April 3, 2007

STAND requests student funds for refugee protest

The University chapter of Students Taking Action Now:Darfur (STAND) has requested funding from the Student Government Finance Committee (SGFC) in the amount of $4,000 for a planned five-day simulated Darfuri refugee camp on the main quad the week of April 23.

The request, made at the most recent session of the body charged with appropriating funds from the Student Activities Fee, was approved by a 3-—0 vote (one member abstained) and will move on to approval from the general assembly before funds are disbursed.

According to minutes from the March 27 SGFC meeting, the STAND proposal for the event detailed funding for 25 event participants and will be used to purchase tents, food, security, and other items. Twenty non-participants will partake in meals and 1,200 additional non-participants will receive pamphlets and information, according to STAND’s proposal.

STAND’s request for University funds marks a noted and apparent shift in its position regarding its association with University money and raises questions of a potential discrepancy between the organization’s public stance on University funds, which it has consistently decried as directly supporting genocide in Darfur, Sudan, and its internal willingness to accept University financial support for group events.

A review of SGFC’s considerations for RSO funding during the 2006-2007 academic year revealed that this is the first time STAND has requested funds from SG outside of the equal allocation that RSOs receive each year.

The request comes after STAND has repeatedly denounced the University for its decision in February not to divest from Darfur and condemned the $200,000 Darfur Education fund set up by President Zimmer as “blood money.”

“It’s money that the University has received from profiting from the killings of Darfurian civilians. It’s essentially a distraction meant to turn attention away from their support of the Khartoum regime,” STAND co-chair Mike Pareles said to the Maroon last month.

During a recent protest in which STAND members stormed Zimmer’s office on the fifth floor of the administration building, Pareles emptied a bag of pennies onto a receptionist’s desk. “This is what we think of their $200,000,” he said.

Minutes from the SGFC meeting indicate that one member of the committee, Hilary Fruitman, suggested that STAND look to the Education Fund for support.

“They said that money from the fund wouldn’t be available when they wanted to have the event,” said Donny Copeland, a non-voting member of the committee who was present at the meeting.

Asked to account for the perceivable contradiction in requesting and accepting money from SGFC while rejecting the legitimacy of the fund, which is largely the result of a personal donation by Board of Trustees Chairman James Crown, Pareles attempted to draw the distinctions between money taken from the Student Activities Fund and money drawn from other sources. He instead relegated the response to STAND co-chair and second-year Aliza Levine.

Levine, who also serves on the committee that will determine uses for the $200,000 fund, conceded that STAND would not be necessarily opposed to making use of the fund for its future events.

“Like any RSO, we went to SGFC, and we haven’t decided what our interaction with the fund will be. We didn’t go to the fund because of deadline reasons,” Levine said.

In defense of the decision to seek SGFC funds, Pareles also asserted that it has been the “people around STAND,” and not necessarily members of STAND itself, that have openly used the term “blood money” to describe the Education Fund.

“Certainly in the future we’d consider funding our projects through the fund,” Levine said.