The Students’ Association Senate has put the UR chapter of Amnesty International on a one month probation. The punishment was in response to a violation of the directives of the Policy and Review Committee. Amnesty rented out Friel Lounge for an event hosted by the Progressive Students’ Alliance, a loosely defined coalition of clubs that is not officially recognized by the SA. Amnesty also provided false information about the PSA’s event on the event flyer.
According to University policy, any club that provides funding for a non-recognized group can be considered for probation. After reviewing the case, the Policy and Review Committee decided on a one month probation period for Amnesty. The punishment also includes the loss of room reservations and the freezing of all funds for the spring semester, unless the group can prove that they have reformed by the first week of February.
The decision was reached during an emergency meeting before the SA Senate. There were rumors that a protest was going to be held by members of Amnesty and the PSA during the Senate meeting. However, none of those rumors came to fruition. Amnesty International Presidents Erica Wellington and Julianne Nigro declined to comment on the SA decision, but did address the protest rumors.
“There was no protest planned for last night, and Amnesty is not aware of any protest planned for the future in relation to these events,” Wellington and Nigro said in an e-mail.
The PSA is composed of a number of progressive-minded clubs, including Amnesty International, Students for Social Justice, the Community Learning Center, the International Living Center and the Student Association of Vegan and Vegetarian Youth. The alliance has never been officially regarded as a club by the SA. Amnesty’s misappropriation of SA funds to rent a room for the group makes them fully responsible for the event.
“This is so important because of accountability,” SA President and senior Alex Pearlman said. “If something went wrong in Friel Lounge, if something were broken or money were lost, Amnesty International would be held accountable.”
The event under scrutiny is a Faculty Tea, which was scheduled for Dec. 8 from 1 to 3 p.m. Certain faculty members who received invitations in the mail were invited to discuss current issues around campus with members of the PSA.
The investigation began on Nov. 21, when a member of the SA Senate found a flyer advertising the event. An SA Senator then met Amnesty International President, PSA member and sophomore Erica Wellington, warning her of the potential consequences of the club’s actions. At the Senate meeting, the investigators stressed that Wellington and the rest of the Amnesty leadership were fully aware that they had violated SA policy, but did not do anything to cancel the event.
“We met with them explicitly and said, ‘that is not allowed,'” Policy and Review Committee Chair and junior Charlie Whitman said.
Amnesty was also charged with violating policy in regard to the event flyer. The flyer did not mention the fact that the club sponsored the event, nor did it state Amnesty’s status as an SA funded group, both of which are provisions required for event posters as stated in the Student Organization booklet.
Over the past few months, the SA has approached the PSA four times about becoming a recognized group. The PSA was informed that they had to either organize the associated clubs into one umbrella group or cease all activities. The conversations came to a halt when it became clear that the PSA was not going to take the steps necessary to become a recognized group.
According to Pearlman, this is an unfortunate and unprecedented turn of events.
“This is the first time we’ve ever had to really scrutinize a group before,” he said.Wrobel is a member of the class of 2010.