The Associated Students Legislative Council revised and approved its 2005-06 budget last night at its weekly meeting – increasing the funding allocated to both Queer Commission and Student Lobby after a five-hour meeting.
Student Lobby chair Lance Tackett convinced Leg Council to reopen budget discussions at last week’s meeting, after an accounting error left a $32,000 surplus in next year’s financial plan. Tackett said members of groups such as Queer Commission should be allowed to defend their groups and argue for more funds in light of the newfound money. A.S. President Cervin Morris said he originally reduced Queer Commission’s funds from $1,200 to $600 because it did not turn in any meetings minutes and it appeared the group never met.
During the meeting, a blackout occurred in the building, but the Leggies pressed on under dim lighting until power was restored about 20 minutes later. After nearly two hours of public comment, with the majority of time spent discussing Queer Commission’s funds, Leg Council decided to restore the commission’s allocation to $1,200 and gave Student Lobby an additional $5,000 in next year’s budget. Other bills on this week’s agenda were tabled until next week’s meeting.
Nearly 20 members representing Queer Student Union (QSU) and Queer Commission came to the meeting to speak in favor of increasing the commission’s funds. Stephanie Lee, Queer Commission co-chair, spoke on behalf of the commission and said the group is essential to the campus community.
“I think we have to understand homophobia and heterosexism,” Lee said. “We’ve seen harmful banners around campus and homophobic articles in the Nexus. Our membership overlaps [with Queer Commission] and we are overworked and overtaxed. We aid [the queer community] through leadership and people power. We have kept receipts and we have been meeting.”
Lee said the group admits fault for not reporting back to Leg Council, but she sees no reason for the organization to be punished over an issue as minor as meeting minutes. She said the group plays a large role in the community by holding workshops in residence halls, aiding the Gay-Straight Alliance at Dos Pueblos High School and helping out with Pride Week.
However, Morris said the commission did not previously express its concerns to members of Leg Council and had been mostly hostile in their replies to the 2005-06 budget allocations.
“I have office hours and no one says anything there,” Morris said. “Instead I have people writing in chalk in front of the [MultiCultural Center] saying I’m homophobic or labeling others as homophobic in their letters,” he said referring to a chain of e-mail sent out by Queer Commission that alleged Leg Council was homophobic and practiced heterosexism.
Lee apologized for the letter and said Queer Commission did not intend to aggravate the council.
“We weren’t saying Leg Council was homophobic,” Lee said. “We just wanted the situation to be evaluated.”
Rep-at-Large Justin Pabian said he questioned Queer Commission’s function, claiming that the organization appeared to be a method of funneling money from A.S. to QSU because the groups frequently collaborate on events.
“I don’t want Queer Commission to be a piggy bank for QSU,” Pabian said.
Tackett responded to Pabian’s comments and tried to explain the difference between the two groups.
“The difference is that Queer Student Union is a registered campus organization (RCO) whereas Queer Commission is part of A.S.,” Tackett said. “An RCO can campaign for a political candidate whereas an A.S. entity cannot. That’s why it’s important to keep them separate.”
Following appeals from other members in the audience, Morris said he urged Leg Council to restore Queer Commission’s funds to $1,200.
After the council approved adding $600 to Queer Commission’s funds for next year, Lee asked for an additional $800 for the group, saying it is in a lot of debt.
“I have had to donate $1,300 of my own money [to Queer Commission] and Raymond [Meza] has donated $1,400,” she said.
The council denied Lee’s additional $800 request, at which point Lee began to cry. She thanked the committee for restoring the money but hoped they would reconsider the total amount next year at A.S. Finance Board meetings.
“I hope that you understand that Pride Week almost didn’t happen this year and the $2,000 wouldn’t have gone to pay back people,” she said. “I hope that you take that into consideration when funding campus groups at Finance Board next year with the unallocated funds.”
In other business, Tackett, the only person who spoke about Student Lobby, said the group needed $10,000 total because it lacked resources this year. He said the group was important because it represents students in Sacramento as tuition fees are being increased and financial aid is being decreased.
“[Student Lobby] has been having to go to SCORE to get money,” Tackett said. “This shouldn’t happen. It’s unfair to them and A.S. already has an image problem. Students don’t know what we do.”
The Council then voted to increase Student Lobby’s funding, but only bringing its total allocation to $7,415.
A.S. Internal Vice President Andrea Wells said she was pleased with the results of the meeting.
“Staying until 11:30 in the dark [after the blackout] shows that the elected representatives of A.S. are dedicated,” she said.