ASWCC Student Government gives every student a voice

The ASWCC Student Government, which includes the Executive Board and the Senate, is working on several projects aimed at improving students’ experiences at WCC and amplifying their voices.

ASWCC is the acronym for Associated Students of Whatcom Community College, whereas the ASWCC Student Government is the group of students selected to represent all student interests and act as the voices for the entire student body. The student government works in close partnership with the Student Life Engagement Team.

Krystan Andreason is the ASWCC Vice President for Campus Advocacy. Photo courtesy of WCC website

Krystan Andreason, ASWCC Vice President for Campus Advocacy, believes one of the main functions of the student government is to be liaisons between students and the administration. Andreason says as a member of several Executive Board committees, she often communicates with James Siegel, Vice President of Student Services, about student perspectives and ideas. Siegel then voices many of these concerns and comments to the President of the college and the President’s Cabinet.

Another aspect of the ASWCC student government’s role is to be a visible presence on campus supporting students and finding out what students want. Weekly events like “Coffee with a Student Leader” in the Learning Commons every Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. aim to make student leaders more visible and accessible to the entire student population. Despite their efforts, members of the student government admit that engagement with the on-campus community has been a challenge, especially after the return to campus following the height of the pandemic.

“The pandemic really threw us all off,” said Andreason.

Andreason expresses a sentiment shared among many college students in the post-pandemic academic environment. In an effort to reach out to students and build community on campus, and to address many students’ feelings of isolation and anxiety, the student government has been focusing on providing opportunities for de-stressing and mental relaxation. Such opportunities include every Tuesday’s “Mario Kart” playing and the recent “De-Stress with ICPNs” event at the Simpson Intercultural Center.

The Structure of the ASWCC Student Council 

According to the WCC student government webpage, “The work plan is a guiding document for The Associated Students of Whatcom Community College Executive Board, Programing and Diversity Board and Senate. It details the goals, principles, and vision of the three pillars of student government at Whatcom Community College.”

The ASWCC Executive Board acts as the main governing body of student government. Some of their responsibilities are discussing and implementing the ASWCC Work Plan. Additionally, the Executive Board oversees the committees on Health and Wellness and Social Justice and receives updates on civic engagement within the community and on campus. This includes student engagement, advocacy for all students and creating and maintaining a legacy of sustainable programming for students. 

The ASWCC Executive Board and Senators enjoys pizza while in Olympia attending [conference]. On the left, front to back: Trevor Austin - ASWCC Senator, Mariam Mohd - ASWCC Executive Vice President, Bella Nguyen - ASWCC Vice President for Operations and Dansie Lanz - ASWCC Senator. On the right, front to back: Krystan Andreason - ASWCC Vice President for Campus Advocacy, Heidi Farani - Director for Student Life and Development, Alaina Hirsch - ASWCC President and Devin Luna - ASWCC Senator.
The ASWCC Executive Board and Senators enjoys pizza while visiting the capital in Olympia. On the left, front to back: Trevor Austin – ASWCC Senator, Mariam Mohd – ASWCC Executive Vice President, Bella Nguyen – ASWCC Vice President for Operations and Dansie Lanz – ASWCC Senator. On the right, front to back: Krystan Andreason – ASWCC Vice President for Campus Advocacy, Heidi Farani – Director for Student Life and Development, Alaina Hirsch – ASWCC President and Devin Luna – ASWCC Senator.
The second part of the three-part council structure, the Programing and Diversity Board, has recently seen some changes. According to Andreason, “The Programing and Diversity Board has been transitioned into being the Student Life Engagement Team, so the Engagement Team is filling those responsibilities, and we are in the process of updating our bylaws and other documents to change the language. [The Engagement Team members] are planning and facilitating weekly activities and assisting with other projects for students to come together, engage, and connect with one another.”  

The final member of the team, the ASWCC Senate, is the portion of student government that makes decisions about funding, programming, events and opportunities. The twelve senators combined with the Executive Board make up the ASWCC Senate. Senate members must keep a list of 20 active students as their constituents to ensure that all student voices and concerns are considered.

