A Call to ASUPS to Prioritize Sexual Violence Prevention

Update:

During ASUPS Formal Senate, SIRGE and De-Masc (a student group on campus) were awarded $700.00 to go towards power-based personal violence awareness programming. This is a huge success and Wetlands Magazine wishes to uplift the ASUPS’ decision in taking a strong stance against violence on our campus. This decision is not surprising to us, as the Editorial Board of Wetlands acknowledges the good intentions and hard work that the ASUPS Senate does regarding violence reduction and sustaining a vibrant campus life. The work done by the Senate is commendable and absolutely should continue.

While we are very pleased with the decision to support necessary programming on campus, Wetlands still feels that there are structural changes to the finance process that should be made. This does not reflect any individuals associated with ASUPS, as we as a publication are inherently associated with ASUPS as an official campus medium. We stand by our critiques of the finance process and hope that our concerns are taken into consideration.

All the best,

Aryeh Conrad 

Editor-in-Chief, Wetlands Magazine

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From the desk of the editors:

Editorial Note: The Editor in Chief is also the SIRGE Coordinator, a position that is wrapped up in this dialogue, but releases this editorial as the editor of Wetlands.

Sexuality Issues, Relationships, and Gender Education (SIRGE) is a part of the Office of Intercultural Engagement and Student Activities. SIRGE specifically does programming for sexual assault awareness and prevention, including things such as Green Dot, Take Back The Night, panel discussions, and various other programming aimed at reducing rates of violence. These activities are cited in official Title 9 Reports as indicators of violence awareness and prevention.

This semester, SIRGE requested money from Associated Students of the University of Puget Sound (ASUPS) to do said programming. The recommendation from the Finance Committee was grossly less than what was needed to do adequate programming. SIRGE was recommended for a total of $152 for the entire semester towards violence awareness and reduction – an amount that doesn’t even cover the cost of posters. Alongside SIRGE, other groups on campus are similarly lacking funds, including but not limited to Peer Allies.

Peer Allies is a student-group that serves as a direct resource for students who have experienced power-based personal violence. Last year, Peer Allies requested t-shirts to use as uniforms to not only spread awareness of the group, but also to solidify themselves as a formal club, and increase visibility so sexual assault survivors could access these Allies as a resource more easily. Senate made it difficult for Peer Allies to access these funds because it was not seen as a uniform or seen necessary. In the end, Peer Allies did get the t-shirts – only because the funds came out of ASUPS Capital, meaning that the shirts are owned by the university and have to be redistributed next year to the next group of Peer Allies. While this in itself it relatively benign, it becomes clear that ASUPS refuses to prioritize sexual violence awareness and prevention by making it difficult for organizations to access the materials they need in order to function. 

While a recommendation from the Finance Committee is not a final verdict, being as all finance requests are ultimately approved or rejected by ASUPS Formal Senate, a recommendation that defunds violence-awareness programming indicates a lack of intentional spending in ASUPS. This low recommendation indicates a larger problem that needs to be immediately addressed: ASUPS needs to be more intentional about their spending and needs to absolutely prioritize sexual violence prevention.

ASUPS maintains the position that all clubs are to be treated equal, essentially saying the community impact from a small, limited-interest club is the same as violence prevention programming. This is a false equivalency because violence is widespread and pervasive in our society. 

The severely low funding recommendation signifies indifference within ASUPS regarding violence that many students face. Specifically, power-based personal violence disproportionately affects women and marginalized people. Should ASUPS maintain the position of supporting the diverse lived experiences of the Puget Sound student body, then it must actively work to decrease violence against marginalized people. Funding programs seeking to do so is essential to practicing support for marginalized students. 

It is not possible to both support the dismantling of rape culture and refuse to adequately fund violence-prevention programs at the same time.

While ASUPS maintains the position that it does indeed support and represent all students, it simultaneously allows the Finance Committee to operate with non-elected officials on it. The system of check-and-balances that ASUPS relies on is flawed because it allows members of the Finance Committee to absolve itself of ASUPS’ missions by focusing solely on numbers. The core mission of the committee is to maintain a balanced budget, allowing it to neglect considerations about the impact of its recommendations. We maintain that the committee must absolutely consider the implications of its decisions. 

One of the committees core functions is to consider each incoming request individually. Complicating this is the vast array of Senate-driven, blanket-policies that either permit or prohibit funding for things such as catering, clothing, and transportation. These one-size-fits-all policies limit the capacity of the Finance Committee to make thorough decisions. If ASUPS does not trust the Finance Committee to analyze each request individually and make sound decisions, then why does it exist? 

