The Student Budget Committee (SBC) meeting last Sunday night included a repeat performance for the Swarthmore Voter Registration Coalition (SVRC), appealing for the second time a Social Affairs Committee (SAC) decision not to fund an event featuring a screening of the first presidential debate. Last week, SAC denied SVRC’s request for funding because of a bylaw stating that no SAC funding would be given for events promoting a political ideology. SVRC successfully appealed to Student Council (SC), but it became clear after the fact that SC had no authority to overturn the decision. “No one read the bylaws,” SBC Manager Sonya Hoo ’05 said. It states in the SC constitution that any budgeting appeals must first go to SBC for re-evaluation, though if the situation remains unsatisfactory, the appeal may then be brought to SC for final evaluation. That SVRC is not yet a chartered group may have complicated matters; the procedures for dealing with unchartered groups are more makeshift than the procedures for dealing with chartered groups. Nonetheless, Hoo insists, SBC was the better forum for SVRC’s appeal.
Ethan Ucker ’07 made the second appeal on behalf of SVRC at the Sunday SBC meeting. Charlie Sussman ’05 and Darshan Patel ’05 made statements for SAC, and SBC board members debated the issue. SBC’s conclusion was much the same as SC’s — they voted to grant SVRC $150, reflecting a decision that SVRC did not need the full $350 they requested (SVRC also received funding from the President’s Office), but that SAC should have supported the event. According to Hoo, SBC decided SVRC’s debate broadcast was not an event that fell under the political ideologies by-law, but also maintained that this decision did not set a precedent.
Though no precedent has been set, SBC’s decision to overturn SAC’s ruling has again demonstrated the need to clarify the political ideology bylaw. Sussman verified that there will be a meeting tonight to discuss the SAC bylaw. The meeting will include the SC co-presidents, the SAC co-directors and several members from the dean’s office. One option under consideration is to expand the purview of SAC to all entertainment events.
SVRC has expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the appeals. Ucker stated in an email that “[t]hough the process was frustrating for many reasons, not the least of which was having to go through the appeals process with Student Council, and then again with SBC because apparently no one (including members of Student Council) knew the proper appeals procedures or cared to enforce them until after the event, I am confident that it at least has set a precedent for these representative bodies’ future dealings with this type of issue.” He also said that he hoped the large turnout for the debate event will demonstrate to SAC and SC the demand for these kind of events on campus. “[S]ubstantive, important, albeit political events” should be “encouraged in the future, and receive more enthusiastic, full support, not only from the administration, the student body, and Student Council (as this one did), but also from the organizations that represent Swarthmore students and their interests/values financially,” Ucker argued. “After all, if bodies like SAC are hesitant to at least partially fund events such as this one, what legitimate purpose do they serve on this campus?”
The issue of SAC funding for SVRC events may be raised again soon as November 2 nears. Ucker confirmed that SVRC intends to host an election day returns party, to take place after the polls have closed and lasting until a winner is announced. SVRC will be seeking SAC funding for the event.