Campus LifeNews

Student government pushes for more independence

Associated Students of the University of Washington Tacoma is seeking more independence structurally and financially to better serve students. Arwa Dubad, ASUWT’s president for this academic year, has made this issue one of her paramount concerns.

The idea of nonprofit status for ASUWT originated with previous president Sophia Nop — 2015-2016 — but laid dormant until Dubad was elected president. However, the student government recently discovered various complications which came along with nonprofit status — like annual business forms and taxes.

Dubad has re-imagined this effort to reflect the most efficient way ASUWT can achieve their goals without the complications of nonprofit status.

“ASUWT belongs to [one of] the biggest and strongest nonprofits in the U.S. — University of Washington — but [our] structure did not reflect that,” Dubad said.

She explains for ASUWT to fulfill its duty to students, it must be granted more autonomy to better represent the student body. This can be achieved by moving the student government from under the Office of Student Engagement — where it currently resides — to become an independent entity.

Dubad believes this organizational independence would allow ASUWT to better “represent the student body” and give more power to student interests higher up. ASUWT would be given more authority to govern its own affairs and better oversee how student interests and money is being handled by the university.

“Independence over our organization would help us to achieve two of our main goals: give more power to the student voice and handle everything with honesty and transparency,” Dubad said.

The second aspect of granting ASUWT independence is through funding. Currently, ASUWT is only funded through the university’s service and activities fee paid by students quarterly. Dubad envisions the creation of an ASUWT fund account originating from voluntary donations. The fund account would be in addition to continued support from the university.

According to Joshua Knudson, vice chancellor for advancement at UWT, the future model could use the UW Foundation.

“The University of Washington Foundation is a nonprofit, public 501(c) (3) organization that advances the mission of the University of Washington by seeking and securing private support for its programs in service to students and society,” Knudson said.

The UW Foundation is, according to Knudson, a “conduit for making gifts to University of Washington students, faculty, programs and/or facilities; gifts are applied to the UW fund or allocated as designated by the donors.”

An ASUWT fund account using this foundation would give student leadership the financial means and independence to further support UWT students — allowing ASUWT’s president to allocate funds at her discretion. For example, one vision Dubad is passionate about is the creation of a textbook loan program to help students who can’t afford textbooks.

Dubad believes in an urgency to this effort.

“If we start this now, we can empower student government and help future generations,” she said.

Organizational and financial independence would allow ASUWT to represent the student body with more autonomy, control and flexibility.