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SGA passes DREAM Center Resolution, but not really

Updated: Feb 20, 2019

By Jonathan Salinas

At the 25th regular student senate meeting of the Student Government Association (SGA) on April 6, a resolution apparently adopting the creation of a DREAM Center at UTRGV was passed with two dissenting votes (9-2).

Since November, student activists have been fighting for a DREAM Center on campus with organized walk-outs and lobbying with student government and university officials. The effort has won the support of faculty affiliated with the Mexican American Studies program and various student organizations apart of the Students Together Coalition at UTRGV.

As Únete reported on March 31, the SGA responded to an ultimatum by the coalition, agreeing to pass a resolution for a DREAM Center after student organizers threatened to cease working with the body if efforts to establish a so-called “Multicultural Center,” as a substitute for a DREAM Center, were continued.

A Multicultural Center, as stated by SGA senators in debate on March 1 over the topic, would be a center for students belonging to minority groups to receive services and information from a space promoting diversity.

But student activists maintained there was great importance in the name, given the countless stories of DREAMers and undocumented students who have lost academic opportunities due to simply being unaware of services and opportunities offered to DREAMers and undocumented students, as well as the symbolic nature of what it would mean to the over 900 DREAMers at UTRGV who need these services, that they may know their campus is a safe space for their education.

By press time Monday, Únete could not confirm if the resolution had been signed by sitting SGA President Alondra Galvan but there are no indications that it was vetoed. Additionally, SGA President Elect, Denisce Palacios (currently a Senator at Large), says that her incoming term will see through the continued enforcement and implementation of the resolution.

“Our executive team will continue the implementation and enforcement of the Dream Center resolution,” said the business major. “We plan to work and meet with different stakeholder groups to ensure that the needs of our DACAmented and undocumented students are met in a protective and private environment.”

Palacios went on to say that constant communication will be key in the realization of this project.

For student organizers, the passing of the resolution was a struggle. Aileen Garza, organizer for URGE (Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity), was one of those organizers.

“It had been long time coming since its appearance in November,” said Garza. “I was feeling confident that was the support the student body needed.”

She added nonetheless that low expectations accompanied a sense of relief after its passing because “they have done the bare minimum of what they have signed up for.” There are two other progressive resolutions going to SGA that she hopes will not similarly require jumping through hoops.

Bianca Castro, President of Young Democratic Socialists of America at UTRGV, described a similar experience to Garza’s as “bittersweet,” but had very pointed and strong comments towards SGA and university administration.

“I know SGA is only a symptom of a much larger corruption that exists within the university, that being the Dean of Students who consistently uses her position (one that is meant to serve) in order to make decisions on behalf of the student body without consultation of the very students being affected,” said the psychology major.

However, Palacios continues to have an optimistic view of future contacts with student organizers. She hopes to dedicatedly “continue supporting and ensuring that our undocumented and DACAmented students are protected and provided the necessary resources to succeed during their time here at UTRGV and beyond.”

New center may not be called a DREAM Center after all

Asked what she thought it meant for students to get the center called a DREAM Center, Palacios intimated that the center may not be called a DREAM Center after all: “This is home for our students and we want to make sure they feel safe at home with what ever name their center adopts.”

Questions being submitted in writing, we asked Palacios if the name had indeed not been determined. She replied that that was so. We asked who would determine, or how it would be determined, but we did not receive a response by press time Monday.

How this will turn out is yet to be seen. Anticipating hurdles in its implementation, UTRGV Philosophy Alum, DREAMer and activist, Allyson Duarte, said: “It is great to finally see the will of the student body reflected on student government policy. And while this is certainly a sign of progress that must be attributed to the efforts made by student organizers, we must remain vigilant and see how the university administration responds.”

A possible explanation for the discrepancy of whether it will be labeled a DREAM Center, or not, lies in the fact that the resolution presented was entitled, “Senate Resolution 04; DREAM Center Resolution.” However, as Únete pointed out on the 31st, the resolution statement itself did not include mention of a "DREAM Center" instead read:

THEREFORE, LET IT BE RESOLVED that the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley create, fund, and establish a center for undocumented students that provides resources and 56 services tailored to the unique needs of our undocumented student population such as but not 57 limited to financial aid assistance, counseling services, post-graduation career advising, 58 academic support, and ombud services.

According to Castro, the idea of a Multicultural Center was first presented to organizers in a December meeting with Dean of Students (DOS) and Vice President for Student Success, describing a “top-down” oligarchical nature in being given the news:

“We sat down with them . . . only to have our voices dismissed and our thoughts not listened to. They made it very clear that instead of listening to our voices they were going to proceed with their already made plan of action, a Multicultural center.”

Despite what looked like a bit of progress on this front, Castro is not optimistic.

“DOS does not represent us, SGA does not represent us - and I wanna make that very clear.”

Stay tuned as we will continue to update you on this developing story.

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