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Monday, August 10, 2020

AS Board considering ethnic studies, undocumented student support referendums

By Kayna Dean

The Associated Students Board met on Wednesday, Feb. 21 to discuss various fee renewals, as well as referendums for revitalizing the College of Ethnic Studies, creating a fund to support undocumented students and having a smoke-free campus. All three are being considered to go on the ballot this election.

Ethnic Studies Referendum

Erick Yanzon, AS vice president for diversity, discussed the Ethnic Studies Referendum. The referendum would work as a gauge of student support toward the idea of revitalizing the College of Ethnic Studies.

In the 1960s, Western had a College of Ethnic Studies. Lack of academic support and funding led to the college dissolving within a few years. The American Cultural Studies Department in the Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies is the last remnant of the old college.

The AS signed a resolution in August 2017 that said the current Comparative Gender and Multicultural Studies graduation requirement does not cover the issues marginalized students face as comprehensively as it should. With research showing that well-designed ethnic studies curricula has a positive impact on students, Yanzon said the Board is looking to see how much students support the idea of revitalizing the College of Ethnic Studies would have, not guaranteeing it would happen.

Undocumented Student Support Fee Referendum

The Board discussed the Undocumented Student Support Fee Referendum, which suggests adding a $1 fee per student per quarter to go toward the Undocumented Student Support Fund through the Financial Aid office.

AS Vice President for Student Life Annie Gordon said this fee would help support undocumented students monetarily. This includes helping pay for DACA renewals, housing and tuition costs. Yanzon said some students might question why they would be paying for the fund rather than the university.

Smoke Free Campus Referendum

The Smoke Free Campus Referendum suggests the university implement a multi-year program that would educate students on the harmful effect of tobacco. This would ban smoking from Western’s campus. Gordon said that this implementation would not serve as a punishment for those who smoke though, but more as an educational opportunity to show the effects of doing so.

Western’s Central Health and Safety Committee does not see the need to strictly enforce implementation, rather just open a door for discussion about the use of tobacco on college campuses, Gordon said.

Sustainable Action Fund Fee

Gordon said the Sustainable Action Fund Committee is considering a name change from Sustainable Action Fund to Sustainability, Equity and Justice Fund.  The committee hopes the name change will continue to empower the student body and broaden their title to promote social justice on campus.

Gordon said some worry what the rebranding will do for student familiarity with the fund.

“It [the name of the fee] has gone through many changes,” said Alex La Vallee, AS vice president for business and operations. “Campus population has an incredible turnover, so students who knew about the SAF will hopefully be looped in enough to know what this new title is and those who come in to the university will hopefully go for that renewed standpoint of linking sustainability with the equity and justice.”

The name change would broaden what types of projects the fund could cover, and the Board is considering a 20 cent increase in fees. Currently, the fee costs students 70 cents per quarter.

Student Technology Fee

The AS Student Technology Fee Committee is evaluating the amount and use of the Student Technology Fee, said Hunter Eider, AS vice president for academic affairs. Eider said the current fee covers funds for the Student Technology Center, computer lab renewal and replacement and print quotas. The fee is $35 per quarter for students taking six or more credits and $17.50 per quarter for students taking less than six credits.

The committee suggested keeping the fee the same, but changing the allocation of the funds. This would include increasing the allotment of funds to computer lab renewal and replacement and decreasing the allotment of funds to student print quotas. Currently, $2 of the fee per student is going toward the 50-page print quota students receive every quarter.

The new allocation suggests $1.75 per student going toward the print quota and the number of prints increasing from 50 to 60 pages. It also suggests $2 per student being allocated to the Digital Media Center, a resource providing green screens and professional video equipment to all students on campus.

The AS wants to emphasize that the fee amount would not change, but the distribution of the money collected from the fee would.

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