Op-ed: Action now: A strategic vision for a better WU community
Washington University is an institution that fundamentally fails its most marginalized students and instead chooses to prioritize the interests of the wealthiest and most out-of-touch groups within the University. By upholding the status quo, the University proves it is an illegitimate body unable to uphold its most basic mission. In response, we the members of WUnited seek to provide an alternative vision of what we want the University to be and what we will be fighting towards:
1. Ensuring mandatory training for mandatory reporters:
First responders to student disclosures should be trauma-informed and equipped to help those students in a compassionate way. The first institutional response a student receives shapes the level of trust they have in the administration to effectively meet their needs. The lack of mandatory trauma-informed training perpetuates harm and breaks trust with a vulnerable student population.
2. Allow any students detained, deported, or denied re-entry to the United States to finish their degree:
In an era of uncertainty surrounding immigration policies, Washington University students who are undocumented, DACA recipients or from nations included in the Muslim ban deserve to receive their degrees through distance learning initiatives and continue receiving financial aid, scholarships, loan disbursements and other forms of financial support. To enact this, we believe a committee consisting of undergraduate students, graduate students, campus workers, faculty, administrators and community partners should be formed to ensure implementation.
3. Expanding mental health services:
Students are unable to access mental health services in a timely manner right now. All enrolled students deserve equitable access to mental health service providers so they can reach their full academic potential. Washington University also needs to hire more counselors, mandate cultural competency training, publicize anonymous reporting methods and design a new, trauma-informed student facility in a central on-campus location.
4. Subsidizing basic necessities for all students:
We are demanding free, high-quality menstrual products in all Danforth Campus buildings and residential halls, free laundry for students in residential housing, increased funding for the Office of Student Success, the implementation of the Open Educational Resources database and the creation of a food bank to alleviate campus food insecurity amongst the undergraduate student body. All students deserve to have their basic necessities covered, regardless of their socioeconomic status.
5. Creating complete accessibility for people with disabilities:
All buildings, pathways, dining locations, and traditional dorms should be ADA compliant and accessible, and there should be rooms created to avoid sensory overload. In the classroom, ableist policies such as mandatory verbal participation and attendance should be abolished, all accessibility devices should be allowed and all professors should be educated on the needs of students with disabilities.
6. Guaranteeing a $15/hour ($31,200/year) minimum wage:
Every campus worker, undergraduate student worker and graduate student worker should be compensated a living wage consistent with our values.
7. Implementing a need-blind admissions policy:
Washington University is the only top 25 school in the United States that is not need-blind. We must commit to being need-blind and publish a definitive timeline for implementation.
8. Guaranteeing total childcare subsidization for all campus employees:
The people who prepare our food, clean our dorms and staff our buildings include parents who need to take care of their children, too. We should ensure the children of campus workers and student workers can attend preschool or daycare so parents don’t need to worry about childcare at work.
9. Demilitarizing WUPD:
Many students do not feel safe around WUPD officers. From excessive force to militarization, police on campus need to re-evaluate the way they approach crime. There should be a task force of students and professors who research alternative policing methods to build a healthier relationship with the St. Louis community, a Public Safety Working Group consisting of students, faculty, and staff who have the power to discipline officers and hold them accountable for infractions. In addition, the school should create a mental health response team staffed by non-WUPD paid professionals.
10. Democratizing control of the endowment:
We need to give students a voice in administrative and endowment decisions. The endowment should divest from harmful industries such as fossil fuel companies and invest in justice-based local St. Louis businesses. There should be full transparency in how endowment funds are used, and investments should be determined by the Washington University community, creating a democratic process in which the Board of Trustees grants undergraduate and graduate student representatives voting power.
What we fundamentally seek from Washington University is justice and a campus which centers community engagement, equality and social justice. We will fight to provide a living wage and childcare to campus workers, prioritizing the health and well-being of all students and democratizing decision-making to include the entire community. We can and must be better. These issues have been festering for years and students are fed up with inaction and institutional betrayal. Join us in fighting for this platform at a rally Thursday, Feb. 27th at 12 p.m. at the Edison Courtyard outside the DUC to demand that administrators move the university closer to our vision.
Join us in justice.
WashU Undergraduate & Graduate Workers Union
Click here to join our petition.