Event provides platform for student voices to be heard
Bella Rios and Erin Fox
The Santa Clara
March 11, 2017
It’s not always a great day to be a Bronco.
On March 1, three chartered student organizations held their quarterly town hall forum, “When It’s Not a Great Day to be a Bronco.” Approximately 90 students joined leaders from the Santa Clara Community Action Program (SCCAP), Multicultural Center (MCC) and Associated Student Government (ASG) to speak their minds and express what they would like to see changed on campus.
SCAAP Director Alaina Boyle, SCAAP Associate Director Elleni Hailu, MCC Director Isaac Nieblas, MCC Associate Director Ryan Tan, student-body president Lidia Diaz-Fong and ASG Senate Chair Neil Datar spoke on behalf of their respective organizations.
Prompted by junior Ciaran Freeman, one issue raised was ASG’s effort to provide resources for undocumented students. Datar said that a senate resolution to address such concerns was proposed, but did not pass because of issues with specificity and language.
“The resolution narrowly did not pass but that does not preclude it coming back in a revised form,” Datar said. “I cannot speak on behalf of individual senators, but I believe there was among some people voting no that some of those policies were not ready to go or articulated in a way they wanted to be.”
Freeman also inquired about proposed funding for an office and staff dedicated to handling the needs of undocumented students. Datar said that ASG is in the midst of drafting policy recommendations for administration.
“The current University Issues Committee, led by Jack Herstam, is in the process of discussing further policy suggestions along the line of funding for an office for undocumented students,” Datar said. “It’s a conversation that we’re having. It’s a conversation that we’d like to broaden and get specific about.”
Freeman stressed the urgency of ensuring the safety of undocumented students, and asked about ways to speed up ASG’s recommendation process.
“The best way to get (a resolution) expedited is to get constituent input,” Datar said.
Senior Areany Tolentino asked student leaders for their opinions on the current campus climate.
Tan said that the campus is incredibly divided right now, which is emotionally taxing. As a CSO leader, he said that unanticipated and prejudicial events on campus requires the organization to constantly adjust its agenda.
“It’s something for me that has taken a huge toll mentally and emotionally,” Tan said. “We’re still divided … We’re trying to figure out how to approach it. There’s no clear answer. There might never be a clear answer. We just got to keep working.”
Diaz-Fong echoed Tan’s concerns, but found comfort in the student leadership amidst discriminatory incidents.
“Despite the events that have happened on campus, I have seen the leadership that has emerged from people in my organization and outside of it,” Diaz-Fong said. “While some instances are heartbreaking and take a toll on your mental and emotional health, the leadership that has risen and that I have seen personally has assured me that Santa Clara will be okay.”
Student Rhaaghav Kanodia, an MCC member and a self-identifying Republican, expressed raised concerns about an alleged Trump piñata inside the Shapell Lounge, where MCC is housed. He said he felt that it was unwelcoming to conservatives.
“(Turning Point USA) was rejected because people feel unsafe, but conservatives feel unsafe about the Trump piñata head,” Kanodia said.
Nieblas said the MCC has discussed how to welcome conservative thought among its organizations. He said that the piñata was a political satire of Trump’s campaign rhetoric, but recognized its potential to create tension against conservatism within the MCC.
“It was a critique of the policies and the presidential rhetoric that Trump has pushed out there … having his campaign start with calling Mexicans rapists and criminals,” Nieblas said. “Those are individuals that are my mom and my dad, immigrants to the states. I felt as though it was a way to vent frustration and anger at the political system.”
Concerned about transparency, student Spencer McLaughlin asked ASG leaders about the proposed bylaws change regarding audio and video recording of senate meetings.
Datar explained that the proposed by-law calls for members of the campus community to submit requests in order to record in during senate meetings. The ASG advisor and Senate Chair would then approve these requests so people present during senate meetings would receive notice that they would be recorded.
According to Datar, the current recording policy is ambiguous.
“The reason why the judicial branch brought it to (Senate) in the first place is to codify a process that currently isn’t explained in our bylaws,” Datar said.
In response, one student questioned how an approval process for Senate recordings aligns with transparency. Datar said that the proposed bylaws change would focus on clarifying process, rather than censoring information.
“This wouldn’t be controlling about what is and what isn’t filmed, but rather about providing notice to senators and constituents about what is going to happen,” Datar said. “I see your concern about an approval process … if people are putting in requests to film what Senate is doing … it wouldn’t be a subjective decision to me. I think it’s an issue on process.”
Senior Kassamira Carter-Howard asked ASG leaders to elaborate on their recently launched “#WeAreBroncos” campaign, the group’s effort to unify students regardless of conflicting interests.
Diaz-Fong said that ASG hoped to make an impact by pairing the social media campaign with various on-campus events.
“We know it’s a social media campaign, it’s a hashtag. It might not mean a lot by itself but … it can do a lot more then just be a post on instagram,” Diaz-Fong said. “We are in the midst of reworking the campaign to be more widespread … We are working to spread it to different groups on campus.”
Diaz-Fong added that the campaign focuses on the entire campus community. After receiving student feedback, they will integrate personal narratives into the campaign.
Cognizant of concerns raised about the campaign’s timing, Datar added that the initiative began during the previous academic year.
One student also asked the panel what their organizations had done since last quarter to support Muslim and Jewish students on-campus. The leaders admitted that few measures, if any, had been taken.
“There’s more that we can do to reach out to those groups,” Datar said. “I have spoken to members of those groups but there’s more that could be done.”
Contact Bella Rios at firstname.lastname@example.org and contact Erin Fox at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.