The Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) unanimously passed Resolution 11.42 on Sunday, March 7. The resolution focuses on helping housing-insecure students in the event that their on-campus housing is suspended due to violations of the University’s COVID-19 protocols. It calls upon the University to create a system through which students can report and check in with specialists who can help them through a “restorative justice process,” in lieu of the punitive actions the University would traditionally take against people who have violated COVID-19 protocols multiple times. The resolution was sponsored by Community Committee Senator Katelin Penner ’22, Student Life Committee Chair Anna Nguyen ’22, and Equity and Inclusion Committee Chair Ariana Baez ’22.
This restorative justice system includes a “check-in” system with specialists where students can express potentially legitimate reasons for missing a required COVID-19 test, providing them flexibility on the current 3-strike testing policy. These specialists would also generally advise and counsel housing-insecure students on their situation when dealing with the University’s Student Judicial Board (SJB). If punitive actions are necessary in the case of repeated failures to adhere to the University’s COVID-19 guidelines, the resolution requires these specialists to ensure that the students have a stable housing situation before terminating their on-campus housing.
Baez became interested in sponsoring this bill after learning more about the tension between the University and housing-insecure students as a result of the COVID-19 policy.
“I got involved in Resolution 11.42 due to student concerns that were circulating around social media around the institution not being a strong enough support system [for] housing insecure students during this pandemic,” Baez said. “In addition, student testimonies to the WSA, from students who identify as housing insecure, really signified to me that this issue is not something that would be resolved on its own, but would require work within the Student Life Committee with Student Affairs and a formal recognition of solidarity from the WSA.”
Nguyen said she was motivated to sponsor the resolution because she related to these students’ problems as an international first-generation, low-income (FGLI) student herself.
“Being a housing-insecure student and having heard many concerns from other students in similar situations, I think that our guideline compliance structure builds on the assumption that everyone has a stable and secure home to go to off-campus,” Nguyen said. “This is not the case for a number of housing-insecure students on campus. So it was important for me to draft this resolution to make sure the administration understands that.”
Nguyen also emphasized that this resolution was mainly pre-emptive rather than responsive.
“We didn’t have any case of housing insecure students who have ended up violating guidelines severely enough to warrant on-campus housing suspension during the past fall semester, except for one winter housing case which was unique in itself,” Nguyen said. “But then, that does not mean it will definitely not happen anytime in the future during an academic year.”
Neither Baez nor Nguyen expressed surprise that the resolution passed unanimously.
“Katelin Penner consulted housing-insecure students to ensure that this was a resolution that supported the communities affected by it, and the rest of the senators were very much aware and in support of this work,” Baez said.
Nguyen highlighted the hope that this resolution will make the University’s administration think more proactively about helping students and develop a more streamlined process for students to express their housing concerns.
“The most important aspect of any successful systematic changes is to engage multi-constituents, and I think that our current relationship of collaboration and engagement between the student government and the Student Affairs leadership has been productive, and will be able to yield even better results if that relationship is strengthened going forward,” Nguyen stated.
Nonetheless, the resolution’s sponsors also want to emphasize that everyone on campus still must continue to abide by the University’s COVID-19 guidelines. In the resolution, the sponsors specifically note that the University’s policy is meant to hold students accountable for their actions and that these punitive actions are not carried out immediately.
“This resolution does not condemn COVID violations,” Baez said. “However, it recognizes that mistakes do happen, and it acknowledges that some students would be affected at a greater extent.”
Isaac Slomski-Pritz can be reached at email@example.com.