Last Wednesday, College Council (CC) voted to approve a bylaw change that clarified funding procedures for off-campus activism activities. The funding for these off-campus events will come from the CC Co-Sponsorship Fund, which helps to cover the cost of a variety of student activities and events. “The activism bylaw is a clarification, which provides guidelines for how to fund off-campus activism in the future,” outgoing CC co-president Nick Fogel ’12 said.
Any student can apply for off-campus activism funding. The events that qualify for such funding may include political and nonpolitical experiences that either raise awareness or promote change about specific issues. Off-campus activism events may include rallies, lobbying, boycotts, protests, direct action and media activism.
CC funding for such events will not exceed 50 percent of the cost of the trip. In addition, CC has also set limitations on the type of event that can be funded. Funding from the Co-Sponsorship Fund cannot be used for electoral campaign-related events or for violence or illegal activity. The use of the fund also cannot violate the College’s non-discrimination policy, although future Councils and the Financial Committee would need to be responsible for interpreting this policy when administering funds. CC also must act unbiased and cannot discriminate allocations due to political or ideological viewpoints.
Future Councils are also strongly encouraged to consult with Jeff Jones, College counsel, in the event that a group is denied funding by CC and appeals the decision or if questions arise regarding the appropriateness of funding any specific initiative.
“I think this is a big first step in making off-campus activism and engagement a part of the Williams experience,” Fogel said. “There is no substitute for hands-on experience with democracy. One of the problems with going to a school three hours from a major city is that attending protests, rallies and other movements is difficult.”
The concern about off-campus activism funding arose recently when students ran into issues while trying to get funding to attend the Tar Sands rally this past fall (“Keystone XL protest draws 100 students to D.C.,” Nov. 9, 2011). When students requested funding from CC to go to Washington, D.C. for the Tarsands protest against the Keystone XL pipeline, there was no precedent for funding activism events of this kind.
Fogel attended a meeting afterwards with some of the involved students and worked with Jorge Tena ’12, Robin Hackett ’13 and Isaac Maze ’13 to figure out a process to fund similar events in the future.
This conversation served as a jumping-off point for discussion of CC’s role in promoting activism on and off campus.