Running for president
Below are excerpts from an interview with The Western Front.
Why do you want to run for AS president?
“I’m running for president because this November was a crisis for many students and I’ve realized local action is the best way to stand against federal change.
“It’s clear to me that Western would rather quietly ride out the next four years but we don’t have that kind of time. We need to remind administrators that Western needs to stand strong against federal pressures and protect its students.
“We deserve a safe and affordable education no matter what we look like or where we come from.”
What issues do you want to tackle?
“I keep an issues document and it gets longer every day.
- It’s incredibly difficult for students to access counseling services on campus. Even if you can get into the Counseling Center, you only get six visits before they kick you out.
- Campus is a nightmare if you have a mobility impairment.
- According to a 2016 study, 26 percent of college students nationwide couldn’t afford to feed themselves, even if they had financial aid or were working a job.
- Twenty-five percent of Western students are currently covered under Medicaid plans and if the Affordable Care Act gets repealed, they could lose the ability to use the student health center.
- Hate speech on campus has increased substantially since the election, especially against undocumented, Jewish and trans students.
- There aren’t enough gender-neutral restrooms either.
- Res Life is treating RAs horrifically.
- One last thing is that the Western foundation uses US Bank to host its bank accounts. Which means that millions of dollars worth of our tuition is indirectly supporting the genocide at Standing Rock. I can keep going but those are the big ones.”
How would you address these specifically?
“I have a rule for myself, which is, don’t say you’ll change something unless you think you can actually do it. So for these solutions I’m about to list off, I’ve already confirmed with administrators that it’s something we can actually do.
“Starting with counseling, it’s an issue of not having enough counselors and there is not enough space in the Counseling Center itself. I’d like to embed counselors in each of the dorms starting with Fairhaven, which would open up more opportunities for students to get the help they need.
“I mentioned that campus isn’t very accessible and there’s a lot we can change. But the first thing I want to do is renovate the ramp by the library. It’s too steep for wheelchairs to use right now and is not currently available to students and we can change that easily.
“We can help improve food security on campus by opening a food pantry.
“I spoke with the director of the Student Health Center, and she said if the Affordable Care Act gets repealed, we could advocate for bridge assistance. Which would essentially let students get the care they need at an affordable cost.
“Unlike most schools in Washington state, Western doesn’t have a Bias Incident Response Team or a BIRT. BIRTs coordinate a response after a hate speech incident. They connect recipients of hate speech with support and track incidents of hate speech.
“Our current VP for enrollment and student services is retiring at the end of the year, and our new one is coming from Washington State University, where they already have a BIRT. I’ve already met with the new VP and several others including the Equal Opportunity Office and they’re all excited to work on getting a BIRT at Western.
“We need to increase the number of gender-neutral restrooms on campus. That means holding administrators accountable to putting in gender-neutral restrooms whenever buildings are being renovated because they try to get around it as much as they possibly can.
“For the RAs, it’s more of a job for the VP of student life, but I promise I will stand in solidarity with the RAs Liberated movement in any way I possibly can.
“Finally, divestment, our banking contract is up for a renewal next year which means we have the opportunity to divest from US Bank in Standing Rock. I’m hoping to work with WECU representatives to help make a competitive bid for the contract but I can’t do this alone. Which is why the biggest way I am going to address issues on campus is by magnifying voices of [students].”
What are your qualifications?
“I am the most qualified candidate for the AS president because I have already done parts of the president’s job. This year I served as the vice president for business and operations, which is the highest-ranking VP and the VP who takes over for the president while she’s away.
“I ran board meetings in her absence and had the chance to go with her to one of her meetings with the president. I spent this entire year developing connections to students and learning how to get things done.
“More importantly, I’ve learned how to talk to administrators so that they’d actually listen. I bring both passion and knowledge.”
What was your experience as VP?
“I worked with administrators and with Disability Advisory Council to pull voices and to make sure that students, especially student’s mobility issues, weren’t being held academically accountable for making a choice that is best for their safety when there was snow on campus.
“I was talking to the Disability Outreach Center coordinator and she mentioned to me that a lot of students, especially students with asthma can’t be around strong scents. I’m working to make the Associated Students a scent-free zone, and the signs will go up the end of May. It will allow students with allergies and students with asthma to exist safely in the space. It’s about disability and accessibility, making them feel safe and letting them breathe.
“Another thing I did was I help pass a resolution that made the Associated Students a sanctuary organization which means we won’t ask about people’s documentation status. People can come work for us regardless of their citizenship status.”
What do you think are some of the main concerns Western students have?
“I’ve been walking around with a whiteboard asking students what Western needs and talking to clubs, and the biggest concerns that come up are justice for RAs, more accessibility on campus, and more gender-neutral restrooms.”
How do you plan on being a voice for students at western.
“There are two major ways I plan on being a voice for students at Western and the first is by connecting with students face to face to ask them what they like to change. That is the reason why I went around with a whiteboard asking students what they think Western needs and visited more than a dozen clubs over the last two weeks and why I am going to continue reaching out to students even after the election is over.
“That’s why I am going to continue the excellent job Stephanie [Cheng] has done reaching out to students at town hall meetings. The second big way that I’m going to speak for Western students is by letting them speak for themselves. A lot of presidents in the past have talked about increasing diversity or empowering students to speak for themselves but they get into office and realize that it is a lot easier said than done. What I came up with and the key thing is meeting with students and bringing their concerns to the administration is good, but bringing students to the administration is better.
“So, we so we have to actively seek out students who are impacted by the things working on and have them speak to administration themselves. It’s about uplifting student voices and staying humble about how well you can represent a diverse campus.”
What are your thoughts about campus diversity?
“When we talk about campus diversity, it’s important to make a distinction between diversity and inclusivity because diversity is something that already exists.
“Inclusivity is making sure that everyone’s voices are being heard, everyone has the same opportunities, it’s about equity, not equality. It’s about getting people the help they need to succeed at Western and making sure everyone has access to a safe, affordable education regardless of their identity.
“At Summerstart, they get the first-generation students together and give them the spiel and try to connect them with resources but never follow up with them. A lot of times, the students don’t know how to apply that information when they first receive it and it just ends up going away.”
How do you plan on holding the administration accountable to keeping students safe regardless of their identity?
“One of the tactics that the university administration uses to silence student voices is by brushing them off by saying ‘thank you for your input.’ It’s important to keep going back to them until they get it done.
“They would usually wait for students to lose interest or wait for us to leave. I plan on working closely with Stephanie [Cheng], the current president and with the president who follows me to make sure we carry these projects year to year.”
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