New Student Union seeks to define campus role

PSSU“Contrary to popular belief, we are not trying to overthrow ASUPS,” sophomore Layth Sabbagh said. Sabbagh, along with a number of other students, is spearheading an effort to bring a new student union to campus amid concerns that the Associated Students of Puget Sound (ASUPS) is ineffective at responding to student concerns. The Puget Sound Student Union (PSSU) is emerging as an outlet for students to voice their concerns about ASUPS and the Board of Trustees.

The PSSU thinks ASUPS does a great job, but notes the role of their organization is very different from ASUPS.

“They are very much administrative. They hand out money and they run for elections, and that’s not [what] we’re interested in. We’re interested in activism. We’re interested in talking to the Board of Trustees and changing something that way,” Sabbagh said. The core members would like their organization to work with ASUPS to develop greater transparency between the campus community and mainly the Board of Trustees.

The organization is led by 11 core members, but each member stresses that this organization is non-hierarchical, meaning they do not have levels of leadership but prefer to work collaboratively and with an equal distribution of power.

This relaxed structure allows greater access for students looking to become involved. As the organization is in its primary stages, it is looking for students who would like to participate.

This student union also prides itself on the fact that the majority of members are people of color. Nikita New, a core member, puts emphasis on the PSSU’s concern with campus diversity.

“We want to be a voice for them, or a resource for them,” New said.

In addition to working with ASUPS, the PSSU has been working with a variety of other clubs and organizations on campus, including the Black Student Union, Latinos Unidos, and the Muslim Student Association.

“Can every student’s voice be heard? That is our goal,” New said.

She would also like the PSSU to act as a resource for students to gain awareness of clubs on campus.

“It took me until junior year to find out about Latinos Unidos, and I am a Latina. How did I not know that?” New said. “We [the PSSU] want to create a better connection between every club on campus. That way there is transparency with what is happening. So many students do not know about other clubs.”

In the past week, the PSSU has gained campus awareness by protesting outside of Board of Trustees meetings on campus.

They were “protesting Thursday through Saturday at Board of Trustees meetings to voice student concerns over the presidential search and socially responsible investment,” Sabbagh said. “We are hoping to open up a space where other student organizations may feel empowered in solidarity to voice their concerns to those who are the ultimate decision makers.”

Their primary goals are to create connections with clubs in order to vocalize needs, act as a resource for critical thought about programs and policies on campus and increase awareness of and cooperation between the University and the city of Tacoma. The PSSU is focused on awareness and activism, with the ultimate goal of social change.