The Associated Students of Colorado State University senate spent over two hours Wednesday night discussing three bills on the senate floor, focusing on a proposed travel grant for Indigenous students.
Senator Lizzy Osterhoudt wrote and introduced the bill, titled the “COVID-19 Indigenous Student’s Travel Grant,” which aims to provide funding to Indigenous students who wish to go home over break but cannot afford it.
Osterhoudt said that Native tribes did not receive funding from the CARES Act and have been hit the hardest by COVID-19.
“Our people have been marginalized from the whole population of this country, and through that, we are really lacking resources right now,” Osterhoudt said. “Like our previous gallery member said, he was homeless for a while, even before this, but COVID-19 has made it very hard.”
Osterhoudt said the travel grant will allow Indigenous students to travel home during breaks and is asking for $10,000 to make sure no students are left behind. She is also working with Vice President for Student Affairs Blanche Hughes and the Pandemic Preparedness Team to receive permission for University-funded travel.
“We have that spiritual health, we have to take care of ourselves,” Osterhoudt said. “I know it might be hard to grasp for the outside world, but it’s what really grounds us within ourselves and our culture, and it’s very inner-tribal, so that’s why we need to go home, to really take care of ourselves and our mental health and our spiritual health and our medical care.”
“The best way we can use our money does not have to affect every student. It has to affect the students that need our help the most.” -Marlis Hazelton, Internal Affairs Committee chair
Senator Michael Carillo expressed concerns over the bill and the amount of money allotted. He asked why Native American students would be prioritized over other marginalized students and pointed out that offering the same grant to all marginalized students would cost about $300,000.
Marlis Hazelton, chair for the Internal Affairs Committee, said that a grant does not mean that the funding opportunity has to apply to every student.
“The best way we can use our money does not have to affect every student,” Hazelton said. “It has to affect the students that need our help the most. … (The) idea of, ‘Well, this isn’t going help the most amount of students,’ I think is an inherently wrong way to look at it because it’s going to significantly help a small amount of students … (who) have been taken advantage of for a very long period of time, especially by academia.”
Many other senators expressed their own reasons for supporting the bill, saying that it is not appropriate to turn groups of marginalized students against each other and that this bill is about equity more than equality.
Carillo said that his issue with the bill lies with the amount of money the bill allocates to a small group of students.
“I understand these struggles,” Carillo said. “And it’s not that I’m not sympathetic to the request, but when I look at the money that we spend, I am looking at it as every penny that we spend is the reason why tuition is what it is. … The reasons (for going home) that are in the bill are pretty universal. … Most of those apply to most minorities on campus, … and I just don’t see (the bill) as providing equity.”
After a full hour of introducing the bill, answering questions and engaging in discussion and debate, the senate sent the bill to the Budgetary Affairs Committee for further deliberation, amending and review.
Senator Diego Tovar introduced the bill “Establishment of the ASCSU Diversity and Inclusion Caucus as a Standing Body,” and said he chose to call it a caucus instead of a committee so that all CSU students feel comfortable attending and do not see it as an ASCSU-only space.
According to the bill text, the goal is to create a standing caucus “with membership offered to all students with the particular intent of progressing diversity and inclusion initiatives across campus. … (The) goal of this caucus is to promote a sense of belonging, equity and a voice for every student on our campus at Colorado State University.”
Tovar said that he and Senator Rachel Jackson, after running for ASCSU president and vice president in September, have experience reaching out to students to get them involved and informed, which they believe will help with participation in this caucus.
The bill was sent to both Internal Affairs and the University Affairs Committee.
Senator Kyle Hill introduced his “Stage 1 Bike Transportation Security Camera Bill,” which he has spoken about at past senate sessions. The bill asks for $10,500 of students fees from the senate’s discretionary fund to provide half the cost of funding security cameras and signs announcing the cameras that would be placed in front of bike stands to prevent theft.
Hill said that, according to the CSU Police Department, bike theft is the most common crime on campus and costs students thousands of dollars each year. According to the bill text, placing security cameras and signage by bike stands “has shown a decrease of 30% to 50% of bike thefts.”
Hill said that he is working with CSUPD and the Residence Hall Association to see if they would be able to contribute funding to this project as well and that ASCSU’s contribution would help the project move forward faster.
Speaker of the Senate Christian Dykson sent the bill to the Budgetary and University Affairs committees.
Editor’s Note: Ceci Taylor contributed to the reporting on this article.
Serena Bettis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @serenaroseb.