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ASUW allocates $100,000 for ‘grants to students in need,’ examines hardship withdrawals

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Disclaimer: Trevor Hunt works for The Daily. 

The April 16 Zoom meeting of the ASUW Board of Directors (BOD) saw the organization take its first major steps in helping students in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Two weeks after the first meeting of the online quarter, which saw the BOD discuss actions taken by other universities nationwide, it passed Board Bill 3.41, which allocates significant funds to help students impacted by the novel coronavirus.

The bill transfers $100,000 from the ASUW General Fund — the ASUW’s reserve account — to the Husky Pride Fund scholarship foundation.

“Effectively, what has just happened is a lot of the entities’ unused funds are rolling back into the General Fund,” finance & budget director Trevor Hunt said, adding that “this is first coming from our reserves. Entities are still very much able to use that money if they need to.” 

Hunt said that despite the seemingly large expenditure, “we will have enough money coming back into the General Fund after this quarter to fund this $100,000.” 

The bill does not explicitly state how the funds will be used or delegated to students, but directs several members of the BOD to work with the Husky Pride Fund on designing, implementing, and advertising those protocols. In addition, the bill calls on the ASUW’s “partner organizations and individual supporters to contribute to and promote the Husky Pride Fund,” and directs existing food distribution efforts to continue. 

According to the bill, director of campus partnerships Brianna Asman is responsible for building the protocol for the allocation of funds. 

“People aren’t going to stop needing help, so it’s going to go in waves,” she said.

Efforts to publicize and explain the resources available to students in a “COVID-specific [manner], instead of just dropping a list," are currently under development, Asman said. The campaign, called Husky Pride Week, is being developed by Asman in collaboration with director of programming Daniella Calasanz Miño.

“$100,000 maybe isn’t the most amount of money, but it is a really great starting place, and it’s going to be a huge help to a lot of our students,” ASUW President Kelty Pierce said. “And this is just the beginning.”

The bill passed unanimously.

Current and former quarter drop proposal

The BOD also heard a presentation from Megan Kennedy, interim director of the UW Resilience Lab, and the university registrar, Helen Garrett, on proposed changes to hardship withdrawals, which allow students undergoing extreme personal circumstances to petition to withdraw from a course after the deadline to drop classes has passed.

Kennedy cited concerns that students whose hardship withdrawal requests had been denied at first glance were not appealing that decision, even though the majority of appeals are accepted. 

“Our goals were to think about creating a process that’s much more trauma-informed and student-centered,” Kennedy said. 

Kennedy, Garrett, and a team of stakeholders identified six primary challenges to be addressed and six primary recommendations that could be implemented. 

The first issue is that the current system, by which a student can only drop one class after the deadline per year, was deemed restrictive; in response, the committee recommended allowing one drop per quarter between weeks three and seven, with more drops requiring consultation with an advisor.

The second issue is that, currently, students must apply for a hardship withdrawal and are notified whether or not that request was approved, why or why not, and how it can be appealed. The committee recommended adopting a former quarter drop system, where a student can explain why a class from any of the previous five quarters was not dropped, and an advisor would reach out to provide support going forward. Garrett said that adopting a current quarter drop would help reduce need for former quarter drops. 

The third, fourth, and fifth issues deal with specific wording in policies, namely, that hardship withdrawals cannot be approved for the same reason twice, and that the current wording could exclude students with medical or mental conditions that are pre-existing or arise before the 14th day of the quarter. The committee recommended altering the policy language to address these concerns.

The sixth issue is that the current symbol for hardship withdrawals on transcripts, “HW,” could confuse external reviewers, who could then ask students to divulge personal information. The committee would change the symbol.

In the interest of ensuring that students seeking hardship withdrawals do not have to deal with the barriers the committee identified, the recommendations have been on an expedited track through the Faculty Councils on Student Affairs and Academic Standards and have now landed in the Faculty Senate, Kennedy said. Currently, the bill is scheduled to go into place by May 15.

“The key for us is that it gets voted in by spring,” in order to ensure the former quarter drop system is implemented.

The BOD will continue to hold meetings via Zoom video conferencing Thursdays at 5:30 p.m. Links and phone numbers to join the conference can be found 24 hours in advance on the ASUW records site. To access them, select the “Board of Directors” dropdown, then the “2019-20 Board of Directors” dropdown. Then, open the “Agendas” menu and select the most recent entry. The links and numbers will be at the bottom of the document under the Zoom header. 

Reach reporter Matthew Hipolito at Twitter: @hipolmat

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