Office of Government Relations

Legislative Agenda 2022

Updated: Dec. 7, 2022

Find our 2022 Legislative Agenda pamphlet here: 2022 Legislative Agenda

The full agenda listed on this page is the DRAFT agenda passed by the Legislative Steering Committee on November 15, 2022. From here, the ASUW Student Senate will begin deliberations and make changes as they see fit. At this point, the Legislative Agenda is still subject to approval from the ASUW Board of Directors. The ASUW Student Senate Legislative Directive can be found HERE.

Details of the meetings of the Legislative Steering Committee can be found HERE.

2022 ASUW Legislative Agenda 

About 

The Associated Students of the University of Washington (ASUW), through democratic forum and debate, have distilled top student concerns into this Legislative Agenda. These concerns and initiatives represent the collaborative efforts of the ASUW Legislative Steering Committee, Student Senate, Board of Directors, and various UW student organizations. 

The ASUW definitively urges legislators from Local, State, and Federal levels to affect change surrounding these initiatives, and carefully consider how they can positively impact these pertinent issues affecting students across the University of Washington. 

IMPROVE ACCESS TO BASIC STUDENT NEEDS 

Education is a proven pathway out of poverty, but many students in Washington State struggle to persist or complete educational programs because they cannot meet their basic needs. Due to high living expenses in the Puget Sound region, students are struggling to meet basic needs for food, mental and behavioral healthcare, childcare, housing, or receive support in navigating existing systems, and the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated these issues. These conditions disproportionately impact low-income students, particularly those who are black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), first generation, or student parents. Now is a more critical time than ever to invest in their success. We support policies and funding that increase access for all University of Washington students to meet their basic living needs. 

Remedy Student Food Insecurity 

College students need healthy food during the school day to ensure academic success. Research shows student hunger contributes to distractions in their learning environment and struggle more. A Hunger-Free Campus comprehensively and proactively protects food security on campus and maximizes existing resources to reduce student hunger off campus. Food insecurity disproportionately impacts BIPOC students and student parents, the students most at risk for not completing post-secondary education. 

We support the expansion in scope of HB 1893, in addition to building on national models to create Hunger-Free Campus legislation. This includes but is not limited to the establishment of a hunger-free taskforce, promoting SNAP, regularly assessing students’ basic needs, providing free meals on campus, granting emergency assistance, and the creation and expansion of on-campus food pantries. 

Remedy Student Housing Insecurity 

Housing insecurity undermines persistence and completion rates for postsecondary students. Focusing on school can be difficult when students do not know where they can go to feel safe and secure. Housing programs and emergency assistance to remain sheltered are especially valuable to marginalized students and help them avoid unsafe conditions. Prior to the Supporting Students Homelessness Pilot, over 50% of students at participating institutions reported housing instability and nearly 20% experienced homelessness.  

We support expanding and making permanent the Supporting Students Experiencing Homelessness (SSEH) pilot program. We support addressing systemic inequities by including the NW Indian College in the SSEH program. We support additional allocations to the Student Emergency Assistance Grant Program. 

Recognizing how the severe housing crisis is impacting students, workers, and families across the state. We will advocate for expanded renter’s rights. Most importantly, we will fight at the state level for the repeal of RCW 35.21.830, the law that preempts rent control in Washington State. We will also push more generally for expanded renter’s rights for renters and students in and outside of the dorms. 

Housing & Food Services and other state owned housing should not be privatized, as doing so will increase rents and decrease public accountability. 

Promote Student Health and Wellness 

Following the peak of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the University of Washington still lacks adequate student healthcare on campus. The on-campus health center, Hall Health, is difficult for students to access, whether due to limited appointments requiring scheduling two-weeks in advance, or because of the center not accepting many insurances for out-of-state and international students. To ensure the health and prosperity of our community, we support policies and programs that increase access to affordable healthcare for all students, including out-of-state, international and undocumented students. We applaud the Legislature’s efforts to investigate universal health care in WA, following the passage of SB 5399 in 2021, and urge that the Legislature prioritize supplying this commission with the proper resources to conduct a comprehensive, long-term study on how to best improve access to affordable healthcare for all students who reside within Washington State.   

