SU Senate holds Town Hall during College Republicans Event
Student Union (SU) Senate leadership held a Town Hall to discuss their delay in releasing a statement about Amala Ekpunobi, a conservative speaker that the SU Treasury approved for over $11,000 to speak on campus.
The Town Hall was attended by 11 students who, when initially asked if they had any questions, were silent until one said, “I don’t understand how this was allowed to happen.”
The facilitators were SU Vice President of Engagement Emma Platt, a junior and SU Senate’s Diversity and Inclusion Chair Israel Fulton, Senate Campus and Residential Experience Chair, current freshman Da’juantay Wynter, and Senate Health and Wellness Chair Erin Ritter. Each took a turn answering the first question before asking Meris Damjanovic and Christine Ling, two freshmen, and treasurers who participated in the vote to allocate funding for Ekpunobi, how they would answer the question.
Damjanovic, a treasurer who voted against the appeal, expressed that he was frustrated with how fellow treasurers handled the College Republicans’ appeal to seek funding for the event.
“People obviously were not doing their research ahead on the speaker,” Damjanovic said. “And I think that’s an issue with [the] Treasury in general — that people are not doing their research ahead of the session for things like that.”
Senate Leadership’s “Statement Regarding Amala Ekpunobi’s WashU GOP Speaking Event,” posted on Instagram on Dec. 8, echoed Damjanovic’s sentiments. The statement condemned the Student Union Treasurers who voted in favor of the appeal, denoting that, while the decision was made after “an enlightening and necessary discussion, the decision was nonetheless wrong.”
The Town Hall moderators said the statement was in response to student dissatisfaction with the Senate’s silence on the approval of funding for Ekpunobi.
“We do not have the trust of the student body,” Ritter said.
According to the statement, SU plans to reexamine internal processes to allow for “more transparency and collaboration” with the University community.
“There is no excuse for our silence, and we know that we owe the student body immediate action with palpable change,” the statement reads.
“We struggled to justify any statement without any action behind it because that is obviously performative,” Ritter said.
One of the changes Wynter proposed in the Town Hall was the idea of the SU Senate creating a detailed spreadsheet to track various things, such as motions, how senators are voting, and every dollar spent by the organization.
She expressed her hope that the statement and Town Hall could be “small first step[s]” in the right direction towards rebuilding the relationship between the SU Senate and the student body.
Additionally, the statement expressed how the delays in releasing a statement were mostly because of turnover within the Senate, as elections took place just days after the Treasury’s vote to approve funding for Ekpunobi.
“Our actions until this point have been impeded by the recent fall general and internal elections,” Ritter said.
That turnover was evident at the Town Hall; Ritter, Fulton, and Wynter had each been elected to their positions a week before the event and often deferred some questions to Platt, an SU veteran.
The Town Hall was held at the exact same time as the Ekpunobi event. When asked why she and the other moderators chose that time, Ritter said that Friday “was one of the last days to program” and that the Senate “wanted to do something as quick as possible.”
Students at the Town Hall wanted to understand why their money was spent on funding for this speaker. Izzy Yanover, a senior and president of the Pride Alliance, captured this sentiment when they asked about the treasurers who voted for the appeal that are “getting away scot-free.”
“They never have to look at the people that they directly harmed,” Yanover said.
Yanover demonstrated their frustration with the Treasury’s lack of accountability after they approved funding for Ekpunobi.
“What do you plan to do as SU to bring them into the conversation and force them to sort of face consequences for their actions?”