Concerns arise from students during student town hall

The Associated Students of the University of Washington Tacoma hosted a student town hall meeting, with President Vincent Da and Director of Internal Communication and Affairs Kirsten Hargett fielding questions and moderating discussion. The town hall, which took place in William Phillips Hall on Feb. 20, featured guest panelists Sergeant Robert Whitfield from Campus Safety and Security, Program Operations Manager James Sinding from Parking and Transportation and Associate Director of Maintenance and Operations Tessa Coleman, as well as Chancellor Mark Pagano.

The primary topic of the questions surrounded Customs and Border Patrol being present at the upcoming career fair on Feb. 26. Many students expressed their concerns that the UW’s mission statement of inclusion was not being followed and feared that undocumented students are being put at risk by allowing CBP to attend the career fair.

“I know that the career fair has been on many people’s minds,” Da said. “ASUWT is working on something … we are coming up with some resolutions.”

At first, the conversation was about Immigration and Customs Enforcement being present at the career fair. Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Mentha Hynes-Wilson assured students that ICE was not involved with the career fair.

“ICE is not coming to campus, it is Customs and Border Patrol,” said Hynes-Wilson. 

 “They are two different entities.” 

Many students were still concerned with the safety of undocumented students. Others were concerned about the undocumented students missing the career fair due to staying home and away from potential harm. Students were again reassured that the chances of an undocumented student being arrested merely for being undocumented is very unlikely. 

A possible solution that was brought up from the meeting regarding the CBP issue was asking for an officer who does not have the power to arrest so students felt safer. Hynes-Wilson responded by mentioning that the officers will have a code of conduct like all students at UWT do. She also stated that if students feel unsafe about CBP being on campus, they should go talk to an advisor. 

One audience member brought up that if a student feels uncomfortable with CBP and shares this with an advisor, then they would be outing themselves. Their argument was that no undocumented student should have to out themselves, implicitly or otherwise.

Hynes-Wilson reassured students that would not happen. She also offered to stick around after the town hall to hear further concerns from the students regarding the issue. Several students took her up on her offer of doing a focus group, which then facilitated a continued discussion about CPB’s involvement with the career fair. 

ASUWT also showed some of the projects they were working on. Pre-major Senators Seonhwa Pak and Sydney Horen are working on a sophomore class retreat. Urban Studies Senator Dennis Adjetey shared that he is working on an alumni association and mentorship program. 

Next, the focus shifted to city and legislation updates, such as improving the safety the crosswalk between the campus and the Holiday Inn. There are also many bills being worked on like Undocumented Student Loans, Title IX and Homeless Student Support.

Some upcoming ASUWT events that were mentioned included the Legislative Action Committee that is being formed, census training and they previewed a new project called Husky NewsCast.

“We’re still trying to practice our test runs.” Da said. “We’re gonna work on our quality, so just be in tune for that.”

Concerns over campus security were brought up, including the vehicle break-ins at Court 17 and the gate to Court 17’s garage not closing at 11:00 p.m. like it is supposed to. Safety and Security members responded to these concerns by mentioning the gate had been having technical issues, but it has since been fixed and is working fine now. There is hope that the gate will be replaced for the long term. They also encouraged the immediate contact of Campus Safety or Campus Parking if the gate is open past 11:00 p.m.

Regarding the break ins, the best way to prevent those is to make sure to not leave anything valuable visible in your car. According to Whitfield from Campus Safety and Security, there are functional cameras in Court 17’s garage and there is footage from some break-ins, but there is still a lot of dead space that is not seen by the cameras. 

“Pass it along to your fellow students, to the faculty and staff: make sure nothing is left out in sight that’s tempting to bad guys around here,” said Whitfield. “… It takes only about 30 seconds for someone to break into a vehicle, get what they need and get out, and that is what we are experiencing right now.”

Students inquired about what to do about these issues if they felt their voices were not being heard. Hynes-Wilson assured the students that they were heard and also encouraged students to protest if they did not feel that they were.

“We embrace the idea of debate and discourse,” said Hynes-Wilson. 

She encouraged everyone to read the student code of conduct when it comes to protesting. There is a possibility of a synthesized code of conduct with a “Five do’s and don’ts on protesting” being provided by Hynes-Wilson, along with the Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Life Bernard Anderson.

“We love our job, we love serving students, and serving you,” said Chancellor Mark Pagano.

Vice Chancellor Mentha Hynes-Wilson led a focused discussion after the town hall to work on real solutions for the students’ grievances concerning CBP attending the career fair next week.
Representatives from the Progressive Student Union voiced their dissent on the university permitting Customs and Border Patrol to table at the career fair on Feb. 26.