ASSVC Student Government representatives are still working hard to meet the needs of the students despite remote operations. Photo by Jennifer Juniper.

By Jennifer Juniper

The Associated Students of Skagit Valley College representatives are busy working to meet the needs of the student body despite being remote. They meet via Zoom every Tuesday and have a wide range of responsibilities such as making decisions on how student money is spent, sitting on committees, and planning engaging events for students.

One of the duties of the student government is to allocate extra funds to clubs. Once a year in spring clubs submit their request to the Services and Activities committee for a specific amount of money that they think they will need the following year for activities but sometimes they run short. When this happens, the club can ask the student government to share some of their S&A money to help.

Such was the case with the South Asian Student Club when they came to the ASSVC to request an additional $1250 to help fund their activities including popular weekly meditation sessions. SASC president Harkaran Sandhu explained their funding shortage was due to being allocated only $1500 out of the $4000 requested from the previous S&A process. The club’s advisor Dr. Farhana Loonat explained that less active groups received far more funding, and this is further marginalizing the South Asian students.

This was validated by Director of Student Life Brian Murphy as he said that most clubs are indeed not spending since the start of remote operations with a notable exception being the Military Club.

The deliberation went on with questions from the student leaders such as if the club has looked to other sources for funding and weather the events were benefiting students or just the Indian community. ASSVC President Ryan Smith made the observation that there have not been very many requests for more money so far and he did not expect that to change.

Eventually, $1000 was approved and the group moved on to the next agenda item which was ironically a request from the Human Services Club for more money to help fund their annual conference.

When asked about her experience coming to the student government for funds South Asian Student Club member Priya Kumar shared her gratitude and concerns. She said, “We are very grateful for the funding we have received from the student government to be able to continually offer the meditation sessions. It is gratifying to know we are making a positive difference in people’s lives and can help them focus on their holistic health.”

Kumar went on voice her concerns and say, “Unfortunately, there were instances of racism and marginalization from the student government that I witnessed firsthand during our requests for funding. As an alumnus of Skagit Valley College, I was surprised by the vast differences in support for clubs and especially shocked to hear words like “oppression Olympics” when explaining our community’s experiences. It was shocking to witness such narrow-mindedness coming from an employee of color at an educational institution.”

The amount of money a club receives from the S&A budget is decided each spring by a committee of students under the guidance of the Directors of Student Life, but they do not always receive the full amount requested.

Committee appointments are also an iatrical part of being in student government. Student representatives sit as voting members alongside faculty and staff on committees such as the General Education Committee, the Governance Steering Committee, and the Tenure Review Committees where they are respected as a voice of the student body at large.

Smith gives some insight into the job and his motivations to join student government when he says, “I really felt like I wanted to be involved in change among the Student Body. What I find rewarding is that even through all the challenges and unprecedented speed bumps along the way this school year that I am able to contribute to a good cause with amazing peers and advisors in our Student Government.” Smith graduates this spring from both SVC and Stanwood Highschool.

Smith also shares a common concern these days by saying, “the most challenging aspect of the position is the fact that it is all online. It is something I struggle with pretty often.”

Another function of student government is promoting engaging events such as a virtual visit to the True Black History Museum and the Women of Color Museum. Student Life Specialist and Engagement Navigator Rick Flores shares his motivation for planning these events saying, “I love helping fostering leadership skills, develop equitable practices, and enrich the college community with culturally responsive programs.”

An event to look out for this spring is Drag Bingo which will be hosted by a yet-to-be-announced queen from Ru Paul’s Drag race. Flores, who is spearheading the event, says, “My favorite thing is the wide variety of activities I get to do and a diverse group of students I get to work with.” This event is still in the planning process but promises to be fabulous!

Quantifiable benefits to being a student leader include a $1500 scholarship per quarter, experience that can translate into the working world as well as improving chances of getting into their next college of choice.

For Smith it is about being involved and helping. He says, “Whether it be approving funding for clubs, events, and many more, it’s a genuinely nice feeling to see things kickstarted due to yourself and your peers.”

Keep an eye out for announcements of upcoming events sponsored by Student Life and if you want to get involved in Student Government, please contact Student Life Specialist Rick Flores at [email protected].