First UC Women’s Caucus sets precedent for student advocacy
(Courtesy of Arielle Yael Mokhtarzadeh)
By Laurel Scott
May 26, 2016 1:18 a.m.
The USAC student body president hosted the first annual leadership conference for the new UC Women’s Caucus on Saturday at UCLA.
Heather Rosen met with delegates from other UC campuses at the conference to discuss the mission of the caucus – creating a political process that focuses specifically on gender equality and equity issues.
She added the caucus will represent the needs and interests of female and LGBTQ students at both the undergraduate and graduate level.
Rosen said she and other members have worked to create the caucus since November and finalized their mission statement in March.
“Like any caucus, we want people to be able to call on this organization any time advocacy efforts need to be made or lobbying needs to be done,” Rosen said.
Rosen said she believes the caucus will provide a platform for individuals to empower themselves to speak out on important topics. She added she hopes the ideas discussed at the conference will help the members move forward with and make plans for the caucus next year.
Rosen cited North Carolina’s House Bill 2, which passed in March and requires that bathrooms be designated for use only by people based on their biological sex, as an example of the kind of legislation she hopes the caucus will lobby against.
“If we were to see legislation like that pop up in California, we would … reach out to local legislators and do lobbying visits, and work with government relations and student governments in order to provide a student voice,” Rosen said.
Rosen said about 50 other students participated in the conference Saturday, with delegations sent from every UC campus except UC Berkeley, US Santa Cruz and UC Santa Barbara.
She added the purpose of the conference was to help the attendees discuss how they can further take action on their own campuses, including lobbying, education efforts and bringing speakers to campus.
The conference featured a keynote speech by Student Regent-designate Marcela Ramirez and a panel discussion with Regent Bonnie Reiss and LA City Councilwoman Nury Martinez.
At the event, the delegates created a University of California Women’s Caucus Facebook page and discussed ways to get more involved such as inviting speakers to their campuses and asking faculty and administration to facilitate events, Rosen said.
She added the delegates decided they would hold another annual conference around the same time next year.
Rosen said the women’s caucus is different from other advocacy clubs because it is a UC-wide initiative and came from the UC Council of Presidents in order to reach out and encourage participation from each campus.
“We want to work with women’s groups on our own campuses, but also focus on the political and educational aspects of forming a caucus,” Rosen said.
Domonique Jones, the outgoing student body president of UC Merced who attended the conference, described the UC Women’s Caucus as a a safe space for female students to be able to come together and share their experiences.
“At UC Merced I was the first female student body president, so for 10 years I always felt there was this barrier (against women) there,” Jones said. “So for me, to be a part of this caucus is to be able to empower the students who are going to take up after us.”
Jones said she thinks the newly established caucus must start garnering support from other campuses and looking into legislation they would like to address.
“I’m hoping this caucus will become not only recognized on college campuses, but on the state and national level as well,” Jones said. “If we can create that recognition, we can create more opportunities for women to feel empowered to take on leadership roles, both on and off of campus.”