California students unite, urge ‘consistency across all systems’

The+%23CAHEART+webinar+held+on+April+22+included+a+Q%26A+session+with+key+representatives.+The+next+meeting+will+be+held+on+May+8%2C+2020.+

Kianna Znika

The #CAHEART webinar held on April 22 included a Q&A session with key representatives. The next meeting will be held on May 8, 2020.

Kianna Znika, Editor-in-Chief

Student advocates across California joined together to release a common set of urgent needs and recommendations for colleges and universities to consider in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter, sent out on April 22, addressed six main topics of concern: financial aid, basic needs, learning, admissions/graduation, student workers and undocumented students.

The California Students Higher Education Advocacy Round Table (HEART) addressed the letter to the University of California, California State University and California community colleges.

HEART held a webinar on the same day to explain the details within the letter and allow attendees to hear from key representatives in a Q&A session.

Sasha Perez, student engagement manager of the Campaign for College Opportunity, helped faciliate the webinar.

She summarized that the main concern was lack of consistency between the University of California, California State University and community colleges.

HEART “asks for coordination across systems.”

For concerns regarding learning, HEART recommended that the “credit/no credit” deadline be extended and that schools provide additional support for students with disabilities transitioning to online learning.

Valerie Johnson, transfer student affairs officer from the UC Student Association, emphasized the importance of schools prioritizing support for students.

“There’s no crash course that prepares you” for the sudden transition to online-only learning, she said.

Johnson also explained it is “unrealistic to hold students” to the same academic standards held before the COVID-19 pandemic.

As for financial aid and basic needs, HEART recommended investing in emergency grant aid and allowing students to stay in their dorms until at least June.

Carolyn Tinoco, Cal Fresh food coordinator from Cal State Dominguez Hills, explained that many students have reported basic needs insecurities and that “usually foster/international students” depend on student housing.

HEART further recommends schools to “ensure students are aware of and continue to access benefits available through Cal Fresh and Cal Works.”

As for student workers, HEART recommends providing students paid leave and assisting students in filing for unemployment.

The schools are also recommended to “provide undocumented students with detailed updates regarding their eligibility for state aid, campus aid and provide regularly updated lists of resources.”

Emelia Martinez, director of Partnerships and Special Projects Rise, wants every student to get support.

“Some students may not get as much support as others,” Martinez said, emphasizing the importance of grassroots organizing.

As for admissions/graduation concerns, HEART recommends that the schools include Class of 2020 students in their decision-making in regard to commencement and consider relaxing transfer and graduation requirements.

Other recommendations stated in the letter were ensuring students can still receive on-campus health benefits off campus and refunding fees to students “when appropriate and available.”

The California Students HEART Coalition stated they will be hosting monthly meetings to “continually assess student needs and our advocacy strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The next meeting will be held on Friday, May 8 at 3 p.m. via Zoom.