On April 28, Western’s student body elected Ana Ramirez as the Associated Students vice president of governmental affairs. She is also the first undocumented student to be elected to the AS Board. However, administrators could remove Ramirez from her position due to her lack of work authorization. This should not be the case.
Ramirez has applied for work authorization, but Western’s administration claims because she hasn’t yet received it, she cannot be employed by the university in any capacity. Ramirez says her attorney disagrees. Ramirez believes she could be paid through a stipend, university grant, scholarship or even deferring payment until her authorization has been approved.
It is undoubtedly more difficult to pay an undocumented student without work authorization, but it is the school’s job to make it happen. The student body chose Ana Ramirez because her vision resonates with the way students view Western’s potential.
Removing Ramirez from the position she was granted by her peers not only disturbs the democratic process of the AS elections, but also displays Western’s administration as actively ignoring the needs of the students they are meant to be serving, including the needs of undocumented students seeking the same opportunities as other students on campus.
It’s no secret that Western students have been feeling distant from their administration lately. Cases like the Resident Advisers movement, the Highland Hall break-in and the readmission of a student convicted of sexual assault have served as examples of the continuing transparency and communication issues the school has been facing with its students.
Ramirez’s case was not exempt from the school’s poor communication habits either. A press release from Ramirez detailed the administration’s lack of communication with her, stating administrators excluded her from meetings, withheld information and refused to answer her questions. The release also said Ramirez heard the school was looking to hire another student to replace her only because another AS board member told her.
Since then, administrators have met with Ramirez. But at this point, the issue has dragged on for months.
In order to win back the trust of the student body, the administration is going to have to show students that it will finally be willing to stand up for the issues we care about, starting with keeping Ramirez in office.
Early on in the 2016-17 school year, President Sabah Randhawa expressed that Western was committed to its undocumented students.
“Western has supported undocumented students in the past,” Randhawa said in an email to students and staff in November. “This commitment of support by the university for these students continues unabated.”
What time could be better than now for Western to prove to its students these are words they continue to stand by, and show our undocumented peers Western truly promotes equal opportunity for all of its students? If the administration wants to rebuild its relationship with the student body, it needs to show us that it is going to walk the walk and stand up for what it says it believes in.
Western’s administration has a duty to meet the needs of its students, regardless of the tough situations it may put them in. It is Western’s job to make the compromises and find a way for Ramirez to take her rightful place in office.