Additionally, we call for increased funding towards Hall Health and the services they offer in order to provide at least 2 free appointments per quarter, and having more appointments available, such as walk-in options for emergencies and unprecedented circumstances. Furthermore, we strongly encourage the universal health care commission to consider how higher education students from diverse backgrounds can be incorporated into their study and focus on building solutions to improve their access to healthcare. We urge the legislature to establish an “opt-out” program for all higher education students, automatically enrolling them with the state’s “Apple Health” Program to ensure healthcare and information are provided to low-income students who may not know of these resources. Lastly, we call for the legislature to mandate comprehensive reproductive health services be covered in student health plans, and for the continued expansion of the reproductive health care vending machines not only on UW campuses, but across Washington State. 

With the return to fully in person teaching and a new sense of normalcy following the peak of COVID-19, students now more than ever need mental health services. In a recent survey of the mental health of UW students since the beginning of the pandemic, 75% of students reported that their mental health had worsened, and 40% were experiencing depressive symptoms. Coming out of a time that consisted of quarantining, fully remote/hybrid learning, and significantly less contact with large group settings, students are doing their best to readjust to the hectic and demanding pace of college coursework and extracurriculars that was not present in years prior. Students need mental health resources that will not only actively support them but are also readily accessible. We strongly encourage increased funding towards education and awareness of current mental health resources on campus such as LiveWell, the Counseling Center, Hall Health, and more, so that students are knowledgeable of what is already offered to them.  

Furthermore, we call for an increase in resources for the BIPOC community, as currently, there are scarce mental health resources for the BIPOC student community, and these students need resources created by BIPOC professionals to address the traumas inflicted by institutions and individuals. We advocate for policies that increase diversity among counseling staff and training to better reflect the needs of BIPOC students. We also seek funding for additional counseling positions to bring the counselor-to-student ration from 1:1,755 to the recommended 1:1,000, as well as funding for quality of life raises for counseling staff to prevent higher turnover rates. 

Washington residents who can get pregnant and live at the intersections of low income, unhoused/housing insecure, disabled, Queer and Trans, immigration/citizenship status, student status, and racial identities of the global majority are most likely to face geographic and economic barriers and discrimination when accessing reproductive healthcare. In May of 2022, the Associated Students of University of Washington unanimously passed Senate Bill R-28-30 to expand reproductive healthcare on campus by making emergency contraception vending machines available at multiple campus locations, and tele-health medication abortion services through Hall Health, the UW-Seattle campus health center. We call on the Washington State legislature to join the leaders of California and Massachusetts by expanding access to reproductive healthcare services at all of Washington State’s 11 public baccalaureate institutions and 33 public community and technical colleges by: 

1. Funding, providing and maintaining discreet and accessible vending machines equipped with over the counter emergency contraception on campuses (quantity commiserate with population size); and  

2. Funding, providing and maintaining tele-health and mail-order medication abortion care services at all campus health centers in the state; and  

3. Funding, providing and maintaining staffing and technological resources for items 1. And 2. 

Support Student Parents 

Students who are parents have the added responsibilities to juggle while persisting in academic programs and completing their coursework. Having access to reliable and affordable childcare increases college attendance and improves outcomes for vulnerable students. Only 27% of students who are single parents attain a degree or certificate within 6 years, compared to 56% of dependent students. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, student parents seeking assistance climbed from 24% to 42%. 

We support the establishment of a state matching funds program for federal Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program grants. We support the expansion of the Working Connections program to include childcare for students. We urge the state to apply Head Start criteria and to remove US Citizenship requirements to receive Working Connections subsidies. 

Ensure Access to Public Transportation for Students 

We believe that public transportation is a fundamental need for students to access higher education. The lack of access presents a significant barrier to learning. We support policies and financial initiatives that promote access to and expand existing regional public transit networks. Additionally, we urge the legislature to consider student commuter populations when creating new infrastructure projects, to exempt low-income and disabled, and to make these projects more accessible. 