If ASUPS seeks to represent the student body, including women, marginalized people, and survivors of power-based personal violence, then it must reconstruct the way in which finance allocations are considered, weighting the requests that are inherently centered on violence reduction. As long as the University of Puget Sound continues to cite events such as Take Back The Night in its Title 9 Reports, then it needs to ensure that adequate funding is available to put on such events. It is not enough for ASUPS to simply be aware of the issues that surround campus, it must take direct actions to ensure that our campus is safe for people of all identities and backgrounds. 

This does not mean defunding existing clubs or devaluing the important social events occurring throughout the year – the huge diversity in clubs is necessary for a vibrant campus life – but there needs to be a nuanced conversation about campus impact of an event before a finance recommendation is decided.

If ASUPS feels that supporting survivors of sexual violence, as well as aiding the university in complying with Title 9 requirements, is something of merit, then it fundamentally has to uplift and prioritize student-initiatives that decrease power-based personal violence.

Signed,

The Wetlands Editorial Board

Aryeh Conrad, Editor in Chief

Shanna Williams, Executive Editor

Rory Wong Jacobs, Online Media Director

Natalie Scoggins, Senior Copy Editor

Kaitlyn Vallance, Events Director & ASUPS Senate Chair

Leanne Gan, Art Director

Simone Quinanola, Poetry Editor

Kailee Faber, Prose Editor

6 thoughts on “A Call to ASUPS to Prioritize Sexual Violence Prevention

  1. This post brings up a lot of questions and concerns for me about issues and programs I was involved with while a student at UPS. I write this comment as the founder and former EIC of Wetlands, former SIRGE Coordinator, former VAVA (now WIXEN) officer, and Vagina Monologues director who made countless requests to ASUPS and the University–and they never let me down.

    Why is SIRGE, a student position in a University office, making finance requests to student government? The money to finance SIRGE programming should come from the University, not student government. SIRGE is not a club.

    Further, if the University is advertising Green Dot, Take Back the Night, and other student-produced programming in its Title IX reports, the problem is with the University, not with ASUPS or its finance committee. Reach out to the Deans, your supervisor, the student health and wellness center, and the President’s Office for funding — these are the people with Title IX responsibilities and resources. If student groups–those actually a part of ASUPS’s structure–do not have the funds for this sort of programming, ask ASUPS, Greek Life, or other financially stable clubs to partner as sponsors.

    Finally, getting money from ASUPS or any other group you may seek money from in the future requires strategy and advocacy. I remember making the request for $3,000 to print the first issue of Wetlands. We watched ASUPS award the costs for some debate team event (including airfare and hotel) that would only benefit a group of about 10 people right before our presentation. ASUPS emphasized the prestige and publicity the debate team’s participation would bring the school in making the award. Our presentation made it clear that funding Wetlands also served those same interests, but was more important. If the finance committee is not recognizing the importance of sexual assault prevention and awareness, perhaps advocacy and partnership are better tactics than publicly disparaging ASUPS.

  2. While that is true that the university should be providing funds for SIRGE, it currently is not. There isn’t a specialized budget, and the position as it currently is requires ASUPS funding. I agree that it would be significantly better to utilize other funds for programming that are non-ASUPS, that’s not currently a possibility. It’s not okay to cut programming that is done by students for students because administration feels there are better ways to allocate funding. That is future commitment that I want to work on, attaining funding from non-ASUPS sources.

    I also want to point out that while SIRGE is a primary example in this piece, it is not the entirety of the point. There are a plethora of student organizations that seek funding for violence prevention that are consistently denied, re: Peer Allies. The problem isn’t in this single funding request, but rather with the structure of ASUPS financing at its core. There needs to be greater conversation around violence on campus, and ASUPS absolutely needs to be a major voice in those conversations.

    I also want to point out that, yes I am aware that attaining funding requires strategy. During my time as EIC, Wetlands became an official campus medium. That was no easy feat and required a significant amount of effort (I do recognize the significant effort made by prior staff as well), so I sincerely do not appreciate former students (who are not on campus to know any of the routine and changing campus politics) explaining how to attain financing for anything in a purely condescending manner.

    Furthermore, attaining funding (or anything else for that matter) shouldn’t require students to become politicians or lobbyists. The process should be transparent, clear cut, and obvious and not require lobbying and other ‘strategic’ ways to organize on campus.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    -Aryeh Conrad

  3. The drastic change in tone from the original post to the update–and most notably the removal of the phrase “Burn ASUPS Down” from the blog’s title–illustrates my point more effectively. It looks bad to insult people and groups just because they disagree with you. It makes you a bully–not a platform for dialogue, disagreement, education, and expression. No student group is entitled to anymore funding on a University campus than another, but finance requests give you the opportunity to advocate for why your group requires extra money for a vital cause or event. I’m sorry if that process offends your politics.

