Associated Students votes in favor of DREAM Center to support undocumented students

Sonoma State University’s Associated Students heard from the community’s undocumented student population before voting on the establishment of the Dream Center on campus at Friday’s meeting. The meeting began with students standing against the walls of the room silently in solidarity with signs encouraging a Dream Center, signs that spoke for themselves before a single word was spoken. After comment from students and community members, Associated Students voted in favor of the resolution, approving the establishment of the center.

Sonoma State student Maria Nolasco shared her experience as an undocumented student applying to work at the university’s Writing Center. She said she met all the requirements of the job but because she was undocumented, was denied.

“The only thing I lacked was U.S. citizenship. I know I am not the first undocumented students that got rejected services. They led me to EOP but because I am not an EOP student, they couldn’t lead me anywhere,” said Nolasco. “We just want [people] to know that we [undocumented students] are here, and we exist.”

Sonoma State President Ruben Armiñana first announced the Dream Center during a meeting with California Faculty Association Council for Affirmative Action and the Dreamers Club in September. He announced that the wants the Dream Center completed by the end of his tenure and believes he is still on track to complete that goal.  According to Armiñana, the Dream Center would be paid for by the university’s general fund budget.

Stephanie Segovia, a graduate student at University of San Francisco, conducted a needs assessment to see how Sonoma State can best help undocumented students. Her work was conducted in consolidation with colleagues Carolina Hernandez and Amanda Chavez.

According to her focus group, DREAMers would like the center to provide legal services, academic support, and provide them with financial aid and scholarship information. Students feel that in regards to location, a place that is both visible and accessible, such as Salazar Hall, would be ideal.

“For the physical structure of the center ,they want to have a study area with some computers, offices for the staffs working at the center, and a private/conference room,” Segovia said. “But most importantly, they want this space to make undocumented students feel welcome.”
The DREAMer Club’s Faculty Adviser Mariana Martinez, agrees.

“The services a center would offer are similar to the ones other students receive but they would be specifically for undocumented students. This means that academic advising, financial aid and scholarships would be specifically for undocumented students,” said Martinez. “This would all be helpful so that they are not running around all over campus, with a center it all would be centralized.”

Ideally, Martinez would like the center to have a director, a program coordinator, and at least two student assistants. Martinez believes that since the Dream Center is something that Armiñana committed to, he should not place the cost on students’ shoulders.

Instead, she suggests he redirects already existing funds towards the Dream Center from departments such as athletics, which are amply funded. According to Martinez, 67.5 percent of student fee revenue funds the athletics department, which consists of 300 students, or about two percent of the student body.

According to Associated Students President Brandon Mercer, the Dream Center would be located in the HUB in an office space that is currently being used for storage. He wishes to clarify that this office space is not a storage closet as he thought at a previous meeting, but a normal office space. Despite funding concerns, Mercer is fully supportive of a Dream Center.

“I think a Dream Center at Sonoma State would be fantastic.  This is just one more step the university is taking to serve our students and provide the resources they need to succeed and graduate in a timely manner,” said Mercer. “I think this topic has drawn controversy in the senate because we as students need to know where the funding is coming from. It is too common a trend for money to be spontaneously ‘found’ in order to pay for these activities; we all deserve to know exactly where this money is coming from.”