Address Student Safety 

The increased crime in the University District calls for new safety measures for students. Current safety measures like Husky Night Walk and Husky Night Ride have insufficient funds and resources for every student on and around campus.  Furthermore, we ask for increased funding for the Blue Light System seen already on campus to expand throughout the campus and nearby off-campus housing of all Washington schools.  

Gun violence has almost tripled in 2022 since 2021. With this in mind, we recognize that we live in a time when record funding is going to our local police departments. No matter how much money we throw at carceral systems, police will never keep us safe and only serve corporate business interest and to harm BIPOC and low income communities. This calls for new safety measures for students. Current safety measures like Husky Night Walk and Husky Night Ride have insufficient funds and resources for every student on and around campus. We ask the legislature to provide funding for effective safety measures that center community first and foremost. We will unequivocally push for total abolition of the UW Police Department and end all cooperation with the Seattle Police Department. We call on the legislature to provide funding for the creation of community centered resources such as the creation of community safety advisory boards to address student safety on campuses and any contract negotiations surrounding student safety. We call for a significant investment in community care and mutual aid on the ground. We must build on previous year’s efforts and past senate priorities for alternative emergency services and community care. 

IMPROVE ACCESS TO HIGHER EDUCATION 

Create Accessible Learning Environments 

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic made evident the absence of infrastructure to facilitate high-quality remote and hybrid learning at higher education institutions across the state. It also highlighted the vast inequities that student parents, working students, commuter students, ELS students as well as students with disabilities face in achieving higher educational attainment at our top research institutions in the state, including the UW. Reducing the reliance on fully in-person courses and reducing barriers for faculty seeking to utilize lecture-capture is needed to ensure access to our top research institutions for all students. We ask the state legislature to invest in infrastructure to support the continuation of higher education services remotely and/or hybrid when it is in the interest of public health, equity and access.  

Disabled students have been experiencing significant variation in service offerings, barriers in the transfer of disability accommodations and delays in accessing their accommodations. In 2016, this issue was brought to the state legislature and SB 6466 was amended to remove requirements that would have created application standards across institutions, because the Disability services sector made the case that “Homogenizing the accommodations process is antithetical to the case-by-case nature of providing accommodations”. Many higher education institutions, including the UW, have been using this flexibility to avoid transparency and accountability. Student disability services in higher education have failed to self-regulate and adequately address barriers to access. We are calling on the state legislature to mandate all higher education institutions capture and publish metrics that reflect operations within higher education that may create variation or delays in disabled students accessing their courses, including but not limited to: average caseload for disability services providers, staff turnover / position vacancies, average wait-times for registered students to receive accessible instructional materials, etc. 

Increase State Funding for the University of Washington  

The University of Washington provides countless benefits to the community through education, research, programs, and employment. Due to a lack of state support, we have seen an increase of the financial burden to continue serving the community placed on students through tuition hikes. This funding model is unsustainable and results in basic needs for students, faculty, and staff being unmet. Despite this, the University of Washington is ranked 6th best public institution in the world and demand for access to Washington State post-secondary education continues to rise. We urge the legislature to prioritize funding higher education to ensure students can continue to access world-class education in the State of Washington and so that the University of Washington can continue to serve the community to the fullest extent. 

Increase State Funding for Student Financial Aid 

We acknowledge the work the legislature has taken to support Washington students and families by passing the Workforce Education Investment Act in 2019 and affirming that commitment in 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing financial turmoil, we acknowledge the increased burden the cost of higher education imposes on low-income families. We ask for the legislature’s continued support in expanding and funding financial aid programs for students. We ask for a fully funded Washington College grant, and increased eligibility to 100% of median family income. We support all efforts to increase access to education through financial assistance. We urge the legislature to increase financial support, resources, and outreach to undocumented students.   

POSITION STATEMENTS 

Promote Access to Sexual Assault Prevention and Care 

In recognition of the uniquely traumatic impact of sexual assault, the Associated Students of the University of Washington urge the legislature to greater expand protections to survivors of sexual assault and interpersonal violence. We acknowledge the “Red Zone,” the months of August, September, October and November when 50% of sexual assaults on campus occur. Sexual violence does not spontaneously start in college, and K-12 level education can help prevent sexual violence later in life. Education around issues of sexual violence must therefore begin before college. We call for increased funding of sex education and consent programs in K-12 schooling, with particular emphasis on students at the high school level.  

