Block funding petition for S.A.R.A.H. goes to vote, WUnderground petition not approved

| Staff Reporter

After a successful online petition campaign, Washington University’s sexual assault and rape hotline only needs a two-thirds majority of student votes in the upcoming Student Union elections in order to receive block funding.

The initial block funding petition for the Sexual Assault and Rape Anonymous Helpline (S.A.R.A.H.), which asked for $8,807, received more than the 1,029 signatures—or 15 percent of the student body—necessary to proceed to the SU general election before Sunday’s 11:59 p.m. deadline.

Should students vote to grant S.A.R.A.H. block funding, money will be allotted from the general budget to fund training and retreats for the group’s members, as well as public relations efforts and phone bills.

Category I groups like S.A.R.A.H. typically submit budgets to SU and then require Treasury’s approval to receive their funds. Block funding is an opportunity for those student groups to petition university-wide for additional money for one or two years. If block funding is allocated to a group, it cannot receive any more additional money from Student Union for the remainder of the one- or two-year time frame.

If S.A.R.A.H.’s request receives the necessary votes in SU elections, SU Vice President of Finance and junior Kenneth Sng said he will take money from SU’s internal funds to pay for the helpline.

“I will propose to take $5,625 from Student Union advertising and the remaining sum from the student group appeals account to balance the budget,” Sng wrote in an email to Student Life.

WUnderground, Washington University’s satirical newspaper, also applied for block funding, requesting $1,389,533.12—the bulk of which would have gone toward the purchase of a house in Clayton, Mo., currently listed at $1.19 million. The petition did not get enough signatures as of the 11:59 p.m. deadline, clocking in at only 799, and therefore will not appeal on the ballot.

WUnderground President and senior Sam Blumkin said that he wanted SU to pay in full for the printing of the group’s paper.

“The last couple of semesters, we’ve never been fully funded by Student Union,” Blumkin said. “I would like our eight issues funded, at the end of the day. So, if we don’t get the house, hopefully we’ll at least get funding for all of our eight issues.”

WUnderground Editor-in-Chief and senior Andrew Miller acknowledged that some students may find WUnderground’s petition, accounting for nearly half of the $3,118,850 SU budget, unreasonable.

“I think we realize that there is something exaggerated about this request,” Miller said. “I think that’s part of the nature of satire—is exaggeration. We recognize that it’s an outlandish request.”

Sng agreed with Miller that the million-plus-dollar request was rather infeasible.

“If WUnderground’s block funding petition is passed, it will be difficult for me to balance the General Budget, because I will have to address a $1,389.533.12 deficit. Therefore, students should consider carefully when they make their decision on block funding petitions.” Sng wrote.

Despite the satirical nature of WUnderground’s request, SU President and senior Jordan Finkelstein said that the group could not have been stopped by Student Union had it received the necessary petition signatures.

“It’s a democratic process, so if they get enough signatures, they have to go on the ballot,” Finkelstein said.

Freshman Zak Kadish signed both S.A.R.A.H.’s and WUnderground’s petitions.

“I think the work that S.A.R.A.H. does is really important, and I think that they should receive the funding they need,” Kadish said. “I also signed WUnderground’s petition because I thought it was a good joke that should be placed on the ballot.”

Freshman Allen Chen was not aware that block funding petitions had been submitted.

“I wasn’t sure that this campaign was going on. Otherwise, I might have participated,” Chen said.

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