ASWU faces challenges, potential changes, of precedents during fall round one funding
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Disclaimer: Inéz Nieves, an ASWU Senator and subject of this piece, is an Opinions Staff Writer for the Collegian. Quinna Sypher, Alpha Chi Omega President who is mentioned in this piece is Collegian Business Manager.
After debate about the role of clubs serving marginalized communities on campus and the ethics of funding Greek life, the Associated Students of Willamette University (ASWU) passed the [fall round one] funding during its Oct. 7 meeting. Round one refers to the first period for student organizations to receive funding from ASWU after submitting requests. Funding requests are approved or denied by the ASWU finance committee before being presented to the Senate as a whole to vote on. $32,492.56 remains in the ASWU budget for fall 2021
The ASWU Finance Committee had voted to not approve the funding request for the Asian Coalition of Equity (ACE) based on the grounds that the request was for food for a bonding event and food for club meetings. [ASWU Finance precedents] do not allow the funding of food for club meetings or events not open to all students. The Native and Indigenous Student Union (NISU) had been denied funding for food as well, but ASWU Treasurer Michael Burke (‘23) said NISU was receiving the funding upon further information that it was an open event NISU was planning and not a closed meeting.
Senator Cameron Cole (‘23) told the Senate that as part of the finance committee, she voted against funding ACE to keep in line with ASWU finance precedents but believed the Senate should move to fund ACE’s request.
Senator Inéz Nieves (‘24) was advocating for ACE’s funding and bringing up larger questions about the funding of affinity groups, which Nieves has previously described as groups that serve marginalized communities. Nieves said that ASWU precedents were not made to accommodate affinity groups or represent marginalized communities, and that now would be the best time to change precedent. They read an email from the President of the Black Student Union, Vanessa Sanders (‘22). In the email, Sanders remarked on the effect the funding rule can have on affinity groups: “Previous BSU Presidents have held a couple of food events with funding from ASWU when open to the public. That said a few of the events were derailed by White students who attended these events, proceeded to eat the food we provided, and as “thanks” verbalized blatantly anti-Black, racist comments during the event. BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students should not have to fear having their identities attacked and question while hosting events, just too receive ASWU funding.”
Burke stressed multiple times that he wanted to fund the affinity groups, but was greatly concerned that if they set the precedent of funding closed events and club meetings, ASWU would have to fund future similar requests no matter the type of club and risked harming the budget. There have been previous concerns about the ASWU facing [financial strain].
The Senate ended up resolving to set a precedent in a future meeting of a cap on food for closed meetings and voted to amend the round one funding to approve ACE’s boba night.
Senator Colby Alexander (‘24) then reopened discussion to express concerns about funding Alpha Chi Omega’s acapella charity night fundraiser for the [Center for Hope and Safety] which helps survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and human trafficking. Alexander stated that with Greek life, everything is PR and recruiting. He brought up how the Alpha Chi Omega President had told the Senate during the previous meeting that the event was based on ‘suggested donations’ and questioned if the event could raise more than ASWU will fund.
Alpha Chi Omega President Quinna Sypher (‘23) had told the Senate that fraternities and sororities are only funded for charity events or events open to the student body. Burke has previously mentioned that while it is in the precedents to not fund Greek life events, ASWU ignores it on the guidance of Willamette legal counsel. Upon further questioning, Burke responded in an email that he was told denying funding of a specific organization because they are a Greek life organization would be contradictory to the ASWU constitution preamble. The preamble commits ASWU to, “uplifting the quality of the student experience in all levels of university and campus life. We shall uphold the standards of accountability, inclusivity, and transparency among students, faculty, and university administrators.”
Senator Kasey Englert (‘23) called it inequitable to strip Alpha Chi Omega of its funding right after approving a funding request that did not fit the bylaws as well as Alpha Chi Omega’s request. Burke shut the debate down, saying that there would be no discussion about the event if it was not a Greek organization, and that ASWU could not deny the funding request based on it being from a Greek life.