Sexual assault and interpersonal violence affect all persons. However, it is also important to acknowledge that cis-gendered men have more power due to societal structures, and that comprehensive sexual education must acknowledge the power dynamics between all genders. Other important topics include gender violence, heteronormativity, hyper masculinity, disability and positionality.  

Furthermore, it is important to note that some populations are more affected by sexual and domestic violence. Specifically, Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit individuals are 10 times more likely to experience sexual assault and domestic violence compared to their white counterparts. Washington State has the 2nd largest Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-spirit (MMIWG2S) rate in the nation, with Seattle being ranked first out of all the major cities. 

We call for the allocation of increased training towards first responders of domestic violence calls. Training content should include culturally and racially competent, gender and disability inclusive, and trauma informed care. We also call for increased funds to higher education (not just UW) to provide more sexual assault advocates, SANE nurses, and resources for students.  

We call for the legislature condemnation of at-home DNA testing kits, on the grounds that evidence collected from these kits is not admissible in court, nor HIPAA compliant. We emphasize that SANE nurses are best route for survivors of sexual assault seeking to document their case and receive immediate care. We call for continued funding of the Crime Victim’s Compensation and increased education on what protections the Act affords. 

Promote Campus Sustainability 

To continue our commitment to sustainability and secure the futures of our students, we support policies and programs that address climate change, its impacts on our health and environment, and environmental injustice. We advocate for increased funding for programs that promote sustainability at public institutions of higher education across the state, as well as a sustainability curriculum to teach students how to understand and find solutions to broad environmental problems and implement positive change. We advocate for a transition away from higher education institutions financing and investing in polluting industries and fossil fuel infrastructure. We advocate for a university system which is dependent only on sustainable fuels, and for capital expenditure which can allow decarbonization of higher education, and a system which is clean of the corrupting influence of fossil fuel dollars. We also call for broader statewide measures around sustainability, such as a statewide Green New Deal and incorporating the Indigenous practices of the peoples whose land on which we reside. 

Support Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) Students 

People from the Middle East and North Africa have been categorized as “white” by the federal government since the early 1900s. For years, the Census Bureau has been lobbied to create a separate category for Middle Eastern and North African people. As a result of MENA identifying individuals being categorized as “white”, they are forgotten and neglected. Adding a MENA designation has gained public support over the years as the effects of being categorized as white harms MENA individuals. The MENA category goes beyond issues of self-identifying and has real-life implications for MENA identifying people as well, such as the allocation of resources. For example, many of the services people rely on are tied to funds and programs determined by the census. Additionally, being forced to identify as “white” has harmed the collection of data and has resulted in little to no statistical data on MENA communities, such as health trends and university enrollment.  

It is crucial to have a way to accurately represent this population and we urge the Washington State Legislature, and our federal government officials, to advocate for the addition of the Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) category on all government issued documentation, including but not limited to: voting materials, legal applications, the census, licensing, and healthcare documentation. Without the creation of this category, students who identify as MENA are unable to receive resources dedicated to minority/marginalized students, are stripped of their identity, and are further discriminated against. 

Support Undocumented Students  

Undocumented Students face continuous barriers in order to access higher education. The lack of federal financial aid, DACA renewal fees, inadequate outreach, and the need for work permits hinder Washington State’s mission of providing education to all students regardless of immigration status. In light on the pause of DACA renewals and the inadequate progress towards a pathway to citizenship, we urge the state legislature to adopt any policies that further support undocumented students. Additionally, we ask the legislature to expand access to WASFA, increase outreach on resources available, provide college and career resources dedicated for undocumented students in high schools, ensure paid jobs are available on campuses for non-DACA students, as well as continued investment in mental health resources. 

