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Sunday, May 31, 2020

Meet the Candidate: Courtney Manz

Courtney Manz

Running for vice president for student life

Major: special education and elementary education

By Taylor Nichols

Below are excerpts from an interview with The Western Front.

What issues do you want to tackle if you become the ASVP for Student Life?

“There’s definitely a few. One is making sure that resident advisers feel safe and included and supported. I believe that all university employees need to feel safe where they’re working and get paid for what they’re working. I was a resident adviser last year at Buchanan Towers East and I understand how overworked you can feel and how overwhelming it is.

“Another thing I want to work on is making all the offices in Associated Students get sustainability certified. My office is currently going through that. I work as a Disability Outreach Center coordinator through Associated Students, so it’s great to see the process on how that works, and I really want to make sure every office gets certified in the next year.

“I currently work with the Disability Outreach Center and through this position I’ve seen a lot of the accessibility issues that occur on campus. I want to help break down those accessibility issues, [and find solutions] as simple as possible, like propping open doors and making sure people can get into the bathroom and things like that, as well as making Lakewood accessible and making The Outback accessible. Right now, if you have a physical disability, you can’t get back there.

“Also, partnering with professors to understand accommodations and why they’re important to the university. I’ve had quite a few complaints come to me about that, and I think it’s important that students feel supported and that they can succeed in their current academics.

“I think it’s just important to work with people in power at the university to bring awareness to some of these issues.”

Why do you want to focus on these issues?

“A lot of the time when we talk about diversity on campus, students with disabilities haven’t been included. The population of students with disabilities [at Western] has actually been quite small compared to a lot of campuses in Washington, and I really want to encourage students to come here if they have a disability. No matter your background, you should feel welcome at Western. I love Western, and I want other people to love Western as well.

“Sustainability is also really important and something I want to focus on because if we don’t have sustainability, we are not gonna be here very long.

“It’s just something simple that I think affects everyone on this entire planet. It also affects the Whatcom community as well. It helps preserve what we have here in Bellingham. I love Bellingham, and I love Western, and I’d like to see it go on and not be affected by not being sustainable. I’ve also noticed a lot of Western students that really push sustainability and I want to reinforce that. What students have to say, I have to say.”

How do you plan to work on these issues?

“A big part of that is I want what students want. I think some ways I get started is communicating with people; professional staff as well as students who are really involved with those issues like sustainability and residence life.

“I really want students to be the voice for me. I think sometimes student voices aren’t heard in large meetings where we’re sitting with a whole bunch of [administrators], and we don’t get very many words in, and I want to bring students with me to really push for that.

“I’m only one person, and I’m a cis white female, and there are so many more different abilities, races, everything that I can’t cover. I really want to have those students come and talk about that.

“I have a lot of privilege and I want to recognize that people with not as much privilege need to be there as well and are a big part of how I would get started. I think how we get things done is through students, and all the [administrators] are here for students and here to support us. I think it’s important that the people who are affected by what’s going on are there, and representing and letting me know what they want to have done.”

What specific ideas do you have about working on these issues?

“I have a Students with Disabilities Advocacy Council that I run. I [also] sit on the Disability Advisory Committee with the Equal Opportunity Office and disAbility Resources for Students. We want to push for the university to be reevaluated through the Americans with Disabilities Act. The last time they were here, I’m not 100 percent sure, I think it was 2007 or 2008, so that was quite a while ago. The building has changed, and Western’s changed, and I think it needs to be reevaluated.

“One of the things I’m really trying to push for in my current job is getting a ramp for the library.

“I’m also currently making Lakewood accessible. I’m going out there in a couple weekends to make sure that for my Able to Paddle event, people with disabilities can get to the kayaks. And I think we’re going to fill in the cracks in the concrete, because when you’re in a wheelchair you can get stuck on cracks.

“I want to have 8-9 office hours [per week] designated just for students to come in and let me know what’s going on and how things are progressing.

“I’m just one person, and Western is made up of a lot of wonderful, diverse people, and I want to get all those opinions.”

What qualifications do you have for this position?

“My entire life [at Western] I’ve worked in student life. I was a resident adviser, and I worked with students who were not only freshman but upperclassmen as well.

“I already have connections with the Counseling Center, CASAS, University Residences and the [Student] Health Center through my job at the Disability Outreach Center as well as being a resident adviser.

“I know a lot of them by name basis and we talk, and I think that’s an advantage to help me accomplish those goals. I have those connections and I know those people. It is ambitious, but I really want to be committed to students and have the opportunity for students to be successful and I think that’s really important. I know a lot of students struggle because of the barriers the university puts up and I don’t want that to be something that’s happening here on campus.

“I currently work in Associated Students so I know how things are run here and how to go about processes. I run a committee currently, and if I was to be elected as ASVP of Student Life I would be running other committees so I have experience already running a committee.”

How would you address the recent RA concerns?

“I was a resident adviser, and I know being on call is super stressful. I was on call for almost the entire spring break last year, and that means I had the phone on 24/7.

“I definitely want RAs to get paid more. [They] get 125 meals a quarter, and a lot of RAs don’t actually use all that. Some of that could go to being paid a monthly cash reimbursement instead of the meals.

“I’m not that knowledgeable about the budget and where that RA money is coming from. However, I would definitely be interested in looking into that and figuring out where to get that increase.

“I’m really concerned that employees don’t feel safe. That’s scary, and everyone should feel safe, protected and loved on campus. It just breaks me apart that people feel scared to be here. They should be supported and have the right resources. We have so many resources on campus, and they should be able to talk about it and receive help with it and feel protected. Maybe that costs a little extra money, but I think it’s worth it.

“We have Green Coats on campus. Maybe just having Green Coats, instead of wandering around on campus, if RAs are feeling unsafe, having them come by and hang out.

“Resident advisers also check to make sure the community is safe but if you’re feeling in danger, you definitely need some support to make you feel safe as well.”

What was your motivation to become part of the Associated Students and be more involved on campus?

“I love students so much, and I think it’s amazing the things that we are doing here, through all of our degrees. I just want to be able to support students and help them be the most successful they can be. It comes down to the simplicity that students are the most important thing here at Western, and that’s what we care about.

“That’s why I really wanted to run was to reinforce that idea that it’s all about students. It’s not about the university, it’s about the individual person, and every individual person here, and their experience, and making it the best that it can be. I want to do that.

“I just want students to enjoy their time here, and feel successful and I want to support them through that.”

 

CLICK HERE TO VOTE

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READ THE OTHER AS CANDIDATE INTERVIEWS:

President: 

Simrun Chhabra

Mary Moeller

Sterling Rettke

VP for Academic Affairs:

Hunter Eider

Julianna Jackson

VP for Activities:

Julia Rutledge

VP for Business and Operations:

Alex Lavallee

VP for Diversity:

Marquis Mason

Erick Yanzon

VP for Governmental Affairs:

Leanna Sauerlender

Ana Ramirez

VP for Student Life:

Fallon Acosta

Annie Gordon

Courtney Manz

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