Response to President Emmert

. Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Below is a response written by an ABC member to president Emmert, linking budget cuts concerns and TC3; this letter was cc'd to Doug Wadden, Norm Arkans, and Phyllis Wise:

Subject: Tent City 3
Date: August 2, 2009

Dear President Emmert,
I am very disappointed to hear of your decision not to allow UW to host Tent City 3, despite the fact that the proposal put forth by Students for Civic Engagement on Homelessness won the support of ASUW, GPSS Senate, and Faculty Senate, and despite numerous actions and events put on both by residents of TC3, students, faculty, and workers at UW, and members of the greater Seattle community

As I am sure you are aware, Tent Cities have been hosted by educational institutions in the past, and have served as an important tool for engaging students with issues of poverty and lack of affordable housing and jobs. As a teacher, graduate student, and advocate for persons facing homelessness and hospitalization, I am extremely upset that UW is missing this opportunity, and that the residents of Tent City will have to find another place to move, despite such vast resources at the University.

It's safe to say that as an educator, my most engaged, successful, and promising students are those who have worked with un-employed or under-employed members of their communities, including people who are un-housed. Additionally, a number of my students come from families that have experienced or are experiencing homelessness. What kind of message does this send to students in these situations about UW's values? Students of color, students with disabilities, and students from non-traditional families are already experiencing economic and social violence due to the budget cuts imposed unevenly on students, workers, and graduate students at UW. For example, many custodial staff facing abuses due to decisions made around the budget have children who go to the University, or would like to. Not allowing Tent City 3 is yet another assault by the elite within the University against those who are not already privileged.

In your letter to SCEH, you said that "To introduce a tent city into this mix would compound the complexity of our daily activity in ways that would further complicate the business of the University,". This language, in addition to comments you have made about using a private model to run the University, is disturbing and in contradiction to comments you have made about the openness of UW, and to the overall mission of public education. UW is a place for learning, not business, and this is a time when the University, as a public institution should be reaching out to community members, city residents, and leaders in public affairs. Instead, the University is further alienating itself; and you, as president, are explicitly and embarrassingly positioning it for an even further ostracization from the rest of the city. If UW is really going to claim not to be an elitist institution, it needs to stop favoring the salaries of you, its president, and other upper level administration through eliminating opportunities for women, people with disabilities, people of color, immigrants, and workers--all of whom have been specifically targeted by budget cuts. Not allowing TC3 to come to UW campus despite enormous student, faculty, and community need is a poor decision for public relations, but also for all who interact with UW, and for UW's future in Seattle.