Tomorrow Could Be You

ClaudiaClaudia Fernandez commands the group of ten students with great fervor and excitement, recounting a recent project or her latest cause as she sits crossed-legged on the floor. Her face lights up as she talks about organizing an action for the marginalized workers at a local Wendy’s restaurant chain and is so well spoken that her audience registers every word. Matching her enthusiasm for the cause, the audience nods, smiles, mumbles small agreements. Her dark, tired eyes indicate sleepless nights and a hectic schedule, but knowing a difference is made makes it all worth it.

Claudia Fernandez is the program coordinator for Santa Clara University’s Labor Action Committee. The committee supports and represents workers and workers’ rights on and off the Santa Clara University campus.

 “[The labor movement] is so important because it brings people together and shows people’s humanity completely,” said Fernandez. “You get to see that we all need these basic rights and to fight for them…is really empowering.”

 As an 18-year-old high school graduate, Fernandez was looking to escape the familiar walls of her Santa Monica home and her parents’ undivided attention as an only child. But, she entered her freshmen year at Santa Clara feeling unfulfilled and disengaged, knowing she wanted something more. It was not until the end of her freshman year that Fernandez stumbled upon the committee that made her realize “there were so many issues that affected people’s everyday lives.”

 The issues were relatable to Fernandez given her family’s working class past. Her grandfather was a bracero, part of a US government program that sponsored workers from Mexico who, in turn, provided cheap labor for agriculture, railroad construction or other manual labor. She saw that participating in labor issues was a way to connect to her grandfather and to those who have not had the same opportunities she has.

 Labor-related concerns became evermore pertinent one drive home to Southern California with her father when he turned and told her he was laid off from his 31-year employment at Boeing as a mechanical engineer. Fernandez immediately thought of a phrase she had learned from her internship at a labor union that summer—“Tomorrow Could Be You.”

 “Our system is set up where people don’t have job security even if they are part of the professional class,” she said. “It happens on so many different levels and this became so personal to me. It has changed my perspective on a lot of things.”

 Within her first weeks as program coordinator for the Labor Action Committee, Fernandez has begun campaigns ranging from workers’ rights in Bangladeshi sweatshops to supporting Santa Clara staff and faculty in their battle with new amendments to health coverage. She has also been working closely with union directors for facilities and service workers in order to maintain fair working conditions on campus.

 Fernandez’s passion for labor rights is why Tony Maldonado says he and Fernandez “work very well together.” Maldonado is Santa Clara University Bon Appétit organizer for the Service Employees International Union. “She is very good at getting the student body involved in workers’ rights affairs on campus,” he said. “The more student support, the better.”

 Student support at Santa Clara University is not the easiest to come by. The Labor Action Committee has an average of a dozen people at its meetings and events—something Fernandez desperately wants to combat as program coordinator. For committee member Hannah Rogers, Fernandez does a great job “empowering the group to act and get involved, even if it’s just a few of us.”

Fernandez and fellow LAC members protesting in front of a Wendy's Restaurant franchise.

Fernandez and fellow LAC members protesting in front of a Wendy’s Restaurant franchise.

 

 Fernandez said, “Everyone sees things from their own perspective. Getting people to see outside of our little bubble is my most important job. We have a lot of great opportunities at Santa Clara and sometimes it takes up to junior or senior year for people to realize that. Just having people listen is what I strive for.”

 

Hannah Tayson

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The Never-Ending Internship

Are you a recent Santa Clara grad who feels trapped in a series of unpaid or low-paying internships? You are not alone. Alex Williams of The New York Times reports:

“Call them members of the permanent intern underclass: educated members of the millennial generation who are locked out of the traditional career ladder and are having to settle for two, three and sometimes more internships after graduating college, all with no end in sight.

“Like an army of worker ants, they are a subculture with a distinct identity, banding together in Occupy Wall Street-inspired groups and, lately, creating their own blogs, YouTube channels, networking groups and even a magazine that captures life inside the so-called Intern Nation.

“It is a young, rudderless community that is still trying to define itself. “I’m just wondering at what point how many internships is too many,” said Lea, who received a master’s degree from Parsons, the New School for Design two years ago and aspires to work as a magazine art director. (She was allowed to use only her first name to avoid jeopardizing a current job application.) So far, her résumé has been limited to three internships — planning events for teenagers at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, compiling news clippings for a public relations agency in New York, and being the “fetch-the-coffee girl” at an art gallery.”

Commuter Chronicles: Delaney Bantillo

Major: Mathematics; Urban Education minor, Theatre Arts minor

Commuting From: South Central San Jose

Approx. Commute Time: 30-50 minutes depending on traffic

1. Describe a day in the life of a commuter.

Long! Early start, late finish–9:15am classes became 6am classes, to beat traffic (or be stuck in it), and I spent long nights in the library for not being able to focus on school work at home. I’d even bring toiletries and a change of clothes to the library sometimes.

