Here’s what’s in Student Union’s platform this fall
With a continued focus on health, equity and connection, Student Union’s 2021-22 platform prioritizes the same major themes as last year’s platform while expanding to address the student body’s changing needs as campus reopens.
SU’s health platform centers especially around COVID-19 policies, mental health and sexual health.
As the University loosens some of its COVID-19 safety protocols this semester, SU’s platform commits to helping the Washington University administration publicize their new policies and advocates on behalf of students for accessible testing, quality quarantine housing and transparency.
“Things are a little bit more opened up relative to last year. Our role has changed a bit,” Senate Health and Wellness Committee Chair junior Nicole Leers said. “There’s not a lot of information about when you have to quarantine, if you can get a test, where you can get a test, when you can get a test. I think that part of our role has definitely been just acting as a bridge from the administration to students.”
“It is absurd that there are students who have to wait weeks in order to schedule an appointment with Habif,” SU President senior Ranen Miao said. “We need to make sure that mental health is prioritized in the same way that we prioritize physical health.”
Miao’s other ideas for improving the quality of mental health care on campus, which did not make it into the platform, included ensuring adequate funding for off-campus therapy, making sure that WashU Cares is able to intervene during mental health crises and providing course credit and compensation to Uncle Joe’s and SARAH counselors.
The second focus of SU’s platform details a plan for promoting equity within the student body, with specific goals focused on anti-racism, LGBTQ+ discrimination and socioeconomic equity.
Regarding anti-racist work, the SU platform also specified plans to combat racism outside of campus, centering student groups and activists.
Senate Diversity and Inclusion Committee Chair sophomore Braxton Sizemore explained that one of the DI committee’s major priorities is to ensure that marginalized students are well represented in the University’s policies.
“I think my job as DI Chair is to support [grassroot organizations] and make sure that what they’re trying to communicate is being brought to administrators,” Sizemore said. “And there’s actual physical change happening.”
SU’s platform also advocates for the abolition of fraternities and sororities at the University. The number of students in sororities dropped from 1234 in spring 2020 to 294 in spring 2021, while the number of students in fraternities fell from 661 to 598.
“For so long, students on this campus have felt unheard, marginalized and have experienced violence because fraternities and sororities on our campus have been allowed to run amok without accountability and without constraints,” Miao said. “We have created a university social ecosystem where an exclusive and disproportionately white wealthy collective of students are able to monopolize a lot of the party space on campus and a lot of the social life on campus.”
The final theme of the Student Union platform is connection, especially after a year of hybrid learning. SU plans to host in-person office hours this year so that student representatives can better engage with the student body.
Miao also spoke of the University’s connection to the St. Louis community.
“As part of the WashU campus, we have to reconcile with the harm that we’ve done in the community through things like gentrification, but also ways that we can contribute to the community in ways that are not rooted in saviorship but in solidarity,” Miao said.
Leers said she was hopeful that students could start to see SU as a vital link to all of the resources they might need throughout their tenure at the University. “Something that I’ve really enjoyed about being on Senate is helping students and actually making an impact in their day to day lives,” Leers said.
Miao shared a similar hope about SU’s role at the University.
“I hope that we’re able to educate, to work together with members of our community to bring people along in our activism, to make people feel included and heard and to build an SU that, in perpetuity, will continue to serve students in the way that it was originally intended to and was founded in 1967,” Miao said.