Traditionally Underrepresented Clubs Voice Concerns, Ignite Change

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Ty Phay / Staff Photo

Student Life hires advocate to support efforts in representing clubs

So you’re interested in starting a club at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom. 

To do that, you have to fill out a request form and submit it to the Student Life office. From there, Clubs and Organizations Senator John Shead has to organize it and send it off for approval. 

Whether or not it is approved isn’t up to Shead. While Shead can help clubs with issues they’re facing, he can only provide so much support alone. And unless you come to a Clubs Council meeting, which is held every other Monday, your grievances may not ever be addressed.

Student Programs Director Cameron Cox recognized some of the ongoing challenges that Student Life recently faced. “Last year, we were short staffed; it was a little chaotic,” Cox said. Not only that, but before this academic year, no one was appointed to support the club senator with club-related issues, including funding and representation. 

The Queer Support Club faced privacy and funding issues, while members of Indigenous at Pierce, before formally being ratified, said they felt unheard and unsupported by Student Life. 

Isaac Pennoyer, Queer Support Club president, said the group faced problems with getting transgender essential items, including binders and packers. These are items that can help transgender students with transitioning. Recently, the transgender essential items have been approved for purchase by Pierce College Fort Steilacooom’s president Julie White.

Pennoyer added that the Queer Support Club met in an open area, which he said did not provide them a safe space. Queer Support recently received a higher level of privacy when the Student Life club senator booked them a classroom. Even so, Pennoyer said the meeting place isn’t ideal.

“We were put in a room that is not optimal for what kind of club that we have,” Pennoyer said. “We need a place that is quiet and personal and [where you can] shut the door without a bunch of students needing to come in for a class, which is basically what we’re dealing with now.” 

Ty Phay / Staff Photo
Ashley Good(left) and Iopu Ignacio (right) are making fliers for awreness for MMIW: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

Meanwhile, Indigenous at Pierce’s club president, Ashley Good, said she feels as though Student Life doesn’t do enough to help refer Native American students to the club. 

Good said that Indigenious at Pierce’s mission is to create a space for Native American and non-native students alike to share their experiences and be part of a community. However, she said she feels as though a lack of support and recognition from Student Life has made spreading their club’s goals difficult. 

“I think ‘unsupported’ is a good word for it. [There was] not really a lot of communication,” Good said. “If there is any communication, I feel like it’s pressured on the club to be able to have that, which is difficult for students sometimes.”

Clubs aren’t the only groups on campus that have faced issues. Members of ASPIRE – a grant-funded program whose mission is to support Asian, Pacific Islander, and low-income students – said that they feel as though their program is not taken seriously.

ASPIRE’s outreach assistant Iopu Ignacio said that when it comes to Student Life putting on cultural events, they wouldn’t collaborate with ASPIRE unless they asked. However, activities between ASPIRE and Student Life have gradually increased this quarter. 

Up until recently, Shead and Cox have attempted to handle most of the clubs issues. Now that Student Life has hired a Student Engagement Specialist, Walter Lutsch, he will work directly with clubs on their concerns. “I am here to support the club senator and make sure they are getting as much out of that time here in Student Government as possible,” Lutsch said.

Lutsch will oversee administrative work, support Student Life with campus events, and handle purchases and reservations. Lutsch said he hopes to bring his experiences and passion for clubs to Pierce. He wants to bring in the ideas, programs, and structural elements he learned at both Western Washington University and Whatcom Community College.

“I love clubs so much,” Lutsch said. “They are what started me on this path, and I feel I can bring this specific focus, and all my years working in clubs, and as a club leader to this.”

While the new SES settles into his role, Student Life is slowly improving their communication and organization methods. “For clubs, I am taking the steps to develop a plan to create an entire Canvas module, to help ease organization issues,” Shead said. “I don’t know how accounts will work, but I’m hoping this is something the new [SES] position can help with.”

While the SES was never an official position until recently, Student Life previously had an administrative assistant handling most of the campus club’s paperwork. When the assistant left in July 2018, Student Life chose to take their time looking for a new person for the position.

“[Student Life] recognized they needed a club focus [person],” Lutsch said. “Somebody who can really come in and focus on that and make it the best that they can be; I am honored and excited to be that person.”