ASUWT President Vincent Da speaks on plans for future quarters and progress made in student engagement.
The Associated Students of the University of Washington Tacoma President, Vincent Da, explained his optimism regarding the ways in which ASUWT has progressed in its mission of helping its students, programs students can look for and the school’s plans for the spring quarter.
Pointing at the country’s state, Da said there are talks of possibly increasing in-person or hybrid services on campus by 25% and finding more ways to deal with campus inequities.
“I feel at this point that the campus is feeling more hopeful and optimistic about things changing for the better,” Da said. “We are so close to the 1-year mark since this began last year in March, and there are many things we have learned since then.”
In preparation for the upcoming spring and summer quarters, Da explained that a cautious return to campus could help more students who have been inequitably affected by the pandemic. Though the spring quarter will likely be hosting events online, summer is yet to be decided.
“We are hoping that we may be able to transition back to campus to hold hybrid events if deemed safe to do so by healthcare officials,” Da said. “The pandemic has highlighted the inequities our students face, and with that being said, we have a more focused direction on highlighting key resources such as the pantry, psychology and counseling services, and emergency aid.”
Earlier in the quarter, Da explained that the ASUWT set goals for improving the campus climate via the three pillars of advocacy, engagement and student resources. Now, he said they’re starting to see good results.
“?I would say that we have progressed really well with our objectives and specifically advocacy and engagement,” Da said. “We were able to host the annual Tri-Campus Huskies on the Hill event [and] bring the three campuses together to advocate on legislative initiatives that support the success of our students and campus.”
Da said that for the pillar of student engagement, the ASUWT and the Center for Equity & Inclusion hosted a RealTalk discussion dedicated to honoring Black History Month by highlighting prominent African American civil rights and social justice movements.
Da explained that the virtual events help bolster student engagement, have been successful and that the ASUWT is looking forward to returning to campus at some point.
“We have heard that our partnerships have been great and that awarding students with free swag prizes is a great way to bring more people to attend,” Da explained. “This quarter [compared] to previous quarters, we are hearing more positive news from our administration that a clear road map to a return to normal on campus is forthcoming and that we must do our part to decrease and slow down this pandemic through community efforts.”
Despite being off campus with many eager to return, students are still paying fees for many initiatives and programs. Da urged students to utilize as many of these resources as possible to improve their mental, physical and emotional health.
“I always like to connect students to use our resources that are available and free on campus since they pay a student fee to fund these initiatives,” Da said.
Da urged students to utilize the student food pantry, attend student activities board events, and try out psychological and counseling services. Other than the Counseling and Psychological Services, he also pointed to Registered Student Organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, who dedicate their time to improve mental health and support for students on campus.
Up next in the ASUWT’s mission of improving the campus climate, Da said the Campus Climate Task Force would help collect data and prioritize the programs or events students would like to have on campus. This way, funding is utilized efficiently and done in a way where everyone can benefit.
“The Campus Climate Task Force has spent the whole winter quarter analyzing and gathering feedback from constituent groups to form recommendations and action items that will be presented to the whole campus through community forums in spring,” Da said.
The task force is chaired by the Vice-Chancellor of Equity & Inclusion, Dr. James McShay, and Social Work Staff Dr. Marian Harris. Da said that with the data gathered from analysis, the Campus Climate Task Force will work with what the community of students, faculty, and staff want to prioritize in the future.
The ASUWT is also trying to improve the experience of this year’s graduation ceremony. Da said preliminary talks with campus administration are underway to make the ceremony more enjoyable and meet safety guidelines.
“Last year, we collected great feedback that the ceremony did not fulfill the student experience,” Da said. “We want to make sure that this year, there is an emphasis on the student experience and that if things progress well with the pandemic, a possibility of hosting a hybrid format of graduation.”
Da explained that it’s impossible to implement every single event or program recommended by students due to financial constraints caused by the pandemic. He said they hope that the community’s feedback will help them narrow and invest in things that are most important to everyone on campus. Da then gave the words of encouragement to anyone dealing with the pandemic’s repercussions as he does with his team.
“Our team preaches to one another is to always make sure to take care of yourself, physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s okay to take a break, ask for an extension or reach out to services,” Da said. “We are all going through different things together, and that we are here to support you in any way possible.”