By Isaac Sims-Foster
Weeks of careful and sensitive debate in the Associated Students of the University of Puget Sound (ASUPS) senate came to a close on the evening of Thursday, Feb. 8. Since winter break, a series of deliberations revolving around a funding proposal have held up the senators and executives.
As the quadrennial Race and Pedagogy Institute (RPI) nears this fall, the directors of the program, including Dexter Gordon and Michael Benitez, have asked ASUPS for a minimum of $10,000 towards bringing a keynote speaker to the Institute. This money would be coming from the same account ASUPS uses to fund all club events for the duration of spring semester. In relation, the senate also passed a financial code amendment earlier in the semester that will now allocate $1.50 from every student’s ASUPS fee to go directly to RPI, thereby preventing this kind of proposal for the foreseeable future. In the present debate, however, senators were divided on giving all they could to RPI or putting their constituents and clubs first and foremost.
“The more money we can give, the better,” Junior Class Senator Jack Aldisert said. “I think it is a very legitimate point that we want to be responsible to our clubs. That’s our main purpose. But also, this is a very important symbolic gesture,” Aldisert said.
“ASUPS represents the entire student body, so having the entire student body show full support of RPI and what they do, what they are, and what they mean to this campus? That’s very important. In my opinion, the more money we can give to them at whatever the cost, the better that is for us and the better that looks for this University. I think it’s the right thing to do,” Aldisert continued.
Aldisert stressed, however, that every member of senate was in general agreement on RPI receiving more money than however much the current vote decided, until the minimum amount is reached later in the year. “There’s been a lot of cohesiveness between everyone on the senate, the senate chair, and Amanda [Diaz]. It was immediate that everyone knew that [RPI] was something we wanted to spend our money on.”
Advocating for caution and conservation in regards to constituents stood Matthew Parone ‘21, Club Liaison to ASUPS and also Senator at Large.
“Either way, how I see it, [RPI] is going to get funded. ASUPS will be funding a speaker. My trouble is that ASUPS is here for the students, and because of that, I want to make sure that when any student from any club comes to us for money, we can give them the money they want. There is a little bit of a risk in giving so much money to RPI off the bat,” Parone said.
Parone advocated for the clubs he represents further, saying, “Towards the end of the year is when clubs really come to us for money, including club sports — if people make it to championships, we need to have enough money for airfare and hotels for them.”
The debate was also inherently political. “A lot of people in the Senate want this to be a very symbolic vote. By giving our money to RPI, we are showing our symbolic support of the convention. For them, making this large donation is a political statement. For me, it’s not a political issue. It’s simply that the students entrust us withholding their money and allocating it to the things that are important to them,” Parone said.
At the formal senate on Thursday night, the atmosphere was calm and welcoming, even as the attention turned to this issue that has been catalogued as “unfinished business” for weeks now.
Katie Handick, Senate Chair and Senator at Large, reopened the issue to debate. Multiple senators took the floor to express their opinions, as well as a few public non-voting observers. Seniors, like Zane Molgaard (Senior Class Senator), Amanda Diaz (President, non-voting), and Nic Rothbacher (Off-Campus House Senator) advocated for a larger donation, insisting that the experience of RPI is life-changing for every student who attends, and that it is their duty to improve it in whatever ways they can. Senators like Parone, Sophomore Class Senator Jordan Taylor and Greek House Senator Kristin Goodell did not hesitate to remind the senate of the clubs and students they are meant to represent.
At the end of a short, thoughtful, and compassionate voting process, the amount given to RPI was amended from $4,500 to $5,600 and passed unanimously, with the abstention of the voting members who represent faculty and staff.
This fall, the Race and Pedagogy Institute will likely host the three founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, as keynote speakers.