A University of California student committee that started last year to address campus climate issues is still trying to define its goals as an organization, with its focus shifting from systemwide to campus-level action.
The Understanding New Identities Through Education committee, or UNITE, was started by UC Student Regent Jonathan Stein in March last year. UNITE aims to create a platform for student voices to be heard regarding campus climate issues, Stein said.
Campus climate refers to how students feel within the campus community, said Ana Davalos, a second-year political science student and UCLA delegate on the systemwide committee.
Student delegates from each UC campus, except UC Merced and UC San Diego, meet monthly via video conference to report on progress in their respective schools.
“What I envisioned was a completely non-hierarchical decision-making process, in which no one has more say over another, and decisions are made completely by community consensus,” Stein said. “I may have been one of the founders for the committee, but my voice doesn’t have more weight. I am just a participant.”
The systemwide committee does not receive any funding and meets at quarterly UC Student Association conferences, said Carlos Quintanilla, a second-year history student and one of the UCLA delegates on the committee.
Last year, Stein told the Daily Bruin that the organization intended to present an annual report on campus climate issues to the UC Board of Regents, beginning May of this year. Whether or not the report will materialize, however, remains to be seen.
The UC created a systemwide delegation to address campus climate issues and launched a systemwide campus climate survey in fall 2012.
UNITE, however, is fully independent from the administration and works for students’ needs alone, Stein said. The direction the committee is headed, including the proposal for the report, will depend on the collective decision of all its delegates, he said.
“It is a space for students, and is not here to help the administration achieve its goals,” he said.
Third-year sociology student Christina Mojica, however, said she thinks UNITE’s work will have to be vastly different from the work that is already being undertaken to address issues that face students on campus.
“There are many groups fighting for issues on campus, so it has to be in your face, or it will be difficult,” Mojica said.
David Kim, a third-year mathematics student, said he thinks UNITE will not have a big impact on students unless they are already interested in campus climate issues.
“In general, it really depends on the students themselves,” Kim said. “What the group does (will) have minimal effect.”
Shelly Meron, a UC spokeswoman, said she did not know of UNITE’s efforts, though she has heard of other student efforts on the issue.
No graduate students or faculty are involved with UNITE currently, though student organizations are supposed to have graduate representation in the committee, according to UCLA regulations, Quintanilla said.
UCLA currently has two student delegates on the UNITE committee, who have been working on programs to address campus climate issues within UCLA. The UCLA branch was officially registered as an organization with the Center for Student Programming this quarter, and has a few plans in the pipeline.
One such program is a series of “Peer Education and Community Empowerment” – or PEACE – training workshops that focus on issues related to campus climate including tolerance and communication, Davalos said. Members of the student government at UC Davis are required to go through PEACE training.
In the long term, the UCLA branch also hopes to make PEACE training mandatory for USAC members, Quintanilla said.
Marketing for the workshops will begin next quarter to recruit facilitators for two to three test workshops later this fall, said Davalos, who works in the USAC external vice president’s office. Depending on student response to the test workshops, the committee may expand the program.
“We’re still in the creative process, rethinking our goals,” Davalos said.