Honor Board strikes down second DEBI funding request, offers alternative solution

39

Honor Board voted 3-2 Tuesday against a proposal to increase student body fees by $7 to fund the proposed Diversity and Equity Board (DEB). The board came to the decision after learning that the Associated Students of Occidental College (ASOC) Senate could provide the funding from a savings account it controls, according to Honor Board Chair Siri Guntupalli (junior).

Honor Board will revisit the issue of funding once DEB, if authorized by a campus-wide vote, proves that it can accomplish its mission of promoting diversity and supporting marginalized groups, according to Honor Board juror Malena Ernani (sophomore). ASOC President Chris Weeks proposed that, until then, money from the savings account could fund DEB for a trial period.

Sponsors of the Diversity and Equity Board Initiative (DEBI) had to resubmit a revised funding measure for DEB to both the senate and Honor Board after Honor Board struck down their original funding plan last week. They originally intended to present a proposal that would allow students to opt out of half of the $10 fee increase—as per the board’s recommendation—but were informed by ASOC Senate advisor Tamara Himmelstein that such a plan was not possible. Instead, they reduced the fee increase to $7.

The senate unanimously approved the proposal Monday night at an open meeting.

According to Guntupalli, Honor Board was initially in favor of the new proposal until an anonymous source informed jurors about the savings account, which Weeks said could supply the same amount of funding as the fee increase.

The savings account is an accumulation of money from ASOC’s budget that is not spent by the end of each year, according to Guntupalli. Campus organizations can submit requests for funds from the account, which must then be approved by the senate.

Guntupalli said some jurors were concerned that they had not been made aware of the account before voting on DEB’s first funding proposal.

“Apparently senate did know that they had this account, and they were going to charge the students when the funds are already there,” Guntupalli said.

ASOC senators and DEBI sponsors Karen Romero (junior), Adrian Adams (sophomore) and Kerry Sakimoto (senior) objected to using the savings account as a means of funding because it could not support DEB in the long term.

“Using the ASOC saving would not be a sustainable option because the savings account is not a funding source that should be continuously accessed,” the senators said in an email to the Occidental Weekly. “The DEB Committee believes that making DEB unsustainable would be a disservice to students and faculty because DEB would be designed to fail if we do not take the necessary steps to make it sustainable.”

Honor Board maintains that it supports DEBI and is only hesitant to commit students’ money to the new ASOC branch before it is established and effective, according to both Ernani and Guntupalli.

Because a funding plan has yet to be approved by both the senate and Honor Board, DEBI will likely go to a campus-wide vote without a funding component, Ernani said. The date of the vote is undetermined.