Student Union Treasury misguided

| Op-Ed Submission

Although the events surrounding yesterday’s vice presidential debate certainly made for an exciting time on campus, students were unfortunately denied one major event during the past week. The College Republicans, along with the Student Investment Fund, Delta Sigma Pi and Theta Xi had planned to co-sponsor Ben Stein on October 1 to discuss the economic issues facing the nation in the upcoming election. Two weeks ago, the SU Treasury gave every indication that funding would be approved as long as security access could be obtained for Stein to speak on campus the day before the debate. That access was subsequently granted, Graham Chapel was booked, and the contract was nearly drafted. Then, at last week’s Treasury meeting, those same members did an about face and voted to reject our appeal for funding by a margin of 9-7-1.

This came as quite a disappointing surprise. What could have happened during the intervening week to bring about this change of heart? The answer is pretty simple: politics.

Members of the Treasury primarily became concerned with the amount of money that has been already allotted to the College Republicans for speakers in the past two academic years (Mike Huckabee at $16,000 and Alberto Gonzales at $31,000). A similar argument was made by Ben Guthorn, president of the College Democrats, both on the pages of Student Life and in person at the Treasury meetings. He lamented the $30,000 honorarium that would be paid to Stein, questioning the worth of this proposed speech. However, this collective argument by Ben and the Treasury lacks objective analysis.

For example, the College Democrats brought Paul Begala to campus last semester at a price of $15,000. Yes, that was about half the price of Gonzales, but we had more than 500 students fill the 560 Building for the former Attorney General. When asked by our vice president about Begala’s crowd, Ben shook his head and would not even comment. We can only assume that he failed to fill up Louderman 458. But let’s say (generously) that Louderman holds 150 people and that all those seats were taken. The price per person would still be more than 60 percent greater than the price per person attending Gonzales’ speech. Such a comparison undermines Ben’s argument for denying our funding and may have helped the Treasury reach a better decision. Additionally, the Treasury (and Ben) seemed to ignore the fact that we were planning to co-sponsor this event with three other groups, an approach that the Treasury actively encourages. Thus, Ben’s charge that the Treasury “cannot continue to fund individual groups at such a rate” is not applicable to this situation.

Finally, the individual political opinions of certain Treasury members came to light during the discussion regarding the final vote. One member in particular encouraged her colleagues to “keep in mind that we would be having a conservative speaker who believes in intelligent design speaking on campus the day before the debate when the national spotlight would be on us.” We find the implication of this statement insulting as it suggests that hosting a conservative would embarrass the University. Furthermore, the topic of his speech was to be the economy, and his purportedly objectionable views on intelligent design are hardly relevant to that discussion. The Treasury members are elected to make fiscal decisions, not to dictate what opinions are acceptable, and they would do best to remember this in future deliberations.

Our nation is now facing a $700 billion bailout on Wall Street, and this is certainly an issue that will define the waning days of the presidential campaign. Our school was given the opportunity to hear a brilliant economic mind in Ben Stein discuss this monumental topic, yet SU passed on the offer. We appreciate those members of the Treasury who maintained their willingness to fund this event, but it is disappointing that some of their colleagues sided with Ben Guthorn in not funding, as he described, “this minority group.” We would have expected a better attitude toward minorities from the president of the College Democrats, and we would have expected fairer treatment from the Treasury. Now, the biggest name to speak on campus this election season will have been Mo Rocca, a mere comedian. Maybe it’s just us, but this is no laughing matter. We thus urge the Treasury to refocus its efforts on funding pertinent speakers.

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