AC requests increased speaker budget for safety net

In hopes of hosting the founder of nonprofit To Write Love on Her Arms, Activities Commission asked Student Association for a budget increase of $3,500, despite having complete funding for the speaker. Jamie Tworkowski founded the Florida-based organization in 2006 as a source for individuals struggling with mental health issues, addiction, self-injury, depression and thoughts of suicide. To Write Love on Her Arms now appears on merchandise and social media and receives celebrity endorsements from figures like Miley Cyrus, OneRepublic, the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and more.

The Wednesday Nov. 6 hearing raised discussion from both SA Executive Board and various SA organizations as AC Contemporary Forum Coordinator senior Miles Shadman presented his request for the budget increase, citing his main concern being the budget limitations of his successor if he were to use almost his entire remaining $8,000 budget for the speaker.

Due to his coming December graduation, Shadman said that his main intent for the budget increase is to ensure that the student who takes over as contemporary forum coordinator has a comfortable budget for inviting speakers. He said that he wanted half of his budget, or around $3,500, to remain for the next coordinator to avoid facing multiple SA budget increases next semester.

“Once you start repeating that process, no matter how small it is, people are going to say, ‘Why are we giving you this money?’” he said.

While Shadman said that members of both SA and AC recognized that his pursuit was “thoughtful,” members of SA Executive Board expressed their concerns with the budget increase.

“Ideally [Shadman] wants to be very considerate of his successor,” Director of Student Affairs senior Effie Barbagiannis said. “However, it would set a not-so-great precedent that organizations can request more money when they already have it.”

Monetary issues aside, ethical concerns also arose with the speaker decision. While Shadman wanted to invite Tworkowski, senior Emma Jean Liberman, SA representative of Womyn’s Action Coalition and women’s studies representative for Pride Alliance, was opposed due to the Tworkowski’s history and “very close ties with anti-gay ministries,” Liberman said. She cited Fireproof Ministries and Mercy Ministries as specific anti-abortion and anti-gay organizations that worked closely with To Write Love on Her Arms in its early stages.

“I think it’s severely irresponsible to give money to someone who founded the organization in conjunction with something like this,” Liberman said. “I’m just not sure what kind of message we want to send to our campus.

“I support the cause behind To Write Love on Her Arms,” she added. “I think that mental health awareness is a really important issue – I just don’t think it’s the right organization.” The fact that AC has the funding it needs for this event was the greatest concern of SA Executive Board, who ultimately decides if the budget increase will pass at the SA meeting at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 13.