MinCo advocates for increased funding

Rachel Scharf

This weekend, a document written by the Minority Coalition (MinCo) Steering Committee began circulating, which explained MinCo’s plans to request that $34,000 of College Council’s (CC’s) remaining supplemental funding be allocated towards the MinCo supplemental fund. The fund, which currently consists of $6000, would be distributed to MinCo groups and other groups of underrepresented identities on campus, largely for Heritage Month events. Despite many students’ misconceptions, this document was not intended to be circulated and has brought about several concerns.

Last spring, CC passed a resolution and bylaw opening its General Fund (GenFund) to requests from MinCo (“College Council makes more funding available for MinCo groups,” April 11, 2018). However, many MinCo group leaders have perceived obstacles in their requests to obtain money from this newly available pool through CC’s Finance Committee (FinCom). “Though CC has opened their supplemental funding to MinCo groups,” the document reads, “they have consistently shown an unwillingness to distribute funding to communities on campus that do not adhere to harmfully strict funding policies, in particular affecting underrepresented communities of color that largely cannot afford, emotionally and/or physically, the immense institutional knowledge needed to navigate CC procedures.”

The document proposes that, if CC rejects this proposal at its Nov. 13 meeting, the study body overturn the decision by an in-person vote on Nov. 27. According to Article VI of CC’s constitution, a student assembly of 250 in-person votes and the support of one-third of the CC executive board can overturn a CC rejection of a proposal. The document then requests student signatures of support and commitment to attending the Nov. 27 meeting to participate in an overturning vote. As of press time, this document had 112 signatures of support.

While many have assumed that the MinCo Steering Committee purposely began disseminating the document with negative intent towards CC, Min-Co Co-Chairs Rodsy Modhurima ’19 and Tyler Tsay ’19 explained that the document was written in case the situation arose that they would need it, and they did not intend for it to spread. In fact, MinCo has been working closely and productively with CC in advance of the Nov. 13 meeting. “This is something we’ve been collaborating on with CC for awhile, and it’s very much a coalition-building goal that we have together,” Modhurima said. 

CC Co-President Lizzy Hibbard ’19 confirmed this, dispelling the misconception that this petition reflects animosity between CC and MinCo. “Because this petition got out, optically [it looks like] it’s CC versus MinCo right now,” Hibbard said. “But we’d already been planning to devote our entire Nov. 13 meeting to CC-MinCo relations and discuss this budget request. We’d already been talking about ways to bring CC and MinCo closer together.”

While the petition does not reflect hostility between CC and MinCo, the impetus behind its creation, as well as its reception, do demonstrate genuine concerns about the FinCom process. Tsay and Modhurima explained that they have been informed of MinCo groups and minority students being treated unfairly by FinCom members, and that this was a large factor in the decision to bring this request to CC, as it would allow MinCo groups to bypass the FinCom space that some have found unwelcoming. This was also a significant factor in the initial decision to draft the petition. Given minority students’ experiences with FinCom in the past, they felt safeguards needed to be put in place in case the proposal was rejected. “It wasn’t our intent for the petition to get out this way. But it’s out there, and we do feel that the consideration itself has a justification behind it because of the treatment of minority students by a few members of FinCom,” Tsay said. 

In order to gain more perspectives on this concern, Modhurima, Tsay, Hibbard and CC Co-President Moisés Roman Mendoza ’19 sent out a survey to the student body on Sunday soliciting student opinions on FinCom’s procedures. “We would like to call upon MinCo groups, RSOs [registered student organizations] with a membership of majority queer and/or PoC members of campus and others that have requested funding from FinCom over the past four years to complete the following survey on your experience with the College Council’s Finance Committee procedures,” the email read.

In response to these measures, CC Treasurer and Chair of FinCom Spence Carrillo ’20 acknowledged these problems  while also pointing out the complexity of the situation. “I definitely agree that there are structural issues with the College, CC and FinCom which ultimately serve to make certain spaces less accessible to certain students,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re doing our best to be as accommodating as possible, but this is also the first year ever we’ve allowed MinCo groups to access supplemental funding. The process seemingly hasn’t been perfectly smooth, but I don’t think that’s entirely a one-way issue; I also don’t think MinCo has upheld its responsibility to properly train the treasurers of its subgroups, and that’s led to misunderstandings of our procedures.” Carrillo also emphasized that he’s been working to respond to these issues by creating a committee to rewrite CC’s funding bylaws with the aim of simplifying and clarifying the process and setting up anti-bias training for members of FinCom. 

However, he has been frustrated by MinCo’s decision to respond publically and administer this survey rather than approach FinCom directly. “This entire situation has escalated to this point without anyone ever having submitted any type of complaint to me,” he said. “Rather than working cooperatively to deal with the structural and transitional issues at play as we work MinCo groups into our supplemental process, this demonstration has felt like an artificial and antagonist effort to perpetuate negative perceptions of CC.” Carrillo also pointed out that, by his calculations, FinCom has funded 89 percent of MinCo groups’ requests this year, as compared to only 64 percent of the total amount requested by CC groups. “As such, in a strictly monetary sense (which is not the most important structural issue causing harm to MinCo groups, but it is the one MinCo is claiming), I don’t think it’s fair for them to claim that we’re less willing to fund MinCo requests,” he said.

For their part, Hibbard and Roman Mendoza are excited to discuss these concerns and continue working to bridge gaps between CC and MinCo. The first step in this process will be the Nov. 13 CC meeting, which has been set aside to discuss MinCo funding and concerns. “Speaking for Moisés and myself, we completely agree that MinCo has been historically underfunded,” Hibbard said. “Opening the GenFund was a good step, but not a complete [fix,] and we’re very interested in having the discussion on Nov. 13 about giving them the $34,000 and talking about other, larger structural ways to bring the groups closer together in a more meaningful relationship.”

Tsay agreed, expressing hope that the process can continue to move forward meaningfully despite the misconceptions brought on by the circulation of this petition. “Lizzy and Moisés have been really helpful, and the CC members we’ve met with have been very open to meeting and discussing ways that we can collaborate funding-wise,” Tsay said. “It’s a little unfortunate what happened, so I’m hoping that we can move forward with a spirit of collaboration from here.”