In January, the Queer Straight Alliance requested $1,300 and the Campus Christian Fellowship requested $1,410 from the student council, but only the QSA was approved.
The QSA’s request went towards Cirque Noire and was received by members of the student council with 18 in favor, one opposed, and one abstaining. The CCF was denied in their request to attend a leadership conference with eight in favor, five opposed, and four abstaining.
These decisions made by the student council are just two of many that are put into effect each week.
In order to approve a club’s request for money, the club must provide the student council with an explanation as to how it will benefit the community as a whole. Kris Baier, the student council advisor, said most money motions get passed.
The executive chair of clubs and outreach, Jarid Tyson, said that the decision to approve the QSA and not the CCF is nothing controversial. A major factor in the decision to fund clubs is the amount of money requested, and how much each club has asked for in the past. Tyson says the budget is very limited.
The CCF has attended the same leadership conference in the past. Council’s chair of budget and finance, Shawn Chantaboune, says the CCF was approved for a $1,600 request last quarter while the QSA has not requested any money the last two quarters.
“We don’t want people thinking we don’t support them based on the fact that they are a religious group,” said Tyson. He said another reason the CCF was denied was because of the number of abstained votes. Tyson said that the council is unbiased in its decision.
In an email, council member Ivana Grace wrote that she voted against the QSA’s Cirque Noire out of respect for the students she knew that didn’t support that sort of event.
Cirque Noire was held on Feb 17 and included performances from members of the Bellingham Circus Guild. Some performances included sword swallowing and juggling, while the more raunchy acts included performers siphoning bodily fluids from each other and launching spitball cannons. In a previous interview with the Horizon, QSA advisor John Gonzales said the event was meant to thrill and disgust its audience.
“I think everyone has different preferences,” said Baier. regarding Cirque Noire, “Everyone should respect that.”
For students not engaged in campus politics, the issue is irrelevant. Students like Ed Burton and Marryann Carr said attending classes is more than enough.
“I’m having a hard enough time as it is,” said Carr.
This isn’t abnormal though. In fact, many council members say they didn’t know council existed until they were on it.
Students like Heather Bates, who has attended student council meetings in the past, are unaware of the events that they fund. Math Club officer Jonathan Stone said he heard about Cirque Noire, but feels that some clubs ask for money and don’t know how much they really need.
“We’re here to help the students and make sure their voices get heard,” said general assembly member Jennifer Chejfec. The feeling is mutual in the student council.
“I want the clubs to know we have money for them,” said Laura Hansen, president of the student council. “I want students to know there’s lots of opportunities here. If they get involved they can get that community support.”
One of Hansen’s concerns is the community college stigma. “I think a lot of people here see Whatcom as ‘Ugh, I’ve gotta go to Whatcom before I can go to Western.’” She plans to change that, though. “My vision for the future is that the council is flooding with people.”
“Students here are wonderful,” said Baier. “They need to have access to funds.” He said there is no shortage of money, but that only certain money is allowed in certain budget lines.
Chantaboune and his committee have tracked the amount of club expenditures and say it is slowly on the rise. Chantaboune plans to raise Whatcom’s annual club expenditures from $33,550 to $36,000 this year. Chantaboune said that it’s the highest amount of money invested in student clubs. He said the clubs’ money comes from Whatcom’s annual student activities budget of $742,000.
Despite their optimism, general assembly member Charles Pope says there is always room for improvement. Council member Kashia Gale said the council is made up of so many different types of people that it can be difficult to decide on anything, but that this provides a better rounded assembly.
“Before I started student council, I often felt like there was no one advocating for students,” said Gale, who is on the advocacy committee. “But what I realize is that people simply don’t know that there are student representatives who serve this purpose.”