The Multicultural Student Coalition's budget appeal was given new life by Interim Chancellor David Ward last week. MCSC's actions and Ward's decision damage campus in two different ways: Ward has unfairly stuck his thumb in the pie of segregated fees, and MCSC continues to hurt this campus' overall conversation on diversity through its general ineptitude.
When an uninitiated student navigates the mess of student bodies that dispense segregated fees, it is extremely easy to forget why the entire structure exists—allowing students to collectively control their segregated fees. The approved budget for segregated fee expenditure was roughly $41 million for the 2011-12 school year. The majority of seg fees is non-allocable funding that adds up to $33 million. The rest is divided among allocable funds and the General Student Services Fund.
The Student Financial Services Committee decides how the GSSF is allocated. Last fall, SSFC rejected MCSC's inflated budget of over one million dollars after a waiver form was turned in late, and separately rejected a revised MCSC budget on the basis that MCSC no longer meets eligibility requirements for serving the entire student body.
MCSC appealed to the Student Judiciary, but MCSC did little to prove it deserved the money and it was denied access to the GSSF. When MCSC sent a 14-page letter of appeal with to Ward, I thought that the group had finally grasped its last straw and would be forced to accept a school year with no funding from the GSSF. Unfortunately, Ward decided to send MCSC's budgetary fate into the hands of the ASM student council. Whether or not MCSC deserves funding next year—it does not, more on that in a moment—Ward's decision to negate the student judiciary and hand the decision back to the student council infringes on the student control over segregated fees.
By remanding the decision of MCSC's budget to the ASM student council, Ward has subverted the structure of ASM and the ideal of student-controlled distribution of seg fees. Ward's move is laudable for its savvy. It avoids conflict by balking on his decision to de-fund a multicultural student-org and gives him the ability to meddle in affairs where his influence should be carefully limited. The Student Judiciary placed an injunction on Ward's directive but the injunction is a thin protection against the loss of students’ rights.
Ward's directive has unfortunately conflated two issues: student control of seg fees and the future of MCSC. But this conflation makes me wonder how separate these issues are. Since MCSC lost out on access to the GSSF, it has slowly turned diversity into a monetary issue. Not only has its behavior been erratic and unorganized, but MCSC's careless and desperate rhetoric is beginning to hurt this campus as a whole.
MCSC forced its appeal all the way to Ward. He used the pretense of MCSC's budget appeal to conceal a sly power-grab. Although Ward's decision could not have been predicted by MCSC, it was the group’s racial status that enabled Ward's directive. Second, the desperate arguments put forth by MCSC have damaged the campus-wide discussion of diversity more than a years worth of programming would have helped.
MCSC cloaked its own institutional naivete in a veneer of race-consciousness that eventually devolved into ugly cries of “white privilege.” MCSC represents multiculturalism in general on this campus—perhaps unfairly—so when it ineptly files forms late or is fined by ASM, negative judgements don't stop at MCSC. But the biggest issue I have with MCSC's recent actions is that it has made diversity and funding one in the same. Of course, programming and events that promote diversity need money, but MCSC has taken it beyond that.
MCSC has inextricably linked the removal of its funding with racist, or at least non-race-conscious, logic, but that is hardly the case. Their funding was removed because MCSC simply couldn't follow the rules. The group’s leadership let them down. Yes, ASM is an institution mired in white privilege, but that same white institution has given MCSC over $400,000 in the last two years alone.
MCSC has linked diversity with funding because only through that logic can it be sensible to spend more than $200,000 a year towards diversity. If diversity means having people of color around, then MCSC's logic assigns non-whites monetary value.
MCSC needs to put forward a serious effort to define diversity, and how it can go out and measurably increase diversity on campus. MCSC's equation of diversity spending with actual diversity perpetrates race-divisions on campus. Without a strenuous redefinition and reorganization, MCSC's overall effect on campus will continue to be negative. MCSC should also overhaul its public relations. Talking about race and the concept of diversity is extremely tricky and an organization purporting to champion these causes should be extremely disciplined in its public interactions.
I've recently read that naivete is the only sin left in American eyes. Greed, sloth and rage can all be excused, but the naïve get whatever is coming for them. After this whole debacle, I can only see MCSC as naïve: naïve in its dealing with ASM, naïve in choosing its leadership and worst of all naïve in its approach to race relations.
David is a senior majoring in English. Please send all feedback to email@example.com.