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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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Women's Initiative fights for funding

Two bills aimed at giving the Student Confederation's Women's Initiative bylaws and funding were defeated by a General Assembly committee last Wednesday, as supporters and opponents clashed over making the Initiative a formal department in the student government.

A committee of the GA, AU's student government legislature, reviewed two bills for the Initiative that would create bylaws and provide $4,000 in funding for the next year. The Government Operations Committee reported the bill "unanimous unfavorable," which effectively kills it, SC Comptroller Scott Rosen said.

The basic disagreement is whether an office focused on women's issues is a special interest group, which opponents say should make it a club under the AU Club Council, instead of an SC office. Clubs under the Council generally receive less funding than SC offices, though they retain more autonomy.

"Special interest groups should be a separate entity, a separate body from the SC," Rosen said, explaining that groups like the Black Student Alliance had moved from the SC to the Council in 2001. He said it would be unfair for a new special interest group to remain in the executives' office.

Initiative Director Michelle Brownstein disagreed with the special interest group characterization, comparing the Initiative's role to the Kennedy Political Union.

"We work to bring together all of the organizations on campus and all of the organizations that work with women on campus," Brownstein said. "I don't think a club can do that, especially with the mission to be non-partisan the way an SC organization can. KPU has a mission of bringing different views to campus. In that same vein, that's what the Women's Initiative would do."

Some committee members argued that the Initiative has been fiercely partisan.

"The Women's Initiative has really done absolutely nothing," Graham Gawrysiak, a Class of 2006 representative and Government Operations committee member, said. "When it has done things, it's been polarizing. It's really pushed the liberal view of what women's rights are."

Gawrysiak said, because of its ideological nature, the Initiative should be a club where members pay dues and the Council allocates money, rather than the SC budget allocation process, where he said departments receive funds they never use.

Brownstein said support for the Initiative transcends political ideology.

"In terms of political parties, we're very diverse," Brownstein said. "I don't think it really is Republicans versus Democrats. There are plenty of Republicans who have been very supportive. There are an extremely small number of people who have expressed that they don't want this bill to go through."

The perception of bias in the Initiative is result of the lack of funding, Brownstein said. As the Initiative has been forced to partner with liberal groups who have funding for their programs.

Because there are no formal bylaws, the only oversight of the Initiative is the SC President. With bylaws the GA would oversee the Initiative, Brownstein said.

"If there are GA members who feel we are not doing our job or that we're taking an ideological stance, they can say, 'you can't do that. It's part of your bylaws,'" Brownstein said.

Supporters of the Initiative argued that it's mission requires that it be part of the SC.

"They need to be close to the programs and policies of student government," said Will Mount, a Class of 2006 representative.

Initiative programming could include men, Mount said, dismissing other members' concerns that programming would only include women. He cited a potential program informing men of their rights if they were accused of rape or sexual harassment as an example of inclusive programming.

The Initiative was formed in 2001 to advocate for a Women's Center on campus, educate students about health and safety issues and work on AU policies relevant to women, Brownstein said.

The Initiative's founding director Ilissa Gould, who graduated from AU last spring, said that opposition to the Initiative has been consistent for its entire existence.

"The continued problems every year have been with the GA," Gould said. "Every year they bring the director up for a song and dance. Every year they're grilled on their political and personal views."

Opponents said it would complicate the budget process because it would require the Initiative to get a bank account.

Even GA members opposing funding said the Initiative might be a successful club.

"I don't think the idea is dead by any means," said Brad Vasoli, a Class of 2004 representative.

Section 202 host Gabrielle and friends go over some sports that aren’t in the sports media spotlight often, and review some sports based on their difficulty to play. 

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