Graduate & Professional Student Senate

February 22, 2017

Senate with Sam. February 22, 2017.

On February 22 the GPSS Senators were given the opportunity to ask any questions they wanted to UW President Ana Mari Cauce and our president did not shy away and gave honest feedback to all of the senators. Below are some of the questions asked that night for those of you who could not make it.

President Cauce began by talking about the current political state of things and the constant and high level of confusion people are feeling. She feels this confusion is coming from our current federal executive branch who state an opinion or a new rule and then 24 hours later change their mind and go back on what was previously done. The best example of this was the EPA being told they can no longer communicate with citizens and groups outside of the EPA, and then the very next day they were allowed to again. Another case of confusion and anxiety is the current office’s lack of political experience. Like in any job there is a learning curve when you start, however people usually have training and previous relatable experience making that transition as smooth as possible. This lack of knowledge along with executive orders that have had direct negative impact on The University of Washington community, the travel ban or the cut to science funding, and has caused people to feel anxious about the future of the school and of the nation.

The first question of the night held nothing back and asked about potential blowback or punishment for being a sanctuary city or university. President Cauce was happy to report that after seeing the literature on sanctuary universities that the University of Washington is already following most of these rules. The University does not release names to ICE without a warrant, and the University Police Department do not stop for immigration checks nor do they report it, if they find anything. Yes the President of the United States could remove DACA, but the state of Washington is in charge of state scholarships and they will continue to fund undocumented students. Even if the worst happened, President Cauce said that The University has done the math and they are able and willing to continue funding currently funded undocumented students throughout their time at UW.

Another senator asked what The University is doing about data protection and potential loss of data. Currently President Cauce feels that we are playing an offensive game and doing all that we can to show how important to business this research is. There are several large political groups working to keep research data open and available by filing declarations and amicus briefs. President Cauce did “wish [she] could tell us there won’t be any problems… but let’s put it this way, we are not alone.” There are numerous other schools across the nation aware of this potential problem and are working and worrying about the same things individuals are. While Obama Care may be important for an individual, it brings in millions of dollars to universities, especially to The University of Washington with the medical center.

Lastly, prefacing their question by talking about Milo Yiannopoulos, a Senator asked about the University’s work to differentiate between hate speech and protected speech. Stating very clearly as she has before President Cauce said that there is no legal difference between these two types of speech, hate speech is protected speech. The University of Washington is a public space that cannot control who students bring on campus or what they say. However, The University can impact what students say via the conduct guidelines so that what happens in the classrooms and the residence halls is controlled. If students want to change the campus guidelines for guest speakers they could approach the legislature to draft a resolution that would not allow anyone, including guest speakers, to violate the student code of conduct. Other then this there is very little legal action the school can take against hate speech.

President Cauce gave an hour of her time on one of her few nights off to speak with and listen to the graduate student senators. And as always, GPSS Senate meetings happen without fail every other Wednesday from 5:30pm-7:30pm in HUB 332. These meetings are open to the public and we encourage everyone to come check out the meetings, and we usually have snacks. Come for the snacks, but stay for energizing conversations!