2011 Candidates for VP for governmental affairs

Iris Maute-Gibson

Candidate Statement: Western is in the midst of an unprecedented environment; experiencing a steady divestment in post-secondary education. We are looking ahead to a crucial year in determining the future of our university.
As your current AS legislative liaison, I have:
-Facilitated an increase in campus civic engagement
-Fostered solidarity between Western students, faculty and administration
-Advocated throughout this legislative session for your right to a quality, accessible and affordable education
My experience and knowledge working within Western and the Bellingham community makes me most qualified to be your advocate, your representative and your voice in preserving Western’s unique opportunities.
When elected, I will continue to advocate for you, and mobilize students to stand up and speak out to guarantee OUR unwavering right to higher education.

Why are you seeking this position?

My experience as an active and engaged part of the Associated Students has been truly remarkable. I have the privilege of serving as the 2010 Residence Hall Association president, where I led the student initiative for gender-inclusive housing on campus and served on the Green Energy Fee Committee. This year, as your current legislative liaison, I represent students at the local, state and national level. As a financial aid recipient and advocate for students, I know all too well the stress you are facing from not being able to prioritize your education in this time of massive budget cuts. I am a student who, like you, values and wishes to glean the most from my educational experiences. My time at Western has been full of opportunities and support and I feel it is my duty to work as hard as I can to give back to my fellow students.

What do you think is the role of VP for governmental affairs?

The vice president for governmental affairs has the unique ability and challenge to be a representative, an advocate and a voice for students across campus. The role of a representative takes shape in our lobbying efforts in the community to the state legislature and to the Washington congressional delegation. The role of an advocate on campus is to motivate and empower students to engage in the civic process. The role of a voice for students involves magnifying the student voice and bringing student stories and experiences to their elected officials. Also important to the role of vice president for governmental affairs is carefully gauging the needs of students. My experience and knowledge working directly with your current vice president for governmental affairs and in the Bellingham community makes me the most qualified to be your advocate, your representative and your voice in preserving Western’s unique opportunities.

Tell us about one issue affecting students that you think the AS Board of Directors should focus on next year.

As your vice president for governmental affairs, I would strongly advocate for bolstering our efforts to increase and foster diverse forums of civic engagement within and outside of Western’s campus. Particularly I want to make higher education in the state of Washington a major voting issue, this year we registered 3,000 students to vote, more than any other institution in Washington. Furthermore, my experience in Olympia taught me if we continue to speak out courageously and honestly with our elected officials, as we’ve done this year, our message will be heard. We need to advocate for our unwavering right to higher education in a more proactive way by electing officials that make our futures their priorities.

This year, the AS has had to deal with funding cuts and tough budget decisions. How will you help maintain the quality of AS programs, services and events if these budget issues continue?

We are in the midst of an unprecedented environment. In the past two decades, our state has experienced a steady divestment in higher education. This year our students have engaged in courageous conversations necessary to make our elected officials aware that students will not stand for this continued decrease in quality and accessibility of our university experience. As your current legislative liaison, I spent the legislative session in Olympia lobbying on behalf of students. I worked directly with the current VP for governmental affairs to register students to vote, facilitate campus programs that mobilized and empowered students to stand up and speak out against budget cuts and solidify valuable relationships with key legislators as well as our faculty and administration in order to ensure we’re spreading a unified message to Olympia. Across the state higher education advocates are standing up, walking out and speaking up, and we as a community have the potential to make a remarkable impact on the future of higher education in Washington state.

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Dean Williams

Candidate Statement: I decided to run to give something back to the student community before I leave Western. Spending winter quarter working for the state Senate I gained a lot of insight into the perspective of the legislators and how to meet them half-way when asking for support and proposing budget plans. Beyond that I will have four years of experience as a student here to draw from. I’m familiar with issues between the students and the Bellingham community as a renter, a job-holder and a volunteer. I hope to promote the important responsibility of engaging ourselves with the process of decision-making that affects us in our everyday lives. Innovate, educate, and build for our future with Dean Williams as vice president for governmental affairs.

Why are you seeking this position?

I decided I wanted to give something back to the student community before I leave Western. I really like this place, I’ve been here for almost four years and I’m not quite ready to leave. I spent winter quarter working for the senate in Olympia and it just really sort of charged me up for wanting to work in a more official capacity for the students, for the school.

What do you think is the role of VP for governmental affairs?

The role of the position I’m running for is to coordinate between the students and the legislature, and the students and the Bellingham community, and to promote student engagement with their government, whether it’s local or semi-local or national.

Tell us about one issue affecting students that you think the AS Board of Directors should focus on next year.

One idea I was thinking about is, I know a lot of students who have been taken advantage of by landlords, and I think if we added a rent-my-landlord portion to Viking Village, that would really encourage people in the area who are intending to rent to students to shape up, especially if they’re getting bad reviews. I think there should be a free education class for students, because there really is nothing we can do. Small claims court, we don’t have time for that. The landlords know they can just take our deposits and we can’t really say anything about it, and it’s not right. I’ve left houses perfect and lost thousands of dollars. Another idea I had is, I don’t feel like I’ve volunteered enough, and I think college should be an experience as much as it is an education, and I don’t think people realize the benefits that can come from volunteering as much. They’re just like, “Oh, volunteer with kids? Yeah, that’d be cool but nah, I’ll do it some other time.” And if students were required to do five hours a quarter, that’s nothing. I feel like the first two quarters they see it as a burden, but then it would be like, I’m looking forward to volunteering this quarter, and hopefully some of them would go beyond those five hours.

This year, the AS has had to deal with funding cuts and tough budget decisions. How will you help maintain the quality of AS programs, services and events if these budget issues continue?

I serve on the Services and Activities Committee for DRAC, the Departmental-Related Activities Committee, and one of the things we were talking about is, when tuition goes up, we can raise the S&A fee too, and that fee comes from students, directly to the S&A board, it’s not state funds, it’s not getting cut, but we were thinking, with students already getting that 13 percent increase in tuition, we probably won’t raise it, but we can commit to providing the exact same services we’ve been providing by keeping it where it is. And even within S&A, everybody has been preparing and cutting back where they know there’s a little bit of excess and shoring up their budgets for the coming times. We even have some extra money now and we’re talking about how to use that to the student’s advantage. I know that we can still provide students with the same events, activities, opportunities within the student community, even though we’re having budget cuts from the university.