As American politics adjust to a new agenda, Clark’s student government faces the same task, as the ASCC begins implementing a new set of priorities.
The 2017 ASCC priorities were set through a unanimous vote by the body’s executive council last December. Officially, the issues are food insecurity, textbook prices and “increased support,” which will mainly focus resources on events and evening students.
“We got the topics mostly from student leaders from the priorities paper forum we held in the beginning of November,” said ASCC President Sarah Moe. “Event info and evening resources got some of the highest votes in the forum. Textbooks and food insecurity is something we were interested from the beginning of the year, and got support during the forum.”
Student hunger is a nationwide issue, with the nonprofit organization Feeding America reporting in 2014 that college students made up around 10 percent of their 46.5 million adult clients. Hunger can cause anxiety, depression, anemia and difficulty focusing, according to the American Psychological Association.
“We’ve found through surveys and just asking students questions that there are students
here with issues with food security,” Moe said. “We just got on the food committee here on campus, trying to get more involved and see what we can provide for students in need.”
The involvement began with the ASCC’s effort to provide oatmeal and hot cocoa during Welcome Week. Food accessibility also should improve when the new cafeteria, currently under construction in the Penguin Union Building, is finished, but Moe thinks the cafeteria “will aid [food access] but certainly won’t fix the problem.”
Many of the same students who struggle affording food are also the ones hit hardest by textbook prices.
“Textbooks are super expensive, you have to pay for them every quarter, and they might last you [only] ten weeks,” Moe said.
This is reflected in the Bureau of Labor Statistics data, which shows that the price of course materials in America rose 812 percent between 1978 and 2013.
The ASCC’s efforts to lower costs will mostly center around securing funding for instructors to put their course materials online as Open Educational Resources, accessible for small fees that tend to be cheaper and include all kinds of class resources, Moe said.
Moe also said the ASCC is working with the bookstore, which is “working as hard as they can to keep prices for students low.”
An issue that is often underlooked is resources for evening students. Carol Mackewich, a professor with the Counseling and Health Center who also teaches a College 101 course, sees a myriad of reasons why some students can only come to campus at night.
“Because they work, mainly,” Mackewich said. “They’re often too busy, some of them might take care of kids during the day and switch out with someone who works in the day.”
But Mackewich also sees some obstacles to keeping more college resources open late enough for evening students.
“We’ve attempted to stay open later,” Mackewich said. “But nobody’s come. It takes commitment that they’ll come if we stay open. With unlimited resources it would be great to have things open 24/7, but unfortunately, we’re constrained by what we can pay to keep things running.”
Moe said the ASCC’s focus for evenings will be creating more events and other ways for those students to be engaged with campus life.
“We’re trying to get students more involved… Most of our events are during the day, and during Welcome Week we only provide food until 2 p.m., so we we’re looking into providing more resources to the night students.”
One topic received lots of positive feedback and related to textbooks and evening resources, but didn’t make the cut. Extending library hours received the most votes at the forum, but wasn’t feasible.
“I met with the director of the library,” Moe said. “It’s just not something they can do at this time, with their budget.”
Clark President Bob Knight praised the ASCC’s choice of priorities, noting that 47 percent of Clark students are classified as low-income.
“These [issues] are near and dear to students,” Knight said. “They’re realities students are dealing with and they need to be addressed.”