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FEATURE GREEK LIFE:
Funding Failed for Fellowship, 5-3 in SGB!
Editors Note: This is a news analysis and impressions piece on the travesty of decision made by President Pasqualichio's board.
In one of its worst decisions to date, Student Government Board (SGB) rejected to give even a cent to Cornerstone Christian Fellowship who had asked for $8200 funding so that they could go and help victims of Katrina during their spring break event.
Originally, the board had agreed to send $3,000 back to allocations committee to review but on Feb 02, 06 during their weekly meeting, SGB voted 5-3 to deny any funding for Cornerstone.
Those who voted against giving any funding for Cornerstone based their reasoning on discomfort and precedent.
Two weeks ago, SGB had rejected giving any money to Hillel, the Jewish Organization, who also wanted to go help Katrina victims during spring break. The reasoning behind the board’s decision was that the information Hillel provided was not informative enough nor were all options exhausted before asking for money. There was no controversy about that as the board voted in a super majority to deny funding.
The same cannot be said of what happened on Feb 02, 2006. The reason to deny funding for Cornerstone had nothing to do with not having enough information nor had it to do with not exhausting other options. For Cornerstone used SGB funding as a last resort because they even looked into Red Cross to see if they would help them fund their spring break. It did not happen.
The SGB which controls all of the students’ activity fee funding had an obligation to give at least some money to Cornerstone to help with their trip.
Why the obligation?
Put yourself in an organization that you are part of and ask yourself where does the student activity fee money you give go to?
Would you not want the student activity fee that is taken out of your tuition be used to support organizations that you are part of than being used to support organizations that you do not agree with or have any allegiance to?
I know I would!
SGB should have given at least $1,300 to Cornerstone for their trip. Cornerstone is comprised of 100-200 members all of whom are students. Taken that into account, each student pays an activity fee of $65.00 with their tuition. It is only fair as a student organization, they get at least $1,300 for their trip rather than denying the entire amount.
Those that denied it could not in fair conscience give money to a Christian group when they denied money to a Jewish group. Now the issue whether they admit it or not became an issue of religion.
At that point, those that voted against Cornerstone were being discriminatory because rather than voting on the merits of the request, they voted on the name of the organization.
Aimee Kleer, who voted against funding for Cornerstone said, “It would be silly to approve one trip over the other.”
It must be noted that Board Member Kleer is a very dedicated person to the needs of the students and a wonderful person who is passionate about student needs. The difference of opinion is on the way the decision was made and not on Kleer as a person. She is a wonderful friend and do feel she cares deeply for every student organization that comes before her table but has a difference of opinion in this instant.
It would have been nice for the board to realize there is nothing silly about voting on a request based on merit. But, voting on the request based on religion becomes silly and discriminatory.
Hillel was denied funding based on merit. The vote should have been on this issue for funding rather than worry about all the requests that would come before her in the future.
Now for any trip that a religious student organization wants, those board members would have to vote against it, otherwise it would seem like they were discriminatory against Jewish students and Christian students. Now no trips can be voted in favor of Hindu Student Council or Muslim Student Association, etc.
What argument will the Board use to approve trips for other religious groups and not for Hillel and Cornerstone! The 5 did open a bag of worms with their reasoning to vote against the funding.
The five should have taken the advice of board member Will Powers.
Board Member Powers did not see anything wrong with disapproving funding for Hillel and approving funding for Cornerstone.
“We are SGB and have the power! We look at merit and not base it on religion, race, or sexual orientation. We cannot base decisions on pipeline. Personally, I did not favor Hillel because we did not have accurate information”, said Powers.
Powers as a board member based his decision to vote in favor of granting at least some funding to Cornerstone because he saw the merit of their request. Powers argued that they were staying in a church without requesting lodging, traveling 1000 miles on their own in cars, sleeping in the church, and spending spring break to help others. For Powers there was enough information to grant approval to the request because he also saw it as a positive for the university.
Ask yourself, would you fund a trip that has lots of accurate information in it so you know exactly how the money would be spent or would you fund a trip with lack of information and not know how the money can be used wisely?
The issue at hand is the merit of the request and not what religion both groups are. But some members of this board had made it seem like it is a religious issue.
