Over the past months, the GSBA Senate has been crafting a pair of resolutions intended to aid Gonzaga’s undocumented students with a scholarship funded by donors as well as GU students.
The bills were passed during the last GSBA Senate meeting and during a special Senate session held Wednesday.
As proposed, students are able to opt-out of paying the $2.50 increase in tuition for the scholarship, but will pay the fee if they do not.
GSBA Speaker of the Senate Nick Ramos said it’s still uncertain how many students would receive the scholarship but noted other schools award four or five students. Students applying would have to fill out an application and perform an on-campus interview. He was also unsure of the percentage of tuition the scholarship would cover.
Sen. Tyler Sudeck said students should have to opt-in to pay the fee. Sudeck also questioned whether GU has a need for the scholarship.
Sen. Matt Schaffer moved to table the vote for the bill until further student research is known. His motion failed.
“My main concern is as soon as the student body hears of it passing and that GSBA as a whole took a stand for this, if there’s a resounding no [from the student body], there’s going to be serious backlash against the GSBA and other groups,” Schaffer said.
Senators Schaffer, Sudeck and Budig voted against the bill.
Ramos enlisted the help of La Raza Latina President Amayrani Chavez when formulating the resolution.
“We’re really excited about this,” Chavez said. “This is something we really need. I think [Ramos] has been a great advocate for Latino students.”
Chavez was an important resource in crafting the bills, according to Ramos.
“Listening to [Chavez’s] concerns and having multiple meetings with her really gave us the inspiration to move forward,” Ramos said.
More multilingual services in the financial aid office are another priority of Chavez, to go along with the scholarship.
Chavez understands why the tuition bump is optional for students, but doesn’t see why students would choose not to opt-in.
“If you’re able to help someone, why wouldn’t you?” Chavez said.
Ramos said the scholarship could be seen as early as fall 2018 with students voting on the scholarship as soon as next fall’s GSBA elections.
With all of the work not being completed this year, next year’s GSBA Cabinet will have to continue the effort for the scholarship to survive, something Ramos isn’t worried about.
“We feel very positive it will continue into next year’s Cabinet,” Ramos said. He added GSBA President-elect Carlo Juntilla is a sponsor of the bill.
“I believe our undocumented students are among the most vulnerable demographics at [GU],” Juntilla said. “After the [election], undocumented students felt unsupported by the administration. If the work of the resolution is continued through next year, then we will hopefully create a more inclusive environment where those students feel more welcomed on our campus.”
Speaker-elect of the Senate Connor Hayes also expressed continued support of the bill.
“I think it’s important to find a sponsor for it in the Senate next year,” Hayes said. “That’s probably something I’ll do before we leave. I’m going to sit down with all the senators and — try and find someone who wants to pick it up.”
The GSBA Senate passed the first of two bills that would recommend the scholarship. Ramos described the bill as “laying the groundwork” for the scholarship.
“[The first bill] sets a precedent for future resolutions with regard to supporting and advocating policies that help underrepresented students,” Ramos said.
Ramos got much of his inspiration from fellow Jesuit schools like Loyola Marymount, Santa Clara, Fairfield and Loyola of Chicago.
“I’ve been in contact with a lot leaders of the student senates of other Jesuit schools — and they said [an undocumented student scholarship] was a very important resolution they needed to pass at their respective institutions so I felt [GU] needed to join in,” Ramos said.
Ramos also drew from a study done by FU, SCU and LUC surrounding how Jesuit schools should handle undocumented student resolutions.
“One of the primary recommendations they had was having the president of the university publicly coming forward and stating his support for the continued advancement of undocumented students on campus,” Ramos said. “That really sets the tone.”
In January 2013, President Thayne McCulloh signed a statement from the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities standing with undocumented students. Earlier this semester, McCulloh signed another statement from the AJCU which said GU would “protect to the fullest extent of the law undocumented students on our campus.”
“[McCulloh’s support] was hugely important,” Ramos said.
Loyola University of Chicago’s Magis Scholarship is similar to what the Senate is proposing. The LUC Student Senate paired with the Latin American Student Organization to create the scholarship and it was voted on by the student body and passed with 70 percent approval.
The Magis scholarship consists of a required $2.50 increase in tuition, unlike GU’s potential opt-in.
Joseph Thompson is the politics editor. Follow him on Twitter: @JoeyJThomp.