A crowd of students, faculty and staff gathered for the annual Associated Students Congress yesterday to present and consider critical factors for change and improvement at UCSB.
Shortly after the event’s start at 6 p.m., organizers shared the results of a recent A.S. survey that had asked students to list their three greatest concerns about the student body. The forum, which included a panel from the A.S. Executive Council and allowed for public comment periods, saw about 50 people attend. According to the A.S. survey, UCSB students are most concerned about the university’s lack of fiscal transparency, a need for campus diversity and dwindling support for physical and mental health services.
Event organizer and moderator Noor Aljawad, a second-year sociology and Middle Eastern studies major, said the A.S. Congress is annual forum for students to voice their woes to their student leadership.
“I hope that people can see it as an opportunity to come together and find possible solutions to problems that we all face,” Aljawad said. “Tonight is going to be a step in getting the process of change into motion.”
Additionally, alumna Chrystine Lawson, A.S. President in 2002-03, said the conference was called to stress the importance of open-mindedness and elimination of labels.
“If you leave tonight with one thing, I want it to be to get out of the box,” Lawson said. “I noticed during my time in A.S. that when people put you into a box with a label based on your appearance, etc., you don’t get the chance to be a part of the process in full. We need to learn to break through how people see us and create our own
Aside from discussing students’ most pressing concerns, the A.S. Executive Board also considered a scope of projects to improve campus operations.
A.S. Internal Vice President Jake Elwood said the university needs to improve student accessibility to the campus.
“Something we’re working on that people should be seeing the effects of soon is turning the UCen into a student resource center for people studying during finals,” Elwood said. “We also are working on parking issues concerning night and weekend parking.”
Furthermore, Lawson said students need to be aware how important their lock-in fees are for sustaining student services.
“If the process that brings about changes is called into question, the students lose the ability to have control over their own money,” Lawson said. “Student fee autonomy is important because it’s the students’ money.”
Ultimately, Feminist Studies Dept. Chair Eileen Boris said, students must remain committed to healthy activism on all fronts to protect their needs and community.
“It’s just as valuable for people to contribute to social justice through their researching skills as it is to contribute by showing up to protests,” Boris said. “When I started out as a college student, I realized that going to protests is just as necessary as organizing them and that having something to fight for is just as important as having something to fight against. We need hope to dare to struggle and to win.”