By Veronica Barron | UC Berkeley
Interview with SOS interview Co-Founder, Hannah Houska
August 2016 marked a historical moment in the history of UCSA organizing. Traditionally, the Student Organizing Summit, previously known as Congress , is utilized to choose one new undergraduate campaign to work on throughout the following year, in addition to the one chosen last year. This year, however, students decided to elect two new campaigns, in addition to continuing to work on the #HowAreYou campaign. Sustain Our Students (SOS), a campaign focusing on basic needs insecurity on college campuses, was much needed. We recently had the opportunity to speak to the co-founder of the campaign, Hannah Houska.
What inspired the development of the campaign?
Food and housing insecurity is the hot topic of the UC right now, and it’s been at the forefront of students’ minds for a while, but unfortunately, much action hasn’t been taken around it. My personal experience was that the cost of education is so high, that I, as well as many other students, were having to sacrifice money on our rent or textbooks just to pay tuition. Not to mention that some students send money home. Personally, I was sacrificing so many of my meals, that I wasn’t nourished enough at the end of last spring quarter; I wasn’t physically healthy, and I slipped into tendencies of depression. We should all have the resources to be happy and healthy students. This campaign was runner up last year and the students then really laid the base plan of it; I have to give them credit for it.
That’s amazing! What are some of the short term goals of the campaign, and what are some of the long term goals of the campaign?
Our campaign will utilize five key tactics: establishing a common language, targeted data collection, identification of at risk populations, increased campus awareness, and a cultural shift toward sustainable action. Each tactic has components that are short term and long term, but data collection needs to happen in order to get some conversations started and changes made, so that’s likely what a lot of the campaign will cover in its early stages.
What student communities are most impacted by the work that the campaign seeks to achieve?
We recognize that there are certain groups of people who could be at a higher risk for these insecurities, but there is actually very little data on housing insecurity, and only some on food insecurity. The research is on the rise, but there’s not enough we’re doing to recognize the intersection. In fact, one of our five main tactics is the identification of at-risk populations.
When you look back on the two years of this campaign, what is the most important thing you hope is accomplished?
One accomplishment is definitely carrying out the long term components of our tactics, but also seeing that these efforts don’t just help the whiter community, and spreading an awareness that when you have healthier, happier students they’ll become healthier, happier adults who are willing to invest in the UC and education. I also hope that we will be able to implement sustainable updates for a lot of our campuses’ food and dining facilities, as this will ultimately drive down costs for students.
How can students get involved in the work that the campaign is doing?
They can send an email to SustainOurStudents@gmail.com detailing how they’d like to get involved or to sign up for our newsletters which will be debuting soon!
Food & housing Insecurity is something that affects most, if not all students. If this sounds like your passion or area of interest, don’t delay to get involved!
Veronica is a Junior at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the Associate Director of Legislative Affairs within the ASUC and also mentors middle school girls through Women and Youth Supporting Each Other (WYSE). She enjoys hiking and has a habit of singing Christmas music year-round.