Senate voices support for veteran center

The Undergraduate Student Government voted Tuesday to pass a resolution representing undergraduate support for the creation of a new Veterans Resource Center on the University Park Campus.

Veterans Association President Joshua Jacobs, Veterans Association Vice President Keith Williams and Veterans Association member Matthew Leiv, all of whom have been working with Commuter Senator Adam Prohoroff on the project since early 2012, drafted the resolution. Though USC already has an office of Transfer and Veteran Student Programs, the resolution encourages a stand-alone focus on assisting vets.

“The idea of the resource center is that when a veteran gets here, whatever is going on with them in their lives — whether it be professionally, personally or academically — gets directed to who exactly to go to, rather than navigating everything else that exists while they’re dealing with a great deal of transition in their lives,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs said the center is a necessity given the difficulty associated with veterans transitioning from life in the service to attending a top university.

“All of these major life changes happen before our first day of school in a few short months,” Jacobs said. “On top of that, we’re competing in one of the most international and highly acclaimed universities in the world. We’re kind of set up to fail.”

There are currently 608 student veterans enrolled in the university using G.I. Bill benefits, 140 of which are undergraduate students and 468 of which are graduate students.

A total of 54 percent of student veterans surveyed have transferred from or previously attended schools that have established Veterans Resource Centers, prompting the university’s Veterans Association to call for the establishment of a center on campus. There are currently Veterans Resource Centers at UCLA, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara and a number of other universities.

The School of Occupational Therapy and Occupational Sciences has committed to providing clinics and the School of Social Work will provide interns for the center. Additionally, the Financial Aid Office has looked into providing a financial aid officer for the veterans at the center.

Jacobs said the School of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy has taken over fundraising for the center, which will go toward funding space and routine functions at the center.

To Jacobs, the resource center is essential to help bridge the diverse backgrounds of veterans with both one another and with the whole student population.

“We’re the most at-risk student population, and we’re also the most diverse student population,” Jacobs said. “Every race, religion, creed, sexuality, gender — everyone is represented in veterans.”

The USG Senate passed the resolution unanimously, showing undivided support for current and future veterans.

“We knew that the veterans on campus were really concerned about the issue of having a Veterans Resource Center where they could find everything in one place,” Prohoroff said. “After meeting with a lot of commuter veterans this past year with this problem, it’s satisfying to see that this portion of the student body being served.”