Student leaders need to lead the fight against sexual assault, hunger, counselor shortage

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ASO strength (1)
First of all, congratulations! You’ve been elected by your peers and that is a great accomplishment. It is also a great responsibility.
As the ASO, you are the voice of students. You represent the student body to our administrators and governing board. This gives you the potential to make serious changes to the campus, both physically and culturally. Never underestimate the power of the position you have been elected to.
Our ASO is commonly associated with club fairs and activities that promote cultural awareness. Recently it has also tackled more substantive issues by starting a food pantry for low-income students and working with the administration to have the first SWC active-shooter drill. Our ASO leaders explored ways to provide transportation between San Ysidro and the main campus. This project, like many others, will take more than just one ASO administration’s hard work, you will need to carry on.
As the voice of the students, remember to listen to their needs before you begin to speak for them. Prioritize the needs of students. Yes, fun activities are an important contribution by the ASO, but they should not overshadow serious topics such as sexual harassment and campus safety where we have serious problems.
ASO 2015-16 began a food pantry for students who cannot afford to buy food everyday. Keep it stocked.
Fight for student success and stick to it. ASO 2014-15 pledged to support the adjunct rally and then backed out at the last minute. Help adjuncts, because it is in the students’ best interest that you do so.
When you are given a seat on the Shared Consultation Council (SCC), please show up. This seat is a privilege. The administration is giving you a seat at the big table and is ready to listen to what you have to say. When the SCC voted for the smoking ban last year, the ASO representatives did not vote on it. This issue directly affected students and it was disregarded. Sitting through long meetings was probably not the reason you signed up for the position, but it is part of the job — arguably the most important part.
Try to balance the big picture and the small details. It is hard to do, but they are both important. For example, the ASO 2015-16 opened up an online textbook swap page. This is an innovative and highly-effective way to help out students with textbook prices. Well done.
Now take a step back and realize that only 39 percent of SWC students are graduating within six years. The goal should be 100 percent within two years. Our ASO needs to get involved.
Get out of the ASO building once in awhile and make it a point to walk around and talk to the students. Learn the different aspects of the student body and what the problems are.
One neglected problem is sexual assault. Southwestern previously had a Women’s Resource Center that was the safe haven to many women who had nowhere to turn. Even though sexual assault lurks in the shadows, it is prevalent. Urge the administration to bring the Women’s Resource Center back. Join the It’s On Us Movement to fight sexual assault on college campuses.
Our college needs more crisis counselors. Our Health Services and Personal Wellness Services department consists of Dr. Clarence Amaral, the only full-time employee, a part-time employee and a couple of interns. These are not enough people to tackle the problems of more than 18,000 students. Amaral cannot do it alone, though he sure tries.
We need counselors specialized in acute trauma. Our generation deals with many crises. SWC needs to provide specialists to help students deal with suicidal thoughts, financial stress, loss, abuse and assault.
Push for what you believe will help students. Look at the pros and cons of previous administrations and learn from them. Have fun in 2016-17, but do not treat this position as another bullet point on your resume. Make your mark. Think big and act big. Make us proud like Melissa Rodriguez and her team did. They made a difference. You can, too.

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