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SU opens application process for election-related program funds

In anticipation of the fall 2016 Washington University-hosted presidential debate, student groups can now apply for funding from Student Union for politically related programming. A total of $75,000—which was earmarked for debate-related programming through SU’s budget allocation process last semester—will be available to both undergraduate and graduate student groups.

Groups can apply for funding through the WashU Votes website, after which the money will be allocated through a programming fund organized by SU in conjunction with the Presidential Debate Steering Committee.

Student Union will be funding events according to a biweekly schedule. The decision was made after a discussion between senior Kenneth Sng, the current Student Union president, and assistant professor of education Michelle Purdy, who served as SU president when a 2000 debate was hosted by Washington University. While Purdy implemented a weekly schedule of topics for the 2000 debate, Sng instead decided on a biweekly schedule to grant groups another week to program around.

Sng hopes to create cohesion through this biweekly schedule and to improve student engagement for this election year.

“Given the myriad of issues and number of student groups we have on campus, I thought it [would] be a good idea to bring back the issues calendar to inject coherence into student programming next semester,” Sng told Student Life in an email.

Sng said that four or five student-run programs will take place per biweekly period and expects that a number of panels and speaker events will be held throughout the fall 2016 semester. The Student Engagement Subcommittee—a part of the Presidential Debate Steering Committee—is planning a DebateFest for the weekend of the Oct. 9 debate, modeled after a program held at University of Denver in 2012.

The first two-week period, from Aug. 29 to Sept. 11, will be focused on foreign and immigration policy, while subsequent blocks are set aside for racial inequalities, gender rights and civil liberties, the economy, education and health policy and climate change and energy.

Student groups that want to plan events around other issues may still apply for funding, SU noted via an all-school email sent July 1.

“The calendar does not encompass all issues that are close to our hearts,” Sng’s email read. “Nevertheless, debate events that do not fall neatly under any of the themes in the calendar will still be funded.”

Sng has worked alongside Haley Dolosic, Graduate Professional Council president, to create a master calendar to inform students about all of the semester’s debate-related programming, which will be on both the WashU Votes website and the Facebook page.

Sng noted that while many events will be planned around the University-hosted presidential debate, programs will continue after the Oct. 9 debate and will be centered around issues rather than around the debate itself.

“Having the Presidential Debate at Wash. U. creates an occasion to draw student attention to important issues in our society today, but the Oct. 9 debate will not be the be all and end all,” Sng told Student Life. “In fact, one message the Student Engagement Subcommittee is trying to send is: involvement in the democratic process should continue long after the presidential debate at Wash. U.”


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