UCSD students attend nationwide conference

Seven UCSD students returned to campus this week from the University of Colorado, Boulder, where The National Student Congress was held, eager to begin enacting the United States Student Association’s year long agenda.

The National Student Congress is the annual conference held each year by USSA, the nation’s largest non-partisan, nationwide coalition of colleges and universities. Working under the slogan “”Education is a right,”” students from member schools meet at the conference to decide which student issues the schools will be addressing during the year and what tactics will be used to address them. The national officers and board of directors, which are student positions, are also decided.

The two largest campaigns decided upon for this school year’s agenda include a voting campaign to increase student involvement in the electoral process and a campaign calling for the re-authorization of the Higher Education Act. The act is considered for re-authorization every six years and encompasses all major federal affiliation with higher education.

One of the issues the Higher Education Act addresses is student financial aid at the federal level. This year’s campaign will be working to increase the amount of grant money available for students rather than loan money, including additional pell grant dollars.

“”A lot of students can’t get access to education simply because they can’t afford it,”” said UCSD Vice President Internal Kevin Hsu, an attendee of the conference.

USSA was initially formed as an organization concerned with student rights. The group began in 1946 after students from 37 countries, including the United States, met in Prague, Czechoslovakia, to launch the International Union of Students. That same year, the United States formed its own union of students: the United States National Student Association.

This year’s conference included discussions on tactics for political organizing and how to deal with issues facing students, especially focusing on the idea that “”no matter your race, agenda, class or physical ability, you have the right to go to college,”” said UCSD A.S. President Jenn Brown, a conference attendee.

Brown, elected to the USSA board as chair of the Golden Pacific Region, which includes California, Hawaii, Arizona, Guam and America Somoa, will be focusing her efforts on a voting campaign and working against the Racial Privacy Initiative, which would eliminate racial statistics from the college applications process if passed in 2004. To coordinate these campaigns, “”I will be having conference calls every other week and I will be attending six board meetings during the year,”” Brown said.

Hsu was also elected to the board and will serve as the chair of the National Asian Student Caucus, a caucus within the coalition National People of Color Student Coalition.

Navneet Grewal, UCSD commissioner of communications, was elected vice chair of the National Women’s Student Coalition.