The Forum for Free Speech [FFS] is the organization which, according to their charter, distributes money from the Student Budget Committee in order to organize “spoken-word events on Swarthmore’s campus.” In the past year, under the leadership of FFS Coordinator Jason Lissy ’08, the Forum has had an “aggressive reform agenda.”
The reforms were embodied in the Forum’s updated charter which clarified the elements FFS considered when judging proposals, including speaker credentials and the novelty of the event. “They have always been factored into the committee’s evaluations,” explained Lissy, and were stipulated in the charter “in response to student demand for increased transparency and accountability from the College’s funding bodies.”
These demands for transparency and accountability also drove the group to being publicizing minutes and applicant interviews. In the 2004 charter which guided the organization until late last year, meetings between applicants and the Forum were intermittent. The charter declared that “meetings are closed” and occasionally “informal visits to the meeting may be entertained.” The revised charter, however, demands that “all students who submit a proposal are required to present their proposal and answer questions,” a process more similar to that of the Student Budget Committee as a whole.
The group also has moved to publicly publishing its minutes on its website. The most recent set of minutes, from April 2007, roughly outlined the group’s funding decisions for talks including “Empowerment Through Knowledge” and “Employee Free Choice Act: Speaker Panel” and described the committee’s decision to implement a “three-week minimum submission deadline” and stricter time limits. The Forum has yet to publish minutes from the 2007-08 school year.
The changes implemented by FFS are all designed to open up the funding process to more Swarthmore students. By explicitly listing expectations and explaining some of the Forum’s inner workings, Lissy and the Forum as a whole want to make the committee more approachable for all Swarthmore students.
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