Spotlighting Student Activism: CSU Students Implement Fee to Address Interpersonal Violence

The following post was written by Jennifer Babos, the Vice President of the student government at Colorado State University (CSU). Jennifer and her colleagues created funds for improved survivor services and preventive sexual assault programming at CSU by advancing evidence-based recommendations and drumming up support from student constituents. This article details her journey and acts as an excellent and inspiring case study for student organizers across North America who are working toward eliminating sexual violence on their campuses.

In Fort Collins, CO, the students of Colorado State University have voted to implement a brand new student fee to address interpersonal violence on campus. The fee is $4.00 a student/per semester, equaling around $189,600 a year, and it will be administered by the Women and Gender Advocacy Center on CSU’s campus to: increase awareness campaigns and educational programming, hire a Men’s Program Coordinator, hire an additional full time advocate, bring in consultants and training for campus staff, and also increase peer-to-peer education.

The journey to create this fee began with the President and Vice President of the student government, the Associated Students of Colorado State University, Cooper Anderson and Jennifer Babos respectively, and in conjunction with the Chairs of the ASCSU Interpersonal Violence Response Task Force, Joe Howard and Stephanie Tanny. The task force spent time collecting qualitative and quantitative data about interpersonal violence on campus and forming a document of recommendations for improvement to CSU administration. At the same time, Anderson and Babos ran on a platform promising to address interpersonal violence on campus through increased educational programming from within ASCSU and also through the implementation of a student fee to the Women & Gender Advocacy Center. The Women & Gender Advocacy Center was chosen because of data collected from the ASCSU task force that showed on paper what general student knowledge held as true—that the Women & Gender Advocacy Center supports survivors better than any other entity on campus, and they do the best educational programming and prevention work.  Survivors utilized their office more so than any other office, received the most support in terms of full disclosure of their options, empowerment, and positive support and empathetic treatment.

With budget cuts to the Colorado State Higher Education system, the office was continuing to lose staff and funding — resulting in higher demands on the office with less people power and resources. When Anderson and Babos were officially elected into their offices, the process began of lobbying the Student Fee Review Board in a nine month process. Anderson and Babos’ proposal of a new fee for the Women & Gender Advocacy Center began by proving the idea was student initiated—which was easily met because it came from Taskforce Chairs Tanny and Howard, and Vice President Babos. There was no administrative influence. It then had to be proved as student supported to pass the second vote. This was proven by a survey conducted by the ASCSU taskforce in which 84% of 465 respondents said they were in favor of some type of monetary support for increased survivor services. This was also proven by Vice President Babos presenting at student organizations across campus and gaining feedback on their support of the fee.

Of nearly 150 students in CSU student orgs— ranging from the Resident Hall Association to the Microbiology Student Association—not a single student objected to the raising of their student fees by $4 to support more education and resources around interpersonal violence. After SFRB established that it was student supported, they then heard a final presentation and took a final vote. This vote was 12-0-3 and the decision then had to be approved by the ASCSU senate, as all Student Fee Review Board decisions then get voted upon by the Student Government Senate. After two votes in the Senate, the official recommendation to the Colorado State University System Board of Governors from the students was to implement a new student fee of $4; the money was voted to be administered by the Women & Gender Advocacy Center to work at preventing acts of interpersonal violence and simultaneously support the numerous survivors and secondary survivors of this violence.

The Board of Governors of the Colorado State University System will vote in the middle of June, 2011 to implement this student fee for the fiscal year of 2012 and onward.

The entire process not only resulted in the establishment of a self-voted student tax to address interpersonal violence, but it provided for a large-scale peer-to-peer educational opportunity. The process involved patience and bravery by all of the students pushing this, as ignorance, hatred, oppression, prejudice, and trauma were all present in the journey. Their bravery and patience resulted in the re-education of large groups of students, correcting stereotypes, and addressing mass apathy and prejudice. This accomplishment purely belongs to the students of Colorado State University who fought tirelessly and courageously for a change they believe in.

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