A mid-winter conference of Big Ten schools fuels some UISG proposals, addressing food insecurity and the DREAM act.
As students settle in to classes for the spring semester, campus student-leaders put into motion ideas garnered from an annual winter-break conference.
At a conference over Martin Luther King Day weekend, student leaders collaborated with other Big Ten school representatives to address problems facing college campuses and to advocate for Big Ten students.
Members of the University of Iowa Student Government attended the Association of Big Ten Students conference Jan. 12-14, in which they met in round-table discussions and sponsored two legislative bills: one supporting a no-strings-attached solution to support university students previously protected by DACA, and another addressing food insecurity.
The conference meets three times a year, and student representatives from the 14 Big Ten schools discuss ideas and collaborate on initiatives aimed to better advocate for students.
On Jan. 13 and 14, students passed resolutions in a legislative session in the Michigan Capitol supporting action to address textbook affordability, support for DACA students, the creation of a Middle Eastern and North African identity category, establishment of an affirmative-consent policy, and food insecurity.
UI Sen. Abigail Simon wrote one resolution pertaining to food insecurity. It lobbied for Big Ten schools to expand locations that accept SNAP on college campuses.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, is a federal program that aims to provide nutritious meals to low-income individuals who meet certain requirements.
“It would basically be working with dining halls because SNAP has very strict restrictions on what locations need to offer, income, work,” Simon said. “There are a lot of criteria, but I think if students are SNAP eligible, I think they become a lot less vulnerable to food insecurity if they can use those SNAP funds on campus.”
The resolution also supported expansion of campus food pantries and gardens — both of which the UI has.
Another resolution UISG sponsored was in support of a “Clean DREAM Act.” The resolution voted for the student presidents of the association to draft a letter to legislators in support of a path to citizenship for the nearly 800,000 immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children without putting in place such extra barriers as additional border security, detention centers, or interior enforcement.
Other resolutions passed at the conference outlined lack of North African/Middle Eastern identification as a concern, citing that many people from those areas often had to identify as “white” on applications. Other resolutions committed the Big Ten schools to support the Affordable College Textbook Act and to support affirmative consent policies when addressing sexual assault.
“It all applies. I was very happy, from what I’ve heard, this conference was probably the most ‘impactful’ in terms of legislation,” UISG Director of Student Services Kyle Scheer said.
Representatives also met in smaller discussion groups — called round tables — on what their student governments have been working on in a single area of focus.
UI Sen. Sara Bultsma, who sits on the Student Allocation and Budgeting Committee and the Academic Affairs Committee said she will bring back ideas on how to remove bias from the student government budgeting process in a finance and allocations roundtable discussion.
“I could hear about how other Big Ten schools handle their budgets and how they communicate projects,” Bultsma said. “That will directly relate to UISG’s strategic plan.”