The Giant “W” statue is a misplaced idea and I found myself vehemently nodding along as I read the “The Giant ‘W’ is a Stupid Idea” article by Cory Smith in the opinion column found in [the April 27th issue of] The Ledger. I am proud to know that UWT has such astute reporters with pens not afraid to speak what’s on their mind. It is also unfortunate that only a select few were asked to be a part of this process and that a statue of a giant “W” is what they came up with, so that we may all be more like Seattle.
UWT has much bigger problems on campus than the lack of a statue. I’m a senior now, who has fought hard to try and make this university a better place, and it’s because I care. I care about this place that I have come to love. I care that our students are receiving the proper support in order to make their education successful. I care about UWT, and anyone that read the article should know that’s why you wrote and published it too. Now, I’m not saying that those that made the decision to raise funds for the giant “W” don’t care too, rather it has been my personal experience with these people that they love UWT just as much, if not more. However, I also find it disturbing with what UWT decided to do with the money raised from the Senior Gift, which is why I am inspired by this article. Hopefully, it has inspired others too.
Yes, the big “W” is flashy, but what real significance does that play for the actual students that go to UWT, in their day-to-day lives? How does a “W” make our education better? What does a “W” do for the so many of our students that are in real need? Being trained in issues of social justice, I’m always finding myself advocating for those that are most vulnerable in our community. So understandably, I’m going to care about those most vulnerable at UWT.
In thinking about vulnerable populations, one doesn’t have to think for too long before one finds empathy for our students that have children. Actually, since we’re a non-traditional campus, it makes sense that student-parents make up a significant portion of our student body. From this, one might think that UWT, being the non-traditional university that it is, would have a childcare center for those of us that have kids. But we don’t. UWT does not serve one of its most vulnerable populations that pay to go to this school just like the rest of us. UWT does subsidize childcare costs, however, the subsidy is a band-aid when compared to the costs that are exerted onto our student-parents in the form of time, energy, and the actual cost of childcare.
In case you didn’t know, the cost of childcare in the state of Washington is tied for 10th in the nation for having the least affordable center-based care for a four-year-old in 2013. On average and in Washington, it costs $9,306 per year for just one child to be enrolled in a childcare center when their parent(s) is at work. Looking out to the larger picture, the average income for a single mother in Washington is $25,873. So that means that the single moms of Washington are paying 36 percent of their income on childcare costs for one child. If they have more children, then they’re definitely paying more. And if they’re a student, then they’re probably paying an even higher percentage of their income.
Another critical component to this is time. The time that it takes for UWT student-parents to drive to far-away places to drop their kids off at childcare, go to school, learn, leave, run some errands, and then drive back to pick their kids up, and then drive home, and if they’re lucky, they have an hour to spare for studying and other things that they should be doing in order to be successful as a student. Way back in October, at a social hour for student-parents which was organized by Laura Mochinski with the Child Care Assistance Program and hosted by the Children’s Museum, I took a quick poll of the student-parents there and asked them how long it took for them to drive their kids to childcare. They responded with times ranging from 10 minutes to 60 minutes, round-trip! There are only so many minutes in the day and some of us are spending a big bulk of our time driving and/or sitting in traffic, burning valuable minutes that they could be better spent with their kids, or studying, or resting. When I asked the student-parents how difficult it is being a student-parent, they overwhelmingly replied that it has been the most difficult experience of their lives. If there was a childcare center on or near campus to serve them, these burdensome issues could be alleviated for a lot of UWT folks. Which brings me back to the original point of this letter about the legitimacy of the ultimate decision for a statue. With such endemic issues like child care, why couldn’t we use the Senior Gift for something that could actually help our students succeed at UWT? Why have superficial desires superseded the actual and practical needs of UWT students? Childcare is the example I’ve focused on because I want students to know how important it is for UWT to have this childcare center pushed through. However, the Senior Gift could have been put toward any number of other worthy and just causes too; just as Cory Smith pointed out with his example of Tahoma West. The money that is being raised for the giant “W” could and should have been raised for something that will actually benefit the students that go to UWT. A giant “W” statue serves for, at best, a nice photo-up, but practical services like Tahoma West, or a child care center, or any other number of worthy causes would serve the actual UWT student for a lifetime.
So thank you, Ledger, for putting out a publication that inspires people to raise logical concerns about how our university is run. Keep up the good work!
Seth Lundgaard, ASUWT Senator
Cory Smith’s article has sparked lively debate on campus and online. What do you think of the giant “W” idea? Send your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org