Students came together Tuesday evening in the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center to discuss issues on campus and possible ways to create positive change.
Approximately 50 students congregated in the Knowledge Center Rotunda on Tuesday, March 27, to discuss prominent issues facing students and actions to take to fix them. Issues and topics of discussion ranged from financial concerns to social concerns.
The event was by Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, Acting in Community Together In Northern Nevada, Young Democrats, and Young Democratic Socialists in addition to Nevada Student Power.
“Our goal is to come together and hear your issues with not only campus, but local as well,” announcer Escenthio Marigny said. “There have been a lot of issues, especially in the last year, that we feel are important to come together to discuss.”
The event consisted of speeches by students concerned about various problems plaguing not only the university but Reno as a whole. The primary portion of the town hall consisted of small breakout groups to discuss concerns before coming together to share.
Student and Young Democrats President Rosie Gully shared her group’s concerns, which include racism on campus, troubles student experience when trying to find housing and ignorance of sexual assault within the university.
“These things may have been touched on before, but I think that’s because they are things that need to be said,” Gully said.
A universal topic of conversation among students was the fear of being targeted by others on campus. Gully discussed her interactions with other students where she was bullied for her sexuality.
“I thought bullying was over when I left high school,” Gully said. “I’m LGBT and when I hold a girl’s hand I get called things and I cannot handle it.”
On a local level, Gully also feels that homelessness is something that needs to be addressed.
“Homelessness is one of the issues that I see the most, but is also one of the issues that I see get ignored the most,” Gully said. “The issue here is that people are thinking because it doesn’t affect [them], it doesn’t necessarily matter.”
According to the Reno Gazette-Journal, rents are at an all-time high and vacancies are at an all-time low, leaving students worried about where that will leave their housing situations. A study done by Zillow showed that the average rent in Reno is around $1700 a month, which is not ideal or obtainable for many college students.
Student Caitlin Gatchalian expressed concerns for students to find affordable housing, as well for those that are already part of the homeless population.
Gatchalian stressed the need for reliable public transportation in the general Reno-Sparks area. While the university provides some means of transportation such as PackTransit or Campus Escort, students feel this is not adequate.
“Sometimes it takes 45 minutes to get from point A to point B,” Gatchalian said. “Sometimes the busses get shut down because of the snow and that causes an even bigger issue than it just taking a long time.”
Students also feel that the additional costs required of them, such as access codes and textbooks, after paying tuition are unfair. According to an article from InsideHigherEd.com, the price of textbooks has increased by 161 percent between 1998 and 2014. Access to websites such as MyMathLab.com to complete homework requires access codes that can reach up to $100 for just one semester.
“We pay our tuition to this school and then still have to pay to access our homework,” Gatchalian said. “How is that okay?”
Student Francisca Smith expressed feelings of being let down by the amount of unpaid internships offered to students rather than paid ones. While the Pack Internship Grant Program does offer paid internships with wages of $12/hr, they are limited, leaving students with unpaid options.
“Your labor should not be free,” Smith said. “When we work, we need to be paid for it.”
Student and Young Democratic Socialists Secretary Phuong Tran shared her feelings of being unprotected by University Police Services and Reno Police Department. Such feelings come from events last semester involving University Police Services, such as controversial remarks made by an officer during a traffic stop, or an officer dressing up as Colin Kaepernick holding a sign saying “Will work for food”.
“These people are supposed to protect us, yet we feel more unprotected than ever,” Tran said.
Tran also explained that in order for things to happen, students must be making physical efforts to get their points across to people in power.
“We should be showing up to the Board of Regents meetings,” Tran said.
The Board of Regents opens all regular and committee meetings to the public.
According to Marigny, the town hall was a new way to let students voice their opinions about issues around them. While ASUN and other university organizations have hosted town hall meetings in the past, this particular town hall forum was a new approach.
“We wanted to take an interesting approach to the town hall forum,” Marigny said. “Young Democrats does a more traditional approach to town halls, so we thought that trying a different and less traditional set up would bring in a different range of students. These students have concerns they need to share and we want to give a safe and effective place to do so.”
Victims of sexual assault and discrimination are encouraged to report incidents to the Title IX office. The university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Title IX work diligently to assist students in incidents of sexual assault, discrimination, and hate. If students have further topics they would like to discuss with University Police Services directly in an open forum, they are encouraged to attend Pizza with the Police on Thursday, April 19 in the Joe Crowley Student Union.
Olivia Ali can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.