The University of California Student Association is using YouTube tactics to demonstrate flaws in graduate health care.
Graduate students are invited and encouraged to submit a video online at ucsa.org to share their experiences with the Graduate Student Health Insurance Program, or GSHIP. UCSA plans to show the testimonials at the next regents meeting, in July.
Regents and decision-makers aren’t aware of the impact that cuts have on the clients and services of GSHIP, and video testimonials show the reality, said Lucero Chavez, president of the UCSA.
“We want to present through personal stories and testimonials because it’s not a statistic or something in writing – it’s a live person telling their story,“ she said. “We’ve given students the opportunity to let us know how it’s affecting them right now.“
UCSA collected hundreds of testimonials throughout the system, and began travelling to campuses to meet with and film select students‘ stories.
Despite not being affiliated with UCSA, UC Davis‘ Graduate Student Association submitted more testimonials than any other school due to the efforts of External Chair Marrah Lachowicz-Scroggins, who was enthusiastic about working with a larger organization and publicized the cause.
“When I read the call for GSHIP testimonials I e-mailed it to all of our grad students and publicized it as much as possible,” she said. “I serve on the SHIP committee at Davis, so I have a vested interest in having our voices heard, and so do our students, as shown by how many testimonials were sent out.“
Kelly Osmundson, a field organizer for UCSA, visited the Davis campus last week to converse with students and film their experiences.
“One of the things that the UCSA board of directors really believes in is making sure that we are outreaching and empowering students to speak on their own behalf, and we don’t believe that non-membership should prohibit them from telling their story,” Osmundson said.
Students can submit anonymously if they wish, or they can associate themselves with their campus and give their testimony. Offering anonymity is key to sharing some very serious experiences, Lachowicz-Scroggins said.
“There have been some very specific, highly personal issues, like cancer and children,” she said.
Lachowicz-Scroggins said the lack of dependent health care has forced many families to rely on government programs like Medi-Cal, and has a direct impact on their decision of whether or not to start a family while in graduate school.
“As a female graduate student I’ve had several friends directly affected by the lack of dependent health care on campus,” she said. “It’s unacceptable that graduate students who are employees of the university don’t have health insurance for their kids and have to go use social services.“
Lachowicz spoke with a female nurse practitioner who mentioned that she had been seeing less women in the graduate age group able to have children. Lachowicz then explained that the lack of dependent health coverage and restrictions in prenatal coverage are very discouraging to someone considering having a child while in graduate school.
“It’s unfortunate because in general, Davis is a very family-friendly city and community but our own programs do not support women of child-bearing age to have children and make sure they have the coverage they need,” Lachowicz-Scroggins said.
Chavez said she is optimistic that these personal accounts will hit home at the regents‘ meeting in July.
“Since the beginning of the school year we’ve gained a lot of traction on this issue – from getting another student on the system-wide health care committee at the UCOP, to really just having it be a topic of conversation and meeting with the UCOP and the other regents,“ she said. “These testimonials ensure that the issue stays on their radar.“
More information can be found at ucsa.org.
MIKE DORSEY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.