Treasury representatives discuss Quiz Bowl request for funding gender-separated hotel rooms

and | Junior News Editors

At a Student Union (SU) Treasury meeting on February 28, Quiz Bowl representatives claimed that Treasury representatives were perpetuating gender inequity by allocating less hotel funding than the group requested, sparking a conversation among representatives about precedent for funding as it relates to gender. 

In their appeal, Quiz Bowl requested $800 for four traveling members to stay in a hotel in Boston for two nights in order to compete in a nationals tournament. When Treasury representatives questioned why the group requested $100 per person per night, which is more than typical for hotel funding requests, the two Quiz Bowl representatives present for the meeting explained there were two male and two female students attending, and they wanted to reserve two rooms to separate them based on gender.

SU funds travel expenses by person, without taking gender breakdowns into account, which is the reasoning they used for not providing funding for two separate hotel rooms, as four people can sleep in two beds within one room.

Members of Quiz Bowl present at the meeting argued that only funding one hotel room would make the sleeping arrangement uncomfortable for the people on its team and further exacerbate the activity’s issues with gender diversity.

“Quiz Bowl is not a very well gender-balanced activity, but in that context, one of the things we’re very proud about in WashU Quiz Bowl is that we have one of the most diverse teams on the circuit,” a Quiz Bowl representative said. “In that context, to not fund this room would essentially be to penalize us for fighting against the overall gender disparities in our competition.”

“If you do not provide us the additional funding, you’re essentially saying that we would have to pay $400 out of our own pockets as a punishment for making our team more welcoming to women,” a Quiz Bowl representative said.

Treasury representative Jason Zhang said he understood Quiz Bowl’s request to provide two separate rooms, but that their case did not justify providing so much funding.

“I understand the desire to make sure that there are two separate rooms,” Zhang said. “Ultimately, it’s really just the fact that hotels are really expensive.”

Treasury representative Saish Satyal emphasized that the role of the Treasury is to subsidize costs — not to always fund every cost entirely.

“I don’t agree with the framing that we’re penalizing the team [for promoting equity] — that’s not how our subsidies work, in my opinion,” Satyal said.

Sophomore Treasury representative Leena Rai expressed in the meeting that she does not believe it is effective to use the concept of gender equity as a tool to get funding. 

“It is not a fair precedent to set that you can come into our meetings and wield this idea of gender equity to say that you should be funded [more] than precedent,” Rai said. “I don’t think that should be the attitude in the future, and wielding language like that — I don’t think that is a successful path to get the funding that you want.”

The Treasury procedures for allocating hotel funds have changed since last year when there were specific maximum amounts that groups were allowed to receive for line items such as hotels, gas, rental cars, and flights. 

Sophomore Sadie Karp, who serves as the Budget Committee Chair, explained that, this year, Treasury has given each group a cap for travel funding of $850 per traveling member per year, which the group cannot exceed. Karp explained that the cap serves as a high limit, rather than a number that should be regularly reached.

“We are never inclined to hit the cap — it’s a protection mechanism for going bankrupt,” Karp said. 

Karp said that the cap allows representatives to consider the totality of the circumstances a student group is presenting to them rather than abiding by arbitrary numbers. 

While the Treasury has the autonomy to fund groups for a range of amounts, allowing them to have more leeway when funding, there are certain pricing guidelines that are typically followed based on what costs are considered reasonable by Student Union. 

Although Treasury representatives did not make the decision to fund Quiz Bowl’s requests in their entirety, they expressed that they did consider the issue of members’ comfort when coming to a final number.

In a follow up interview with Student Life, Satyal said that they ended up funding Quiz Bowl at a higher price point than they usually give to groups in order to facilitate member comfort. 

“The $480 total that we reached was still a generous departure from past precedent because of the group’s emphasis on the comfort of their members,” he said.

The decision to provide Quiz Bowl with funding on the higher side would potentially allow the group to book two rooms to separate members based on gender as long as they could find hotel rooms that were cheaper overall.

In a statement provided to Student Life, Quiz Bowl stated that the group recognizes that the role of Treasury is to subsidize events and understands their decision not to fund the full cost of the trip based on the high price. The statement also commented on the meeting itself and the discussion over hotel funding.

“At the SU treasury meeting, WashU Quiz Bowl’s representative asked the treasury to reconsider just their reduced hotel funding allocation so that we would be able to purchase an extra room to ensure that non-male members are comfortable making the trip,” the statement read. 

After significant back-and-forth discussion, Treasury representatives decided to fund the hotels for $480, or $60 per person per night, which is higher than the amount they typically fund, giving Quiz Bowl $2,630 in total funding for tournament travel. Treasury representatives Justin Kouch and Pedro Morales were the only representatives who voted in opposition to funding the group for that amount. 

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