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Frida Silva dreams of a more inclusive campus

Vice President with Big Plans

Frida Silva will be next year’s student government association’s Vice President. She got her first taste of political leadership in her senior year of high school when a friend convinced her to join student government. After she decided to attending CU Denver, she reached attend to the then-president of student government, who encouraged her to join first-year council. Silva ran for the position, and to her surprise, won. Most recently, Silva successfully orchestrated the construction of a gender-neutral restroom in the Student Union Building—all done in one semester.

Photo: Bobby Jones • CU Denver Sentry

“[The restroom] was something that has been taking a long time, years and years and years, and finally, we were like, ‘this can’t go on,’” Silva said. “There are students here who need this space to feel comfortable, to feel secure, to just do their basic human necessity—it’s ridiculous that we don’t have this.”

The largest obstacle was, of course, securing funding. “You wouldn’t think that this little restroom would cost so much but it does. It cost around $50,000 to build. Keep in mind that it’s just one, single-stall restroom,” as opposed to a multi-stall restroom, as seen on campuses like CU Boulder. Luckily, AHEC offered to cover half the cost, provided that the committee would be able to find funding for the other $25,000. She described the challenge of this enormous task. “You have to apply for a lot of grants, which takes time, waiting to hear back. But AHEC promising us half the money really helped. We could work with that.” Eventually, Silva and the rest of her committee met with stakeholders from all three institutions, “and I can’t thank the stakeholders enough for their input, it was a collaborative effort to get all three institutions to agree and be a part of it. I think that was crucial in developing this project,” Silva said.

“None of us identify as someone who doesn’t fit in the gender binary, so we thought it would be important that we reach out to them and also do our own research,” she said. Once construction begins, the committee plans on hanging signs around the Tivoli that will read “coming soon,” and explains what “all-gender” means, what this restroom entails, and who it accommodates for. The restroom will be under construction during the summer and will be completed in the fall. This restroom will accommodate people with disabilities as well, along with students who have children or those who cannot attend the restroom without assistance.

And Silva’s efforts are already paying off: “Because of this project and a lot of reprogramming that’s happening in this building, we are going to have two more restrooms in the future be planned out for the third floor [of the Tivoli]. It’s already in the works,” she said. “Our long-term goal is to set a policy that every building on campus should have at least one all-gender restroom.” Silva hopes that her efforts on this campus will help other students. “We like to claim that we are a part of a progressive city. Well, let’s have our buildings reflect that,” Silva said.

Silva, who commutes to campus everyday from Longmont, has ambitious plans for next year’s student government. “Matt Kriese and I campaigned on a platform of leading with a vision, a vision of redefining student government and our purpose, and restructuring how things have been done,” she said, with an emphasis on placing a renewed meaning to student-position titles. When talking to students while campaigning, the sentiment that student government needs to be more active in the community was echoed by several students.

Silva plans on substituting one senate meeting each month to go out and volunteer in the community in hopes of learning about different resources available in the city and bringing them back to campus. “We are CU in the City, so lets put meaning behind ‘CU in the City.’”

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