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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Associated Students Board discusses lobbying goals

By Olivia Kearney

At the Associated Students Board meeting on Friday, Jan. 11, the board of directors, student senate and students and faculty reviewed large points in their ASWWU Legislative Agenda.

Natasha Hessami, the AS Vice President of Governmental Affairs, discussed the AS WWU Legislative Agenda, which was compiled and finalized by the AS Legislative Affairs Committee. This agenda included seven topics that are to be lobbied on come Jan. 21.

The first lobbying point of the agenda expanding access to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Degrees. This would guarantee funding for expansion of the College of Science and Engineering.

A bottlenecking effect has been seen within the sciences at Western, and therefore the expansion of STEM to meet the State’s demand for STEM majors is the university’s number one priority, Hessami said.

This funding would expand the STEM department and therefore improve graduation time and expand access to underrepresented communities within STEM, according to Hessami.

Franchine Ninh, a computer science major, is one of a group of students who have been working closely with Brad Johnson, dean of the College of Science and Engineering to include diversity and involve student decisions within the STEM departments. Ninh is pro-lobbying because of the possibilities involving access to students of color and underrepresented communities within STEM that the expansion of the department will provide, Ninh said.

The second lobbying point listed in the legislative agenda is for environmental protections. These protections are to be put in place to mitigate effects on climate change. Some of these protections include steps such as a statewide bag ban and carbon-free utility providers.

Funding for the State Need Grant was also discussed and listed on the agenda as a possible solution for addressing the rising cost of tuition that is currently inaccessible for many students.  The State Need Grant is a program that assists low-income undergraduates by awarding them grants. According to the agenda, all students who qualify for the State Need Grant deserve the funds provided to complete higher education.

The fourth lobbying point is increased support for undocumented students. One detail of this support is that of undocumented students’ rights to work on campus regardless of DACA status. Another important detail is limiting the expansion of the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.

Another lobbying point will be support for survivors of sexual assault. The agenda lists actions such as increased funding for specialized personnel, resources and trained staff to respond to and prevent sexual violence.

Topics surrounding K-12 education are also being lobbied with the goal of improving the Healthy Youth Act which was created to ensure every school would provide sexual health education that was “medically and scientifically accurate, age-appropriate, appropriate for students regardless of gender, race, disability status, or sexual orientation, and includes information about abstinence and other methods of preventing unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.” This lobbying point also includes not only supporting and passing SB 5023 to develop a model ethnic studies curriculum for grades 7-12, but also requiring comprehensive HIV and LGBTQIA+ education and healthy sex education in K-12 public schools.

Lastly, Western plans to lobby for dedicated revenue in order to decrease high tuition costs, which disproportionately affect marginalized communities and allocate money towards financial aid , the agenda describes. The ASWWU agenda is recommending implementing progressive reasonable sources for revenue in order to “propel Washington state towards equity, both in tax policy and higher education” through steps including points such as “increasing the Business and Occupation tax with at least $500 million dedicated for higher education” and “lowering the minimum value of an estate to qualify for the Estate Tax.”

The full Legislative agenda can be found here: https://media.as.wwu.edu/up/2019/01/0003031_lobbyday_pamphlet_r32.png

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