Student veteran urges Senate to act on campus center


Veteran's Affairs Committee President Tobias Slaton speaks to the ASWSU Senate in the CUB 204, Wednesday, Sept.4.

Zack Briggs, Evergreen ASWSU reporter

WSU Pullman is the last university in the state to have a veteran’s center, and the need to address this issue appeared for the second time on Wednesday’s ASWSU Senate meeting’s agenda.

President of the Student Veterans Affairs Committee Tobias Slaton presented a testimony before the senate, calling attention to the issue. He said student veterans are not provided with a full set of tools to become successful at WSU.

“I believe it’s important for Washington State University to have a veteran’s center first and foremost because it’ll improve access and resources the university provides students,” he said.

Slaton said it’s more than a veterans matter.

“Every student that comes to WSU is valuable,” he said. “Why it’s a student issue is because when it affects recruitment and retention, it directly affects the university and directly affects its constituents in some manner.”

Slaton said students with veteran parents are also affected by the lack of a campus center.

“You have dependents who don’t fall underneath the veteran status, so they’re accessing their parents’ GI Bill with GI benefits and not receiving the correct access to resources,” Slaton said.

For Slaton, the campaign to attain a veteran’s center is also about university pride.

The Washington State Department of Veteran Affairs lists 28 colleges and universities as Veteran Supportive Campuses. WSU Pullman is not on that list.

Slaton said he applauds the efforts of WSU Tri-Cities and WSU Vancouver to establish a place for student veteran’s to congregate and feel comfortable.

“We’re the last school in the state that doesn’t have a veteran’s center,” he said.

The prospect of a center resonates with Sen. Jake Montaño, who said his passion for veterans has led him to vie for an accommodating facility.

“My family’s been involved in the military ever since my grandpa, my dad and my brother,” he said. “Veterans are a huge part of our society, so we should respect them and give them the opportunity to pursue their own life passions.”

Montaño said he was caught by surprise when he learned of the state department statistic.

WSU not being recognized as a veteran supportive campus raises some questions, he said.

Coug Day at the Capital is an annual event accompanied by members of ASWSU and the Cougar Lobby team, where lobbying for higher education is one of many prominent items on the agenda.

In the spring, WSU students lobbied veteran related issues at the 2013 event.

“It’s weird to me that we’re lobbying for bills, but we’re not supporting within our own university,” Montaño said. “And I think that’s something that needs to change and I look forward to making a change.”

The student veteran’s center is something ASWSU Vice President Kevin Massimino believes will soon become a reality.

“The overall idea of creating a student veterans center not only catches us up to par with the rest of Washington State and the rest of the Pac-12, but it allows us to provide the resources that our students need,” he said.

Campus-wide coordination is what Massimino said could predict the fate of more than 400 student veterans at WSU.

“We have a great leadership within the student veterans committee, we have a great senate that is proactive and we have a great administration that likes to work with us, so within the next few weeks we should be getting some very positive answers,” he said.