Photo courtesy of Ana Ramirez.
By Asia Fields
The elected Associated Students vice president for governmental affairs, Ana Ramirez, stepped down Monday, Feb. 5, after more than half a year of unofficially serving in the role without compensation.
In August, an unpaid volunteer position was created for Ramirez to serve as a consultant for governmental affairs for the AS Board. The position was to be a more restricted version of her elected position.
However, Ramirez said she continued to fulfill the duties of the vice presidential role, a position with a salary of almost $12,000 a year. She said there was a lot of work that needed to be done, but other AS employees made it hard for her.
“They would say, ‘We support you.’ But they wouldn’t let me do my job,” she said.
Ramirez said other student employees would try to do her work without telling her. While she said she never heard of anyone from the AS or university explicitly telling students not to let her work, she thinks is likely due to their insistence that she not fill her role.
“Honestly, after quitting today, I was like, ‘I should have done this a long time ago because I deserve better.'”
On Monday, Feb. 5, Ramirez sent an email to coworkers, including the other AS Board members, and some of the administration saying she was resigning.
“Honestly, after quitting today, I was like, ‘I should have done this a long time ago because I deserve better,'” she said.
The university issued a statement on Tuesday, Feb. 6.
“We recognize the frustration Ana Ramirez has experienced in this situation. We strongly hope for her continued success as a student at Western. The full inclusion and support of undocumented students is a national policy and legal issue which has yet to be resolved, and this uncertainty creates anxiety and distress for students and families at colleges and universities across the country,” Paul Cocke, director of university communications and marketing, said in an email. “While the policy landscape remains unclear, Western is committed to supporting undocumented students to the fullest extent possible.”
Despite being elected in April, Ramirez said university administration didn’t tell her she wouldn’t be able to fill her position until June.
In June, Ramirez was kicked off of a committee and out of an AS Board meeting by AS administrators. And in a June 7 meeting with Assistant Attorney General Rob Olson, Ramirez said she was told it may be possible that she would lose her position.
“Western Washington University values undocumented students and has a deep commitment to inclusion. At the same time, we cannot put individual students or the University at risk of violating federal or state law,” Cocke said in an email in October.
Since then, Ramirez had done the work of the vice president of governmental affairs — attending meetings, holding office hours, planning Western Lobby Day — without formal recognition or compensation.
The money that would have gone to Ramirez in the summer was instead split between Western’s Ethnic Student Center and the Representation and Engagement Program at Ramirez’s request, which was approved by the AS Board at their Oct. 26 meeting.
Ramirez isn’t sure whether the AS will fill the now-vacant position. While she said she feels bad leaving without helping with a transition, she said she couldn’t take the lack of support.
“I don’t feel like I was supported at all in the AS the whole time, except for one other Board member,” she said.
Ramirez is grateful to those who stood by her and said she is ready to focus on school.
“I do want to say thank you to a lot of students and faculty on campus who have supported me throughout the year and even before the election,” she said.
Updated at 3:48 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 6, with statement from university spokesperson Paul Cocke.
This post will be updated as more information becomes available.