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Monday, July 13, 2020

AS Board hears proposals for Blue Resource Center, advisory committee for food and housing insecurity

By Mallory Biggar and Lauren Gallup

On April 26, the Associated Students Executive Board heard proposals to create a Blue Resource Center and an advisory committee for food and housing insecurity.

The board also addressed an anti-waste tax referendum, and funding the Queer Guild Summit on April 19.

Blue Group, a resource and support community for undocumented students at Western, is collaborating with the AS Student Advocacy and Identity Resource Center to create the Blue Resource Center, which would serve undocumented Western students. Camilla Mejia, AS vice president  of diversity, sponsored this motion with Alberto Rodriguez-Escobedo, interim coordinator for Equity & Identity Resource Centers.

“The Blue Group has been working for about three, four plus years on developing a resource center,” Rodriguez-Escobedo said.

The goal is for the Blue Resource Center to be in operation for 2019-20 academic year.

In the beginning, Rodriguez-Escobedo said that DACA recipients would be able to apply for the student positions, and eventually they said their hope is to also be able to put processes in place to hire undocumented students.

According to the proposal, the Blue Resource Center would have two paid student positions. The center would function like the Student Advocacy and Identity Resource Center, according to the proposal.

Assistant director for student representation and governance Leti Romo addressed how the Blue Resource Center will function.

“Last year, the Student Advocacy and Identity Resource Center went through a restructure, and so what each center has now is a coordinator that focuses on advocacy, a coordinator that focuses on educational program and a coordinator that focuses on community engagement,” Romo said.

The Blue Resource Center would have a coordinator that focuses on educational programming specifically for campus, according to Romo. This will create opportunities for people oncampus to learn, and to engage to be better allies, Romo said.

The board will be voting on the Blue Resource Center proposal at the next AS Executive Board meeting scheduled for Monday, May 6.

Rodriguez-Escobedo also presented the charge and charter for the new AS Food and Housing Insecurity Advisory Committee. Although this working group has already been in place, it hasn’t been as structured as it could be, according to Rodriguez-Escobedo.

The idea is that all three of these offices will collaborate and form a larger committee that includes people in the conversation whose voices are currently being heard from, they said.

Rodriguez-Escobedo currently meets with Western Feeding in the Office of Sustainability and the people from the Birnam Wood food pantry project. This committee would be an extension of this working group.  

“That’s the creation for this, is to ensure that my position [and other pro staff positions] are held accountable to doing this work, [that] we have already been doing,” they said.

In creating this committee, Rodriguez-Escobedo said they want to include more people, especially students, in the conversation.

“I also envision this committee as an advisory committee on how to navigate the [food pantries.] Whether that’s merging everything into one centralized space, or keeping it separate. Whether that’s popping up pantries in more locations, or not doing that,” they said.

This committee would report to the AS Executive Board through the AS VP for Sustainability, a new position for 2019-20 academic year, according to the charge and charter.

Another proposal to fund the Queer Guild Summit was presented by the Queer Resource Center engagement coordinator Nichole Vargas, on April 19. According to the proposal, the summit will bring together queer and trans-focused clubs, to maintain accountability and adhere to Western’s mission statement.

“We [the clubs] all have similar issues, and if they affect us together, so we have to work together,” Vargas said.  

AS VP of Academic Affairs Levi Eckman said the club should receive an additional $1,000 each year in addition to the requested $5,000 in funding. According to Nate Jo, AS VP of business and operations, the Queer Guild Summit pilot program would receive reserve funding from the Associated Students.

An upcoming referendum for an anti-waste tax on disposable cups was proposed on April 19, by Zero Waste Western, to change menu prices for coffee and other beverages to incentivize students to bring their own reusable cups, according to Zach Griffin, a Zero Waste Western intern.

The AS Executive Board said menu prices are ultimately up to Aramark, and until Zero Waste Western and Aramark can come to agreement, the exact amount students will be paying is still undecided.

The AS Executive Board decided to rework the language used on the ballot and make the initiative public. The referendum passed with five executive board members in favor of the proposal and one abstention.

According to the AS election ballot, students would vote on whether or not they support the price change to incentivize utilizing reusable cups. Students who bring reusable cups would only be charged the cost of the beverage, while buyers without their own cup will be charged the cost of the beverage and disposable cup.

AS Executive Board elections began on Monday, April 29 and will close at 2 p.m. on Friday, May 3. Students will be able to cast their votes on the anti-waste referendum in this election. Levi Eckman, AS VP of academic affairs, said the goal is to try to get voter turnout from 17% to 25% or higher.

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