By paying your mandatory student activity fee each semester you are a part of the Student Association. SA aims to support all activity-paying students in various programs, services and opportunities with the hopes of enhancing their Geneseo education and creating a “lifetime of leadership.” Currently, it funds nearly 40 organizations. The SA is a student-run organization and the Geneseo student body elects the SA executive board each March.
According to the SA financial policy, they cannot allocate student activity fee money “based upon the political, ideological, religious or cultural aims of an organization.” The executive committee can, however, make “judgments on factors such as stated procedures, financial responsibility, past adherence to policy, liability risks and the overall preparedness of an organization when allocating funds.”
One can understand the need for separation of church and state or the need to distinguish between an individual student’s political ideology and the school’s neutral stance. Still, I cannot help but see a flaw in this system.
Senior SA President Nick Spengler interprets the policy to mean that a “religious organization can be funded, but their money cannot go to the actual beliefs. As an example, the college Democrats receive a small budget for printing buttons to advertise their club, but we wouldn’t allow them to print buttons to advertise a single belief of their club. The primary concern is that we cannot show bias to any single belief.”
While this seems extremely reasonable, it doesn’t seem right that religion – something students identify with – is having a harder time acquiring funds because of the very nature of the club. A club for something like coffee would run into less trouble finding funding than a religious group. Should this really be the case? Something as important as religion should not be that hard to access just because it is controversial. Everyone has a different faith, or lack thereof, but in this age of acceptance, why can’t we cater to all and fund each equally?
One reason we cannot is because there are bound to be more clubs of the predominant faiths and beliefs, and it wouldn’t be fair or ethical to support one group more than another. If the union were suddenly flooded with religious and political propaganda it would benefit a few and cause discomfort to many.
Thus it is unreasonable to expect SA to fund this. Additionally, we don’t have a bottomless pit of money to fund every program desired. Still, the idea that there should be a better way to bridge the gap between being able to fund a cultural club and not being able to fund a religious or political organization is one which must be investigated.
I realize this is a utopian idea that strives for equality in places with which the school does not affiliate. Perhaps we can change that by creating a fund for all religious, political and ideological organizations. From that fund each group can apply for a certain monetary amount with a platform of reasons why their program will benefit all, not just the group toward whom they are catering. That fund would be put aside for groups not usually funded unless they requested money for a specific program. This may or may not be feasible but just because religious, political and ideological groups are not a topic that can be lightly discussed doesn’t mean we should neglect the possibility of improving the system in place.