Support Indigenous Students and Culture  

The University of Washington resides on the stolen lands of the Coast Salish peoples, specifically the lands of the Duwamish, Suquamish, Puyallup, Muckleshoot, and Tulalip nations. This act of colonialism has continued to negatively impact American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) communities across the country since European contact. AIAN students face countless barriers while pursuing postsecondary education due to the continued effects of settler colonialism: socioeconomic disparity, lack of visibility, lack of cohesive community, etc. The University of Washington had an Autumn 2022 American Indian student enrollment of 1%; even the statistics provided by the University of Washington perpetuate non-inclusive and unreliable information regarding the AIAN population by reducing these populations down to a singular identity (American Indian) that does not accurately represent all individuals – American Indian and Alaska Native tribes and nations are distinct political entities and should be represented accurately. Additionally, higher education persistence rates or continuous enrollment of AIAN students in Washington State in 2021 was 72%, compared to Asian students who had a 96% persistence rate and white students with an 89% persistence rate. Furthermore, the lack of outreach efforts to prospective students who attend school on reservations further cements barriers that prevent the pursuit of postsecondary education for these individuals. In order to eliminate the financial cost and allow greater access to post-secondary education for AIAN students, we support the expansion of the RCW to outline tuition waivers for students who are enrolled members or descendants of enrolled members in a federally recognized tribe or nation. We call for the allocation of funding towards outreach to prospective AIAN students on reservations. Additionally, we urge the University of Washington and all other universities in the state of Washington to use the correct terminology in all statistics and references to the AIAN communities in order to create a more inclusive and accurately representative environment for AIAN students, staff, and faculty.  

In order to foster a cohesive and strong AIAN community at the University of Washington, there needs to be an adequate space for these students to build connections while having economically and culturally competent resources. The current phase I of wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ – Intellectual House includes a gathering hall, kitchen, and meeting space. This space provides a space for multi-service learning and gathering space for AIAN students, staff, and faculty. Since it opened its doors in 2015, there have been countless tribal summits and events, University of Washington and community events; however, there is a lack of designated space for AIAN students. The space is frequently booked for events and students are usually only able to use the conference room, which student staff also use for planning and their work. This lack of student-oriented space has created a division between the longhouse and the students who would benefit the most from what it has to offer. AIAN students often feel displaced in postsecondary education settings, and a lack of distinct space for them adds to this common sentiment. Currently phase II is underway with a goal amount of 12 million which would go towards creating a student-centered space at wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ – Intellectual House; this will be a space where students connect academically and culturally. We urge the legislature to allocate funding towards AIAN student-designated spaces on university campuses in the state to foster a sense of community for these individuals. 

Addressing the Exploitation of Prison Labor by the University of Washington  

Upon entering prison, incarcerated people lose their 13th amendment right to refuse to work. They are under the complete control of their employers and subjected to dangerous working conditions with minimal protection under the law. They are also exploited, being paid between nothing and $1.70 an hour. Much of their minimal salary is used by the government to pay various incarceration related fees, making it impossible for prisoners to accumulate wealth. While prison labor is described as a form of training and rehabilitation for reentry into the workforce post-sentence, 70% of prisoners report receiving no formal training for their positions.   

The University of Washington, in addition to many public universities around the state, spend millions of dollars on goods through exploiting prisoner labor. According to UW, the supplier shall not use forced or coerced labor, nor subject employees to inhumane or abusive treatment, and the supplier shall pay all employees at least the minimum wage of the state the supplier operates in. By supporting prison labor, universities are supporting a practice of modern-day slavery. We implore the Legislature to eliminate laws that force unwilling or unable individuals to work. We also urge the State Legislature to increase workers’ wages to minimum wage and limit the number of government-imposed wage deductions. We would like to advocate for safer working conditions, including proper training and thorough health inspections for prisoners working in potentially hazardous positions.  Until this occurs, we urge the University of Washington and all other universities in the state to divest from prison labor.   

Formerly incarcerated and systems-impacted students in post-secondary education have few resources provided by higher education institutions that are built to address their specific needs. Many studies have shown that higher education lowers recidivism rates and aids in re-entry. Generally, educational aid provided by the Department of Corrections does not extend past release. To fill this gap, we urge the Legislature to provide funding for university designated staffing positions and tailored resources to make higher education more accessible to formerly incarcerated and systems-impacted students.