    The original post communicated to me that you made a request, the Finance Committee didn’t make the recommendation that you wanted, so that must mean that ASUPS doesn’t believe in anti-violence and that violates Title IX. I thought it was a bad approach for a number of reasons, so I felt compelled to comment because I’ve been in your position before. Sorry for butting in where I don’t belong.

    1. The ideal point of finance committee is that people have a space to self-advocate. However, in practice, the committee relies on blanket policies instead of considering individual requests. Perhaps that was different when you were a student, but is currently the situation.

      Requests are also unweighted, and many students on campus are disappointed with that policy. Many students feel that requests for campus-wide actions, such as violence prevention and anti-oppression work, should be weighted stronger than requests asking for money to send a small number of students to conferences. The campus-wide impact is significantly higher with big events aimed as diversity and inclusion, and that should be taken into consideration. This is larger than one specific request, and more directly has to do with the large number of students and student groups that are underfunded when it comes to important work.

      Additionally, the prior draft was not intended to be published and was an internal error that we have already apologized for and remedied.

  4. I’m disappointed in this post and the discussion/support surrounding it I’ve seen on social media. One shouldn’t have to affirm one’s credentials to validate one’s opinion, but lest I open myself up to attack for not knowing how things work on campus, let me say: I worked on finance committee for 3 years, was a senator for 2.5 years, served on the budget committee for 2 years, and was the ASUPS treasurer for 1 year. I was at every meeting where funds were requested by and allocated to Wetlands from the time when it was a group of students looking to put out a ‘zine to when it was going through the budget process as in incoming campus publication and ASUPS entity.
    You are all ASUPS.
    ASUPS is the sum of all fee paying students–it’s not opt in. The Senate is a tiny part of what ASUPS is and does, and the finance committee is no more than an advisory entity and tool for clubs, orgs, and media within ASUPS.

    Finance committee isn’t a shield the senate uses to bludgeon away mobs of students it doesn’t want to share its money with, and it doesn’t meet late on monday nights as a way to stick it to other students. ASUPS has no interest in hoarding its meager (roughly $25,000-28,000) finance budget for the year against students who comprise its membership and therefore define its needs and interests. With over 100 clubs, ASUPS has to spread very little money butter over a lot of need toast. The Finance Committee not only gathers information for the senate, its also a sounding board for requesters to get a better idea of what their needs and arguments are. Members of the committee can help requesters secure more money from the senate in a vote, and can direct them toward other administrators, departments, students, clubs, and faculty who could be helpful. Finance committee includes members of the senate, who act as liaisons to their colleagues, the ASUPS Director of Business Services, the ASUPS VP, who oversees all the clubs and media, and, in conjuctions with the DBS, manages not only the finance budget, but the other >$500,000 ASUPS allocates to budgets for organizations like Wetlands (also all the other media, clubs, club sports teams, activist groups, etc. that believe their needs and interests to be legitimate). The committee is a protection from conflicts of interest and a filter for fiscal responsibility. *Yes* in a way it’s designed to keep the budget balanced. Because that’s what *has to happen* for ASUPS to retain its relative autonomy.
    An appropriate editorial might’ve looked like (abridged; colloquialized):

    “Hey, ASUPS: The University as a whole is not doing enough to address sexual violence. This is a huge issue on campuses across the country and we should be at the forefront of active, focused, funded, preventative measures and education. Because the university administration is responsible for student housing, all campus facilities, lawn care, etc.; because the university administration has financial resources that are orders of magnitude greater than those afforded to ASUPS; and because the university administration is responsible for the safety of all students, has failed to take sufficient steps to address the frequency of, under-reporting of, and inadequate response to sexual violence, we request that you do X, Y, Z, to help make change”

    The X Y Zs of it all could be a symbolic contribution (like $700) for some specific programming or advertisement and then a pledge to use combined pressure from Wetlands, the senate/executives, and SIRGE to secure greater university funding and support. It could be the ASUPS president or VP sitting down with directors of security, counseling, health, and wellness, res life, and maybe a dean, with representatives from Wetlands and the SIRGE coordinator. None of these things are possible when students in important positions are engaging in blatant conflicts of interest and abuses of power, all the while leveling criticisms at the government that supports them and former students upon whose passion their thrones are built. Ruby was an incredibly involved and influential and positive member of the campus community, and disregarding her comments is disrespectful and irresponsible. Wetlands and SIRGE would get far more than $700 worth of benefit by embracing her as a supporter and founder, and giving consideration to what she has to say.

    At the end of the day everyone involved in this discussion wants the same thing, and it is not within the student government’s means to provide. It is within the student body’s power (and is therefore its responsibility), with ASUPS and SIRGE as its representatives, to move the university as a whole forward. What you are doing is important, as is this discussion. LONG LIVE WETLANDS, LONG LIVE ASUPS. hackhackchopchop

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