The Students’ Association Senate recently passed a nonbinding resolution prohibiting the use of SA funds for political causes. While the Senate may have thought it was promoting fairness with this resolution, it has the potential to deal a severe blow to campus activism.

First and foremost, we must make a distinction between party activism and political activism. Party organizations such as the College Democrats and College Republicans are not SA Funded, and SA Funded groups cannot endorse candidates for office. This system makes perfect sense and does not need to be changed. Political activism, on the other hand, can take a variety of different forms, and is generally thought to include many of the social issues that campus groups regularly address. It is worrying that the Senate’s definition of ‘political” is potentially quite broad. The text of the resolution simply says that no ‘activity SAAC deems to be political in nature” may be funded. Such vague language gives far too much power to the SA Appropriations Committee, and sets the stage for arbitrary decisions. If Amnesty International’s humanitarian letter-writing campaign can have its funding revoked for being too ‘political,” as has already happened, then what is preventing SAAC from revoking the funding of any of the various campaigns and causes that student activist groups promote?

The Senate is attempting to reduce funding for political activity because it believes the fees paid by students should not be used to fund causes that they might oppose. But even if such scenarios occur frequently, the fact remains that all students have equal access to funds. Any potential fairness problem can just as easily be solved through more activism instead of less. If you disagree with a particular event or campaign, hold your own. That way a healthy atmosphere of college activism will be maintained, and students will be exposed to differing viewpoints, forcing them to think critically and make up their own minds. Before the passage of the Senate’s resolution, the only students who lost out financially were the ones who were too apathetic to become involved. While there is no shortage of apathetic students, it is not worth shortchanging campus activism in order to please them.

It has been argued that there is not enough money to go around. This may be true, but the scarcity encourages healthy competition between groups. Groups will be more motivated to put on excellent programs when they know that funding is limited. It is unfair to target activist groups when those are the groups that put on some of the campus’ most relevant and thought-provoking programs. In my time at UR, I have seen many frivolous events that were more interested in amusing the campus than engaging it. Such events will only become more frequent if activism is taken out of the equation. Activists work very hard to make positive changes on campus, whereas student government is very good at taking credit for it. Now student government wants to take away the tool through which a great deal of that positive change is made. This is unacceptable, and students should protest this effort and ensure that the Senate’s motion does not become binding.

Instead of trying to limit campus activism, those concerned about the allocation of SA funds should find causes they support and become involved. Too many students are content to sit back and enjoy the bliss of the campus bubble. But this is a real world with serious problems, and students need to know that there are more important things than entertainment and their own grades. Activism plays an important role on campus, and it can educate just as much as any class.

What is most frustrating about the Senate’s resolution is that it does not make logical sense. For example, I personally do not care for bar nights and would prefer to see that money spent elsewhere. Why has the Senate not introduced a motion prohibiting such expenditures? For almost any expenditure you will be able to find someone who opposes it. The Senate’s reasoning, taken to its logical conclusion, would prevent all programming from being funded. Since I am sure that is not its intention, it stands to reason that this measure is a deliberate attack on student activism and an affirmation of the culture of apathy that exists on this campus.

Spink is a Take Five Scholar.



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