Ricky Ochilo, staff writer
Last Monday students gathered in Canon Lounge to voice concerns to President Pfeiffer regarding the future possibility of losing funds geared towards political activism.
Revoking funds that supported last fall’s School of the Americas (SOA) protest was one of the major issues raised. The funds had been granted by the Lyceum committee that supports education by bringing in speakers, scholars and sponsors events that enhance student learning. The funds allotted by Lyceum were to facilitate a non-violence training seminar for participants of the SOA protest and other interested individuals. Students informed Pfeiffer these funds were rescinded. Junior Cody Goss mentioned later that due to the revoking of funds, Cathy Kramer, dean of students, paid for the seminar training.
Pfeiffer was concerned about the College’s definition as a 5013C, which translates to a tax exempt institution that has similar standing as a charity driven organization. Pfeiffer went on to mention that he did not want to use college funds to spearhead efforts that would be considered as political activism, which the College cannot be associated with as a 5013C.
“We don’t lobby for causes and should not use tuition funds to support events we should not be supporting,” Pfeiffer said.
Ian Robertson, dean work, explained to students that the College had two different fund accounts. One is a tuition fund and the other is a federal work study fund. He gave an example that federal work study funds could not be used where a connection might be made between church and state. Similarly, Robertson explained that because of the legal definition of what federal monies can be used for, it puts the College in a harder position to support certain programs that might be political in nature or conflict with other criteria for federal disbursed funds.
Nonetheless, students at the meeting raised issues about why certain programs like the Emerging Leaders trip to D.C. and funding of trips to meet legislators were allowed to take place but the SOA program funds were suspended.
Pfeiffer believes that such a scenario places the College in support of political activities and further suggests that the College is lobbying for a particular politically affiliated cause or individual. He added that he wanted college funds to be used to bolster activities that are connected to academics.
Consequently, junior Kelsey Richardson asked if class-driven activist programs would be supported. Pfeiffer responded that the Presidential Advisory Council (PAC) would have to “associate what class driven means in terms of education.” Pfeiffer added that he wanted to make sure the College does not stray away from its mission, leading to adverse consequences that might put the College in a risky situation and potentially loose its status as a 5013C.
A question was raised about the possibility of the College seeking guidance from other 5013C Colleges who fund its students to take part in marches and events like the SOA. Pfeiffer did not think pursuing such a step would be beneficial to the College.
Another issue discussed during the meeting was the College’s ability to lobby as a 5013C. Wilson alum Billy Peard explained that there was a clause for 5013C institutions that gave permission for “20 percent of their budget to be used for lobbying purposes” and that perhaps these funds could support certain rallies, trips or social activist protests of political connotation.
Pfeiffer maintained that the College had “duly appointed officers” whose job was to conduct lobbying for the College within the legal parameters of the 5013C restrictions. He added that a conversation with the officers would have to take place before any such decisions were made so as not to jeopardize the College’s standing.
However, a potential solution would be for the College administration to allot institutional aid for activities that support programs like non-violence training and events like the SOA, which are separate from federal funds and do not threaten the College’s future or standing as a 5013C.
Despite the contentious issues discussed, a more important question that the College administration needs to address is what kind of education are they fostering?
Warren Wilson College attracts students whose passion for social justice exceeds most liberally driven institutions. With the triad of service, work and academics, students feel compelled to use their skills and integrate these elements of the triad where appropriate.
For example, in areas of raising environmental consciousness, community building and protesting against social and political driven paradigms that continue to plague, marginalize and burden lower classes in society. Evidently, such change cannot come from silence and must be met with driven hearken. In order to effectively inspire, change and prepare tomorrows leaders to be better equipped to correct today’s ills our education must transcend the four corners of the classroom and meet others engaging in the struggle to mend the broken fences of justice, hope, equality, humility and fairness.