Dialogue is being fostered between UWT’s chancellor and students

Chancellor Mark Pagano met with student leaders representing a diverse group of student organizations to hear their current concerns Nov. 3.

Pagano said his goal is to “increase and spread our interaction with students [by] hearing directly from students.” He seeks to involve more of the UWT student body besides Associated Students of University of Washington Tacoma.

ASUWT, First Generation Fellows, Latinxs Embracing Education, Black Student Union and Campus Adult Ministry had leaders present at the meeting.

First Gen Fellows was particularly concerned about finding a space for their organization instead of being housed under the office of Student Engagement. This would allow an on-campus home for students who are the first in their family to attend college — providing community, support and resources.

Diana Algomeda-Villada — president of First Gen — hopes to find more financial support and visibility from the university. Encouraging faculty to include First Gen in their syllabi alongside other resources listed — like the TLC and Counseling Center — was recommended to Chancellor Pagano.

Another topic of discussion in the meeting was how UW Tacoma can better support students who may be affected by the repeal of DACA — especially the university’s Latinx community.

“Latinxs Embracing Education wants faculty and staff to be trained in order to support undocumented students and recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program,” said Karen Martinez Gonzalez,Vice President of LEE.

Martinez Gonzalez believes student support services — like Financial Aid and Office of the Registrar — should be a focus of this training.

The student groups unanimously agreed that they look forward to the future hiring of a new assistant chancellor for equity and inclusion. A main concern in the meeting was the Center for Equity and Inclusion — finding it a new home and better resources.

The idea to move the Center has been advocated by student leaders for several years. Many of the offices housing the CEI and related staff are unconnected and spread out. While the actual Center is on the ground floor of West Coast Grocery, offices for supporting staff are located in other rooms, buildings and floors. Bringing all of these into one location would allow for greater efficiency and service.

Along with being decentralized, student activities have outgrown the current size of the Center.

ASUWT president Arwa Dubad believes moving the space would give the Center a higher priority to the university and serve students better.

“CEI currently lacks funding, care and support,” Dubad said.

The meeting with Chancellor Pagano highlights the importance and power of the student voice at UWT. As noted in the meeting, some student leaders are disillusioned by inactivity on the part of the university in multiple areas — including the years-long wait to find a new home for CEI. Dubad summed up many leaders’ frustration when she said, “Seeing no action is tiring.”

Along with hearing from students directly, Pagano has made it a priority to include students on every search and hire committee for new staff — faculty are an independent entity. Four students sit on the ongoing search committee to find a new assistant chancellor for equity and inclusion.

Change at UWT requires both student advocates and university administration to work together. However, student leaders should not be alone in this effort — it requires the participation of the entire student body