BFC acts without StuCo approval
Published: Thursday, April 18, 2013
Updated: Thursday, April 18, 2013 01:04
Almost a month has passed since Student Lectureships’ Tuskegee Airmen event, yet Student Council is still talking about it.
On Sunday, Student Council voted to evaluate all variable costs associated with the event beyond the $4,000 donation paid, in lieu of a speaking fee, to the Ohio Memorial Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. Both the president of Student Council and the co-chairs of the Business and Finance Committee (BFC) said deliberations, which have been dogged by miscalculation and miscommunication, should conclude by semester’s end.
The outgoing leaders of Student Lectureships, Lydia Winkler ’13 and Ben Fritsch ’13, declined to be interviewed for this article, but the group issued a statement on Monday accusing Student Council of prejudice and harassment: “Kenyon Student Lectureships wonders why it has been repeatedly harassed over its sponsorship of the Tuskegee Airmen at Rosse Hall on March 27 and why this harassment specifically cited our collaboration with the Black Student Union [BSU] for this event and our use of funds donated by Kenyon alumnus Shaka Smart [’99]. It is ironic that an event meant to enlighten and illuminate students about race in America should be held up and castigated by Student Council in the same way these American heroes were prevented from getting the recognition they deserved in World War II.
“As this event was encouraged and endorsed by several members of the Kenyon faculty and completely packed Rosse Hall and was featured on the front page of the March 28 Mount Vernon News, one would hope the Student Council would cease and desist at this point.”
BFC Co-Chair Andie Asimes ’13 said, “Our only question about the BSU was that their role in co-sponsorship would be promotional and not monetary, as they had not requested funding for helping with the event. … We were excited to see the co-sponsorship and it is something that we encourage many student groups to try when they request funding.”
Still, the relationship between the BFC, Student Council and Student Lectureships has been strained.
Back in March, the BFC approached Council with the concern that the event was doubling as an American Studies senior exercise for moderator Winkler. According to Student Council President Faith McDuffie ’13, that claim was dismissed in a meeting with American Studies Chair Peter Rutkoff, Dean of Students Hank Toutain and Director of Student Activities Christina Mastrangelo Haas.
The BFC had other bones to pick. Based on a request for additional funding by Student Lectureships, “we were expecting to have seven Airmen at Kenyon,” BFC Co-Chair Sam Baker ’13 said. Only four speakers appeared on stage. Citing that discrepancy, the BFC sent an email to Student Lectureships over the weekend laying out its plan to recoup three-sevenths of the Tuskegee Airmen event’s $4,759 allocation by draining the group’s fundraising account, which contains the $2,000 honorarium Smart donated back to Student Lectureships after his speech here last spring. Student Council never approved the BFC’s letter or plan.
According to McDuffie, the Airmen’s honorarium was fixed regardless of the number of speakers. “To say that we overpaid in terms of that initial $4,000, I think, is faulty logic,” she said.
Toutain, Student Council’s advisor, declined to be interviewed, but at Sunday’s Student Council meeting he had this to say: “The three-sevenths idea just sort of ignores basic considerations of overhead. … I think the formula is shaky.”
Baker admitted that the BFC jumped the gun. “[Student Lectureships] received a letter that was in the drafting process, and a decision contained within the letter that was in the drafting process,” he said.
“Student Council comes out with a little egg on its face because of the letter, its tone, its substance.” Toutain said in Sunday’s Council meeting. “I think Lectureships doesn’t look too good either.” Student Lectureships’ new leaders were in attendance on Sunday, and they expressed their desire to have a positive relationship with Student Council going forward.
In turn, McDuffie has since drawn up a new message to Student Lectureships. In it, she said, “We apologize for any misgivings that the original letter suggested and [take] that first step toward reconciliation and making sure that the old leadership [of Student Lectureships] realizes that we erred on our side. They as a group seem as though they recognize their errors in this.”
In a sharp departure from the BFC’s proposal, Student Council this week voted against emptying Lectureships’ fundraising account, opting instead to examine the group’s books.
Toutain told Student Council that tactic was “the best way to see if additional costs can be identified to say, ‘We paid for more than we got.’”
The option to automatically recoup, via Student Lectureships’ fundraising account, the $759 allocated for the event’s variable costs is off the table. But if Student Council decides Lectureships overspent, the BFC says it will seek reimbursement one way or another. As per BFC bylaws, if overspending isn’t repaid from a group’s fundraising account or by individual contributions, “then we take that overspending out of their next budget,” Asimes said.
Student Lectureships’ statement questioned the transparency of Student Council’s approach: “The demand for expense receipts from Kenyon Student Lectureships by the Student Council can’t be considered anything but a ruse as the checks issued and cashed for honorariums to the speakers this year and the transportation fees required to bring speakers to Kenyon are instantly and permanently public and constitute the overwhelming portion of the budget of Kenyon Student Lectureships.