2. What are the biggest pros and cons of commuting?

Biggest pro: Raiding my mom’s refrigerator when I got home; biggest con: never having a private space to myself on campus. I could go to friends’ places, find a spot under a tree or in the library or MCC or Benson, etc., crash on a couch, but anywhere I went was public. I couldn’t drive back and forth to my house during the day, so I had to eat all my meals at SCU, and sometimes I just wanted a place to eat myself and relax; I didn’t want to be ‘on’ all the time. Also, having limited freedom to shower at any time of day; having to stay presentable from start to finish when I’m on campus but not having a bedroom to stop in for a midday nap, quick change, meal, or shower.

3. How has commuting affected your involvement on and off-campus?

Commuting made socializing challenging–driving back and forth kept me away much of the weekend; outings happen spontaneously, so by not living near my friends I missed activities (dinners out, trips to the mall, park, Palo Alto, etc.) when they arose in the moment for the friends who lived on campus and could just pop over to each other and hop in a car and go.

4. What advice would you give new commuters?

Find clubs and activities on campus and build a close social circle; make a group of friends who live on campus, to have a dorm to go to, couch to crash on, bathroom to borrow, meal points to share. Get friendly, and get comfortable asking for what you want–don’t be shy about mooching (people have food, beds, and showers to share). Get as much sleep and water as possible to power through the day and to drive alertly.

5. What is your most memorable “commuter” moment?

Five of us commuters studied for a math final exam in the basement of O’Connor long into the night, noticed the time at 3:00am, and realized driving home and back for an early morning exam was not a feasible option. We collectively decided to stay in the Sussman to sleep. I didn’t claim the couch or a tabletop quickly enough, so I curled up under a desk in the corner of the room. I felt very cold that night, and didn’t sleep much, but the greatest part was the ‘next’ day when one of the professors, and later the department chair, arrived to open up the room and found us lying there, some of us still asleep!

— Christina

Commuter Chronicles: Cassy Montell

Major: Communication Major; Studio Art Minor

Commuting From: Danville

Approx. Commute Time: 45 mins – 1.5 hrs

1. Describe a day in the life of a commuter.

Being a commuter student is actually really fun! I get to have my hand in two worlds at the same time, drive through the beautiful hills on 680 and have my own car. On a usual day, I’ll wake up and get ready, drive for about 45 minutes to an hour 30 (depending on traffic), go to class, hang out and then go home or chill out on campus. That sound really boring when I say it like that, but I always throw in random adventures that keep things super fun!

2. What are the biggest pros and cons of commuting?

Being a commuter student, your days are a lot longer than everyone else’s and sometimes its hard to meet people, but you save tons of money and have the opportunity to have your hand in your home town as well as your campus. I’ve definitely gotten better at scheduling and being more honest with myself about what I can and can’t do since you have to balance both areas of your life.

3. How has commuting affected your involvement on and off-campus?

Yes, it definitely takes effort to get connected, when you’re bouncing between two places. Back at my home town I had a job, babysat, was an assistant teacher at an elementary school and was involved in various events at my church. On campus, I had time in between classes to socialize and hang out with friends that I’ve made there and would occasionally stay late. It’s definitely takes an efforts to balance these two scenes.

4. What advice would you give new commuters?

-BRING LAYERS! One of the hardest things about commuting is figuring out what to wear. Sometimes the weather changes unexpectedly and you’re stuck in the same clothes all day.

-Don’t feel anxious about being alone on campus sometimes. It’s really healthy to have time to yourself where you have some downtime. During these times I love to read, journal or work on homework while I’m jamming to some sweet music.

-Put yourself out there! Since you don’t live on campus, it can sometimes be a challenge getting to meet new people. Sometimes I’ll walk around campus randomly handing out popsicles or whatever and talking with people. Food is a fun way to bridge the gap, meet some really cool people and have some rad conversation!

5. What is your most memorable “commuter” moment?

I keep reintroducing myself to people all the time. Since I don’t see them on campus all the time sometimes I’ll introduce myself like 5 times… it’s bad. I’ve definitely gotten better though!

— Christina

Commuter Chronicles: Julie Dang

Major: Economics; Communication minor

Commuting From: East San Jose

Approx. Commute Time: 25-45 mins

1. Describe a day in the life of a commuter.

Really, the only difference between a commuter and a person who lives on campus is that a commuter has to take a little more time planning ahead for a typical day at school.

2. What are the biggest pros and cons of commuting?

The biggest pro of being a commuter is having my own room, shower and free home-cooked meals everyday. It’s also great to be able to drive anywhere off campus for lunch with friends. A con of commuting is definitely the traffic back and forth from school–every time I make plans, I need to factor in commute time depending on traffic conditions.

3. How has commuting affected your involvement on and off-campus?

I think commuting gave me special opportunities to involve myself on campus, and especially since there aren’t many commuter-specific events at SCU, I was able to take part in starting the SCU Commuter-Love Feast for the Locatelli Center in 2012. Commuting also gave me the freedom to do work, internships and volunteer work off campus.

4. What advice would you give new commuters?

Don’t think that commuting gives you only half of the college experience. From what I’ve learned from my 3 years as a commuter at SCU, you get a double experience–the best of both worlds!

5. What is your most memorable “commuter” moment?

I had a midterm one day, and as I was getting ready to leave for school about 20 minutes before it started, my dad was checking out my tires and said I had a leak. I drove to school with that tire, and by some small miracle, I made it there and back with no problem.

— Christina