As the main voting body for students on campus, the Senate makes decisions regarding how funds from Services and Activities (S&A) Fees are allocated. They receive reports from recipients of S&A funds about how the funds are being used. Most extracurricular, co-curricular activities and many student support programs are supported by S&A fees. All students can bring their questions and concerns to the open floor portion of senate meetings.

The Executive Board and the Senate meet on alternating Mondays from 3-5 p.m. in Syre 108. The next ASWCC Executive Board meeting is on Feb. 26 with the Senate meeting on the following Monday, March 4. Meetings are open to all students.

Joining the ASWCC Student Government 

Heidi Farani
Heidi Farani is the Student Life and Development Director and Advisor for the student government. Photo courtesy of WCC website

The process for selecting the governing student board for the next academic year begins in late winter. A selection committee consisting of students and staff advisors is assembled, and students apply to become members of the Executive Board or Senate. The selection committee then reviews the applications, interviews applicants and makes their decisions.

Heidi Farani, Student Life and Development Director and advisor to the Executive Board and Senate, said that students must learn a lot in a short time. It is her responsibility to help them learn and understand the state laws that apply to student governments and the use of S&A fees.

One opportunity for council members to learn these roles is a fall leadership conference held for all 34 community and technical colleges in Washington State, hosted by the Washington State Council for Unions and Student Programs. Here, the new student government gets concentrated lessons on the government’s structure and operations and their responsibilities.

In a typical year, a new group of students take the helm of the ASWCC Student Government in fall quarter. However, this school year, filling positions has been an ongoing process. According to Farani, pre-pandemic there would be close to 60 applicants every year. Due to lower enrollment and many classes still occurring online, gaining student interest and engagement in student government has been more challenging.

Student (S&A) Fees

S&A Fees are paid by all students except Running Start, so enrollment affects how many S&A funds are available each year. All colleges have experienced a decrease in enrollment over the last decade and the pandemic made an additional impact on enrollment rates. As a result, the amount of S&A funding available have decreased along with enrollment. 

Japan Club
Members of the Japan Club admire the display during the Student Club Fair. Photo courtesy of WCC Student Life

Farani explained that these funds are paid by students to support the student activities, programs, resources, clubs and events that make the campus a community. The funds are managed by the student government for students.

“S&A fees do not belong to the college; they belong to the students,” said Farani.

Because a large part of what the Senate does is decide how S&A Fees are best utilized to meet the needs of students, at times their job can be frustrating. Learning to balance funds available with what they see as student needs and wants is one of the primary challenges the Senate faces.

This challenge underscores the need for student involvement and input. While the Senate does its best to determine where the need is greatest, without more student input they can’t fully see the needs of all. And although ASWCC activities are publicized on bulletin boards across campus, and the weekly Orca Update email lists many of these events as well, many students seem to be unaware of what the student government does for them or how the fees they pay are used. 

This lack of awareness was affirmed through interviews with several WCC students and staff. Two WCC students, Luqman Abdulkadir and Kento Kudo, and Cedar Hall Resident Advisor, Aden Schrammrock, were asked about how they see the ASWCC Student Council, and the common theme was that they didn’t know much about it in general. 

“I am totally in the dark about student government stuff,” said Schrammrock. “I don’t know names or about S&A fees, but there seems to be a chance that I paid them while I was fully enrolled previously.”

The interviewed students suggested that increased visibility might help, and Schrammeck recommended “some kind of advertisement flier or informational papers that [resident staff] can find in the [dorm] hall and mention in our programs and floor meetings.”

How the S&A Funds Support Student Community 

Clubs and activities sponsored by the ASWCC provide opportunities for students to feel a connection to campus outside of the classroom. Many student needs are also met at the Student Services Center, which includes the Intercultural Center, International Programs, the bookstore, and the Office of Student Life and Development. And still other needs are met by student centers such as the Writing and Math Centers, and organizations such as the Horizon.

