Here at The Aggie, we’ve made our New Year’s resolutions. After a tumultuous 2015, we’re looking forward to continuing to contribute our voice to the Davis community. These are some of the most important issues the Editorial Board wishes to see addressed in 2016:
Less sexual assault
Sexual violence is a huge issue on college campuses. In 2015, The Aggie published editorials on this topic and articles about sexual assault in local parks. But 2015 also saw the introduction of a campus-wide campaign aimed to stop sexually violence at UC Davis. The Editorial Board hopes that in 2016, we see fewer stories about rape on campus and more stories about the work that students are doing to create campaigns about consent and bystander intervention.
We hope that the discussion around sexual assault moves away from a victim-blaming mentality and toward a proactive, educational approach to reducing sexual assault in colleges. Teaching students about consent is helpful; instructing women to dress more conservatively to avoid getting raped is not. It’s good to create a dialogue around why language like “I raped that midterm” is problematic; it’s harmful to simply tell women to sign up for self-defense classes so they’re better prepared to protect themselves from sexual assault.
This isn’t an issue that’s going to go away on its own, and the Editorial Board commends the important steps taken in 2015 to curb sexual violence at UC Davis. It’s up to us, as a campus, to ensure that this dialogue and discussion continues in 2016 and on.
Better benefits to UC subcontractors, employees
In a move sure to please labor rights activists, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order on Monday that will raise the hourly minimum wage of state university workers to $15.
Last year, University of California President Janet Napolitano announced a plan that will raise the wage of workers here to the same amount by 2017.
Cuomo and Napolitano’s efforts are some of the most significant in a nationwide movement that aims to shift power back to employees hamstrung by decade long declines in their power.
Challenges remain. Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill last year that would have increased protections and benefits for subcontracted employees working at the UC, a move supported by Napolitano. These workers, who are not hired directly by the UC, ensure that day-to-day operations, like custodial, food and security services, run smoothly. Their work is largely the same as their UC-hired counterparts.
And yet too many of these employees, without specific protections under the law, will continue to work without the security of pensions and representation. In 2016, the UC should buck labor trends by ensuring that all workers who contribute to its communities earn a living wage.
Safer world for the LGBTQIA community
Each year, steps are taken to create a more accepting and approachable world for the LGBTQIA community. In 2015, the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in the United States, bringing in an entirely new era for America, and for the world. On a smaller, yet equally important note, Napolitano issued a directive on June 10 requiring the conversion of all single-stall bathrooms on UC campuses into gender-neutral ones by February 2016.
Although unprecedented and in the right direction, these happenings still do not ensure a safe environment for LGBTQIA students and people. In 2015, more transgender people were killed than any year on record, and according to the Human Rights Campaign, 92 percent of young LGBT people reported hearing negative comments about the LGBT community at school, on the Internet and from their peers.
In this new year, the Editorial Board encourages UC Davis students to remember that no one deserves to feel unsafe for being who they are, let alone in a classroom or with friends. We encourage students to take action when overhearing negative comments about any person – whatever their identity – and to welcome the use of preferred gender pronouns. We also hope those who are interested in educating themselves about these topics visit the LGBTQIA Resource Center and utilize its information to better the campus and wider community.
Stronger commitment from ASUCD
In the last year, four ASUCD senators resigned from their posts, raising questions about whether recent uncontested elections have led to a handful of elected student leaders who are less committed to their positions.
It is vital that all future elected officials stand by the explicit commitments of their respective posts. With some legitimate exceptions, representatives have a responsibility to show the office the respect it deserves, approaching their duties with preparation, optimism and sincerity, knowing full well what is expected of them over the course of their service.
Most recently, 16 candidates participated in the fall quarter elections, a massive improvement from the uncontested debacle held during last year’s winter quarter race. The Editorial Board hopes that political participation and voter turnout will only continue to rise over the coming year, contributing to a healthy and invested student body.
Tightened gun safety laws
2015 was marred with mass shootings, including the Nov. 27 massacre in Colorado Springs, Colo. and the Dec. 2 attack in San Bernardino, Calif. According to a report by the Washington Post, the latter attack marked the 355th mass shooting in 2015. With only 365 days in a year, this number is almost unfathomable. So far it seems that 2016 may be off to a better start.
On Jan. 5, President Obama announced his plan to take executive action toward limiting gun violence in the U.S. through conducting more thorough background checks, tightening requirements for the selling of firearms, creating safer firearm technology, implementing current gun laws on a wider scale and increasing mental health services. The Editorial Board hopes that UC Davis students and other students across the country continue to critically evaluate current gun safety laws to make campuses and other public places safer.
More responsible UC investments, partnerships
While the UC system’s recent divestment from three of the country’s largest private prison corporations was a good step toward making a public university representative of its student body, there are still many other private companies that the university should look into divesting from in the coming year.
The UC Davis campus alone partners with several companies that provide services and funds for private prisons across the country. While partnering with these companies provides UC Davis with a huge chunk of income to spend on bettering the campus, students and administrators alike fail to acknowledge that UC Davis, along with the rest of the schools in the UC system, are supposed to be public universities and should be treated as such. The Editorial Board hopes that the UC will strive to partner with and invest in companies that reflect the values of the UC student body.