordinator Rachael Belisle said they were unable to speak with Western’s own representative.

“We were hoping to talk to Doug Ericksen, representative of the 42nd district, but he refused to talk to us,” Belisle said.

Viking Lobby Day ended at 4 p.m. with a group picture on the stairs of the Capitol building.


Update 2:54

Western representatives met with Rep. Dan Kristiansen to speak about facilitating registration for Washington voters. “Washington State is the laughing stock of voter registration,” said Kristiansen, who has been working on a reform for voting registration. Washington is known as the mail-in ballot state, said Kristiansen.

“Washington is known as the mail-in ballot state.”

Representative Dan Kristiansen

The Whatcom County auditor says the county doesn’t have the resources to handle a large amount of voters. Western students want to extend the registration period to 11 days before election day. The Western Associated Students registered 3,000 voters this past year — more than any university association in the state combined.

Kristiansen says voter fraud is a big deal in Washington. Voter fraud is as easy as going “into your neighbors garbage, getting a utility bill and claiming to be that person at the department of licensing, Kristiansen said. Belisle, claims it doesn’t happen as much as lawmakers like to claim.

The other issue discussed was funding for student support.

“Most of the ‘asks’ people make when they come to their legislator is misappropriated,” Kristiansen said. “Asks” refers the amount of money people ask for when lobbying their representatives. Kristiansen added Western students should be focusing their efforts on talking to the Western Board of Trustees and seeing where the priority funding is currently to try to change the budget from within.

Update 12:33

Black Lives Matter protest breaks out in capitol. // Photo by Robert Johnson
Black Lives Matter protest breaks out in Capitol. // Photo by Robert Johnson

Lunch time for the Western representatives. As most head down to the capitol building’s deli, a “Black Lives Matter” protest breaks out in the middle of the Capitol building. Protesters are asking for a citizen review board be established for police officers. Cannot confirm if Western students were involved in protest.

Photo by Robert Johnson
Photo by Robert Johnson

Original story:

For this legislative session, Western students are asking for dedicated funding for higher education, civic education for K-12, increased funding for counseling at Western. Students will switch off between the role of facilitator (keeps meeting on time), presenter (articulates agenda), note taker (takes notes of legislative questions) and testimonials (gives personal account to relate to agenda/issue at hand).

Students met with Gov. Inslee today to discuss funding $2.4 million in supplementary budget to Western specifically for student support (tutoring, counseling, academic advising).

Student representatives with Gov. Inslee // Photo by Robert Johnson
Student representatives with Gov. Inslee // Photo by Robert Johnson

Students shared personal experiences with the governor about their difficulty in seeing actually support at Western especially for mental wellness. Students experienced wait times of three weeks to meet with Western’s one certified counselor. The other counselors at Western are not fully certified and some students were asked to talk in front of cameras as part of counselors training, eliminating doctor-patient confidentiality.

Photo by Robert Johnson
Photo by Robert Johnson

The students also brainstormed with Gov. Inslee about how to implement motor voter, or a voter registration act, in Washington.

Inslee praised students ability to come to the meeting with plans on how to fund programs rather than asking for change without a solid plan. He hopes to work closely with Western students in the future.

Lobbying is the process of discussing your position on an issue with your state representatives. Students are expected to be knowledgeable in a variety of subjects so they can answer any questions lawmakers have.


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