Student Union offers students voice

Liz Beatty-Owens

Kayla Friedrich

Liz Beatty-Owens

The Vermont Student Union exists to give a political voice to Vermont’s college students, acting as a platform for discussion on campuses across the state.

According to The Union’s 2013 mission statement, “The Vermont Student Union is a statewide organization that brings together students from Vermont’s public and private higher education institutions to advance student-centered policies and programs, further students’ ability to participate in societal decision-making processes.

“We primarily focus on higher education issues, but work on whatever issues our student membership chooses to work on.”
The Vermont Student Union at Johnson State College embodies a similar goal.

“We are a workers and student advocacy group,” said Ryan Downs, a member of the organization.

The biggest accomplishment for The Vermont Student Union was this past spring being able to get S.40 passed in the State House, which authorizes establishing a committee to study ways to restore 1980’s-level funding to the Vermont State Colleges.
In 1980, 51 percent of the system’s revenues came from the Legislature. That rate now stands at 17 percent, which makes Vermont second to last in its support of higher education.

The Student Union also worked in collaboration with external labor groups to get S.40 passed, including the AFT, a teachers union, and VSCFF (Vermont State College Faculty Federation).

One of the prime objectives for the Union at JSC is advocating for more gender-neutral bathrooms, according to Danielle Palladino, a student member.

The Student Union is encouraging more gender neutral bathrooms to make it less uncomfortable for students who identify as transgender.

According to Palladino, a petition in favor of gender-neutral bathrooms has been circulated and will be passed on to administration.

For Palladino, joining the Vermont Student Union provides an opportunity to “to make a difference… We are helping people voice out, being the voice to the people,” she said.

Liz-Beatty Owens, a 2014 graduate of Johnson State College and the founder of The Vermont Student Union on campus, sees the Student Union as an important agent of change and student empowerment.

“They’re so many concerns here on campus,” she said. “And [the union is] helping students not only find their voice but to realize that their voice in a collective with many other voices is much stronger than them just beating their own drum.”
The Vermont Student Union is open to anyone. Their meetings are held from 7:00-8:00 in The Women’s Center on Wednesdays.