Legislation intended to prevent a repeat of last year’s Bristol Palin fiasco failed to pass Student Union Treasury by one vote on Thursday. The constitutional amendment would have made student referendums faster and more effective. The final vote was 11-6, but it needed a two-thirds margin to pass.
Washington University announced several weeks ago that Janet Napolitano, the current U.S. secretary of Homeland Security, would be speaking on campus. And even though her visit was cancelled, the announcement of her intended arrival came as a pleasant surprise in light of the lackluster lineup of speakers who have come throughout the year.
Students signed up in larger numbers this spring to run for Student Union Treasury and Senate, with many taking motivation from the fallout over Treasury’s vote to fund a panel featuring Bristol Palin. The majority of the candidates are coming from outside SU. The influx of candidates has made this spring’s elections much more competitive than normal.
Regardless of Bristol Palin’s merits as a speaker, there is one thing we know for certain: The majority of the student body did not want to pay her speaking fee. It is important, for purposes of clarification, to note that the appeal for funding was made by the Student Health Advisory Committee (SHAC), and the money would have come from the Student Activity Fee, a charge that is used exclusively for student programming and is equal to one percent of tuition.
The proposed speaker that had Washington University students in an uproar for nearly two days is no longer scheduled to appear on campus. Bristol Palin, 20, was expected to be the keynote speaker at this year’s Sexual Responsibility Week. But her $20,000 price tag led students to contest Student Union Treasury’s funding decision, arguing that she is unqualified to speak about the subject of abstinence on a college campus.
I was one of the kids who wore an orange jumpsuit and turned her back on Alberto Gonzales after he spoke. I sat in stunned silence as Karl Rove neatly eviscerated those who questioned him with a charisma, wit and intelligence that were highly impressive if not at the same time unmistakably evil. And I too crossed my fingers and prayed that Zach Braff really would reschedule next time.
Since the appeal hearing on Tuesday night, there has been, to say the least, a great deal of talk about Bristol Palin. Concerns were voiced to family and friends. Facebook and Twitter exploded with status updates, tweets and wall posts. News of Bristol’s offer to speak found its way into Student Life, The Huffington Post and local news channels the very next day.
Amid the flurry of outraged status updates, in-class rants and circulating petitions, something has become abundantly clear. The student body is upset that $20,000 of their Student Activity fee had been slated to fund a panel including Bristol Palin—a young woman who gained recognition based on the fateful timing of her teenage pregnancy, which happened to coincide with her mother’s vice presidential candidacy.
Bristol Palin: An abstinent mother?
This past Tuesday, Jan. 25, Washington University’s Treasury approved a $20,000 appeal to bring Bristol Palin as the keynote speaker and a panelist for a discussion about abstinence in college during Sex Week. Regardless of whether one agrees with Ms. Palin’s political beliefs or lifestyle choices, the fact remains that this grant is deeply troubling.
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