SOS President
President of Sustainability Oriented Students Club, Anthony Stock, watches as an interested student signs up to get more information about the club. Photo courtesy of WCC Student Life

Clubs and Unions. There are currently only seven active clubs at WCC: Badminton, Volleyball, Sustainability Oriented Students (SOS), Campus Christian Fellowship, Japanese, Native and Indigenous Student Association (NISA) and Astronomy. (edited to correct club information) Pre-pandemic there were about 40 clubs on campus. Student clubs are created by students and for students, and Farani explained that the club program has the potential to reach the greatest number of students.

“An important part of student life is finding your people – a place to go where you feel safe and supported,” said Farani. 

At a recent Student Clubs Fair, active clubs and student unions were represented. Clubs are typically formed based on recreational, academic, or identity interests. Vice President for Clubs, Matthew Valencia, explained that the process is fairly easy.

When a group of WCC students have a common interest that would benefit from being an organized club, they can apply to charter a club. Club Chartering Packets are available at the Office of Student Life and Development in Syre 208. 

The basics of the packet include: the club needs a name and purpose, a minimum of five currently enrolled students with two club officers willing to take officer training, and a faculty advisor.  The club must provide bylaws; however, a helpful fill-in-the-blanks outline is included in the charter packet. 

S&A funds also help support the Intercultural Center, which strives to create a safe space for all students. Funding for the Intercultural Center includes student unions, which are new this year. Student union activities include parties, potlucks, events at the school and trips. 

Student Unions Reps
Student Union members Luis and Roko attend the table representing student unions at the Student Club Fair. Photo courtesy of WCC Student Life

Student unions are centered around identity and came from a response that students should not have to be responsible for creating these types of clubs, but rather, they should already be in place and available. Currently, WCC has three student unions: the Latine Student Union (LSU), Pride Student Union, and the Black Student Union (BSU). (edited to correct union information)

Activities and Events. ASWCC funds make weekly and yearly events possible, making student’s days here more pleasant at WCC. Some events are simple, like “Coffee with a Student Leader,” where students can talk to someone if overwhelmed with school and life in general. Events might connect students to help and resources with assignments and life advice. 

There are currently different ASWCC-sponsored weekly activities each day. On Tuesdays, you can play Mario Kart with students at Syre Auditorium from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. If students like having conversations and meeting new people, they might love the Wednesday Winter Wingles (weekly mingles) where from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m., student and staff can mingle. Many fun activities pop up throughout the week at WCC, and with all these new activities and food, students could meet a new friend or perhaps find the dream snack! Many of these activities have seen success, with new faces showing up to them each week.

Programs and Organizations. Student employees that work in the Learning Commons, including Writing Center Readers, Math Center tutors, and Testing Center tutors, are paid by S&A fees. Besides providing a salary for these college employees, S&A fees also go towards purchases of materials and hosting workshops

Additionally, school organizations like our own Horizon are funded by your student fees, which cover such aspects of the school newspaper as printing costs, website hosting, and editor stipends.

So, one could say that many of the resources provided for students are also essentially paid for by students.

Student Council Visibility and How You Can Help

Executive Board VP for Clubs
Executive Board VP for Clubs, Matthew Valencia, provides help and information to students interested in starting a club during a recent Student Club Fair. Photo courtesy of WCC Student Life

The need to increase student awareness about the ways in which S&A fees fund student activities and events, and the pivotal role the ASWCC Student Council plays in creating a unique space for our community to thrive, is ever present. It is a benefit for every if all students are informed about what is available, and that they have a voice in how their funds are used.

Andreason encourages students to apply for positions on the Senate and the Executive Board so that they too can have firsthand opportunities to use their voices for change on campus. As of now, all student senate seats are filled for the quarter, but applications will always be open, since people often only serve for one or two quarters.

“If we had more hands, it would be easier,” Andreason said.

Students are also welcomed to voice their perspectives to the student government by attending Senate meetings, which take place every other Monday in Syre 107/108 at 3pm, or by emailing individual members of the Executive Board. And as students continue to return to the WCC campus following the Covid lockdown, voicing their interests and sharing their passions with the WCC community, so too will new opportunities for activities, events, publications, meetings, clubs, and other amazing happenings continue to enrich our community. 

This article was written collaboratively by Annette Townsend, Josh Hernandez, and Faisal Abdi. Copy-edited by Joanna Kenyon.

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