“We deny and grant similar requests. Is the issue the request Cornerstone asked for or is the issue religion and we are afraid of funding Cornerstone and not Hillel? I am in favor of funding it”, stated Powers.
Powers was joined in dissent by Board Members Alli Winn and Shady Henien who also wanted to approve funding for Cornerstone based on merit
“They [Cornerstone] went out and looked for other options and it did not work out. Each request is own request. This request was thorough and most cost effective method. I feel like this is an exception since SVO [Student Volunteer Outreach] does not offer that. I urge the board not to recommend approval of allocation committees request to deny funding for Cornerstone”, stated Winn.
Board Member Henien begged the board to at least give them three vans to go to Jackson, Mississippi to help out the victims of Katrina.
I am very proud of Winn and Henien who are good friends and made their decision to vote for funding based on merit with Powers who I believe is also an excellent voice for the students.
The dissent of Powers, Winn, and Henien went on deaf ears as Board Members Leinbach, Anukem, Linquist, Kleer, and Isong voted to deny funding. This is a utter travesty.
Board Member Anukem had similar feelings as Kleer.
“I feel uncomfortable approving one group and not the other. I know Ambassadors for Christ (AFC) is going to Katrina and found sources to fund. If religious groups collaborate more it could have been done.”
For a board to make a decision based on their own discomfort is not the way to represent the student body. The student body elected board members to make decisions in wisdom putting the interests of the students above their own discomfort.
Many board members were uncomfortable to vote for Cornerstone because they denied funding for Hillel. As Winn stated each request should stand on its own.
Board Member Isong did not even base it on merit.
“Precedent is important and you cannot make stuff up”, said Isong.
Yes, precedent is important but the board should not feel obligated to follow precedent in all circumstances. To state that Hillel was denied funding so we should keep with that precedent and deny Cornerstone is like stating we need to deny all religious groups funding for trips because of what we did to Hillel.
Hillel was denied not because of their religious affiliation but because their request did not have merit to the super majority on board.
Would board members who voted to keep precedent agree that Plessy v.s Ferguson should have stayed as the law of the land even though it was based on bad precedent?
are all about sticking with precedent, they would have to
agree with the Jim Crow laws and Plessy v.s Ferguson. Those cases were
all based on precedent but we know how wrong those decisions were
especially when the new courts looked at the dissenting opinions of the
justices in those cases.
Now we have three board members who have dissented in this vote. Once again they are Board Members Winn, Henien, and Powers. My hope is that future boards would look at the dissenting opinion of these three members and make it a duty and obligation to vote on merits of a request rather than race, religion, or sexual orientation.
It is too late for this board now to approve funding for any religious groups that want to go for trips to help the needy because what will they base their decision on?
They cannot base it on merit because then how would they explain, denying Cornerstone funding. They cannot base it on religion because then they would seem as being discriminatory towards Hillel and Cornerstone for not funding them and funding another religious group.
Maybe the five members of the board who voted to deny funding for Cornerstone were afraid of the ramifications of their decision to vote in favor of Cornerstone on their merits and disapprove Hillel because there was no merit. Maybe they were afraid of being seen as anti-Semitic. One thing I know is that they did not want to open a can of worms.
In the process, the freezing five have opened a can of worms. Now all religious groups funding will be scrutinized and compared to Hillel and Cornerstone. Now if all religious groups are denied funding as opposed to non-religious groups, the board is faced with the allegations of discriminatory practice in funding certain groups and not the others.
They may have felt obligated to vote against Cornerstone to avoid controversy but they have caused more controversy by their actions.
President of the board Joe Pasqualichio who is a great president and friend, if it is in his power should see if he can rectify this situation and the funding for both Hillel and Cornerstone can come to the table again based on merits and nothing else for an up or down vote.
The triumphant three in my book should be commended for their excellent arguments in favor of Cornerstone’s funding even though they happened to be the dissenting opinion this time. It is dissenting opinions of the present that become majority opinions of the future! Even if it was Hillel, Hindu Student Council, Muslim Student Association, etc I believe these three would have approved funding because they were basing it on merit and not on anything else!
The student body should be proud having you three to represent them on board!
If you are doing a charitable or fundraising event and want coverage on it, please drop a line to the Campus Life section of the Pittsburgh Standard by emailing me at reddy4HisGlory2004@yahoo.com