A demonstration to convince the university administrators to the top floor of the Tioga Library entered tense new territory Jan. 31.
Associated Students of UW Tacoma — ASUWT — President Arwa Dubad called Chancellor Mark Pagano “the master of this university,” and told students they “have to fight the master.”
Pagano immediately announced to student government his commitment to move the Center to the prime library space. Dubad said she thinks the announcement should be made public to all UWT students.
The demonstration was — according to an online announcement — to protest “admins neglect of student needs,” and focused on the struggle to decide the fate of the Center.
The Center, currently located in multiple rooms in West Coast Grocery, has outgrown its original location designed as a temporary space. Dubad has made finding a larger, more unified space for the Center one of her priorities during her time in office.
“Because of how small [the Center] is, we will never see its true power,” Dubad said.
Dubad said the Center serves as a space for all students and helps implement equity across campus.
Several options have been proposed for either expanding or relocating the Center. These include remodeling and reconfiguring a large portion of the ground floor of WCG, relocation to the Mattress Factory or relocating to the fourth floor of the Tioga Library Building.
Moving the Center to the fourth floor of Tioga was originally proposed by Chancellor Mark Pagano in October, and was embraced as the best option by many student leaders, including Dubad.
Pagano chose to wait to make the decision until the new assistant chancellor for Equity and Inclusion was hired to allow them full participation in the decision and planning. However, Dubad and other students have been asking for a written commitment from Pagano to move the Center to Tioga with an agreed timeline since its proposal.
An email was sent from Pagano’s office Jan. 24, still detailing the three possible options and a timeline with the new Center opening fall quarter 2018. Because of this, ASUWT felt administrators had not listened to students’ wishes.
ASUWT responded with a protest detailing their frustration of not being heard. The organization got the word out through flyers around the university detailing their demand that the Center be moved to Tioga by June 2018. ASUWT ended the poster with the statement: “We will not be ignored; we will be heard.”
The protest in Commerce Plaza was headed by Dubad, who used strong language when discussing the issue. Among the audience was Chancellor Pagano, Vice Chancellor for Student and Enrollment Services Mentha Hynes Wilson, Assistant Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion Deirdre Raynor and other campus administrators.
Dubad felt it was officially time to take a stand publicly, referring to the chancellor as the “master” of UWT. She made it clear that she was done waiting and wanted action to be taken immediately.
After demanding for a commitment to move the Center to Tioga, Dubad allowed Pagano to speak at the protest. Pagano publicly agreed to send an email the next day detailing administrators’ commitment to moving the Center to Tioga.
Instead, Pagano’s office sent an email exclusively to ASUWT stating his commitment to moving the Center to the Tioga Library Building. Dubad still believes an email to the entire student body is in order, explaining that “it will hold [Pagano] more accountable and put students at ease.”
Dubad spoke after the protest about ASUWT’s growing frustration with the administration’s inaction and why they decided to hold a protest.
“I don’t want to fail the students. They voted for me because they believe in me and know I would get things done,” Dubad said. “I thought this campus would become better if I just showed it the light.”
Discussing her remarks at the protest, Dubad explained her goal was to take ASUWT’s activism outside of the system.
“Push the system, fight the system (sic) is the only way to get justice for students.” Dubad said. “Everything I’ve done has been in-house work … I have never stood outside that scope.”
Dubad hoped that by bringing the issue out from behind closed doors, administrators would be pushed to take the issue seriously. In that way, Dubad believes the protest was successful.
“I see now that the campus is taking [moving the Center] seriously,” Dubad said.
In an interview after the protest, Chancellor Pagano was clear he had “increased the student voice in major campus decisions” — including both ASUWT and other student leaders. He also stated that he is “committed to working with ASUWT.”
Pagano’s office had only received the final assessments for two of the Center relocation options Jan. 19. He thought it would be important to include the new assistant chancellor for Equity and Inclusion in the process, but now sees Tioga as the only option. Chancellor Pagano officially committed to moving the Center to Tioga in the exclusive email to ASUWT:
“We have now determined as a campus community, with significant input from students including ASUWT, that the new home of the Center for Equity and Inclusion will be located on the fourth floor of Tioga Library Building,” Pagano wrote. “We will be working with new leadership, existing Center staff and student leaders on the design and efficacy of the space and the timeline for completion of the project. We are looking at a project completion by fall 2018. The completion date depends on the complexity and construction requirements of the agreed upon design.”