Treasury funds ‘Orange Is the New Black’ actress for Trans* Week
Student Union Treasury approved the appeal to bring Cox, who plays transgender prison inmate Sophia Burset on the hit show, for Pride Alliance’s second annual Trans* Awareness Week.
Cox’s speech, which cost Treasury $15,700, is scheduled for Nov. 21 in Laboratory Sciences Building room 300. The group also funded Pride $4,200 to bring Kit Yan, a spoken word and slam poet performer, to attend the vigil concluding Trans* Awareness Week on Nov. 23.
As one of only a few transgender characters actually portrayed by a transgender actor, Cox offers significant value beyond her fame, senior Vinita Chaudhry, former member of Pride’s executive board and current president of Queer People of Color, said.
“For a lot of reasons, our campus is not the environment for trans people of color to begin with, and I can speak to that from examples I know of,” Chaudhry said. “I want people to remember this isn’t only worth it for the number of people there and the per-person cost but also the types of conversations we can have on campus.”
Sophomore Fabian Barch, another member of Pride, emphasized the importance of drawing a crowd to discuss trans* issues that are often not a part of other programming on campus.
“One thing we have tried hard to do is to make sure we can appeal to a lot of different types of groups. A lot of times the ‘T’ in LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] is dropped off or forgotten about,” Barch said.
Treasury representatives quickly reached a consensus on the potential popularity of Cox’s speaking event, some suggesting that turnout could compare with the recent lecture by Jonathan Gruber, architect of the Affordable Care Act. That event was so popular that some students got turned away due insufficient space.
“While we’re looking at cost, [Gruber] was totally worth it, and this probably is too,” senior Jordan Gamble said.
But Treasury representatives did have mixed opinions on funding Yan, citing concerns about over-programming slam poetry and the high combined cost going to one student group. Junior Eric Neiman, a treasury representative, suggested cutting the Yan event and only funding Pride the $15,700 for Cox.
“I’m not trying to discount the power of the poet, but I think at least some people think the total amount is so much money. I think this appeal is set up to cut it down to keep the vital component,” Neiman said.
Barch responded to concerns from Treasury about the possible low turnout and similarity between Yan and the other slam poets slated for the semester by suggesting that low turnout is indicative of a general campus disinterest in diversity, not a bad event.
“With most diversity events on campus, they all attract a niche community. There are only so many people who seek out these events,” Barch said. “The fact that more people aren’t willing to get out of their comfort zone is more concerning than having two different slam poets coming in.”
The final appeal for $19,900 passed in a 10-5-0 vote.