June 4, 2013

Clothesline Project fights for funding

A Student Government (SG) Annual Allocations Committee (AnnAl) decision to deny funding for the UChicago Clothesline Project was met with student outrage and the distribution of an online petition on Sunday night. Though the project can apply for money next year under a different funding body and members of SG said they are likely to receive it, the students associated with the project took issue with AnnAl’s reasoning.

The petition, which states, “The University of Chicago student body supports the UChicago Clothesline Project: zero financial support is unacceptable,” has currently attracted more than 750 online signatures out of a target 1,000. Over 100 of these are accompanied by personal messages listing support for the project and sexual assault awareness.

The UChicago Clothesline Project, modeled after the National Clothesline Project, was started this year under its parent RSO, Tea Time and Sex Chats (TTSC), to “allow [sexual assault survivors] to share their stories in a striking, powerful way,” according to the project’s Web site. The Project involved nine T-shirt-making sessions in which artists designed shirts based on anonymous submissions from sexual assault survivors over the course of the past two quarters, culminating in a public art installation in Hutch Courtyard last week.

This year’s project received startup funding from Resources for Sexual Violence Prevention, the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, and Assistant Vice President of Student Life and Associate Dean of the College Eleanor Daugherty. When the organizers of the project applied for AnnAl funding for next year, however, they were rejected on the basis that they failed to justify and support the project’s high projected future attendance, according to a response that TTSC received from AnnAl. An appeal was also rejected. Instead, the group was told to apply for Student Government Finance Committee (SGFC) funding next year.

AnnAl, which mainly funds “long-standing or newly-permanent programs,” meets at the end of each year to allocate 60 percent of the total funds given by SG, while SGFC meets weekly to allocate the remaining 40 percent, according to the Office of the Reynolds Club and Student Activities (ORCSA) Web site. There is “no normative difference between the two bodies,” said fourth-year AnnAl and SGFC Chair Jordan Sokoloski, as “they are just instituted to fund different kinds of events.”

According to Sokoloski, SGFC funds events “in the advanced planning stages,” while AnnAl finances events “that have been planned before.”

“The Clothesline Project had not happened this year by application deadline…and it had not happened in previous years and is thus not a ‘regular occurring event,’” he wrote in an e-mail. “In addition, Tea Time and Sex Chats expected double as many students in attendance for next year as they had expected for this year, even though this year’s had not occurred. Thus, the committee felt that the RSO was unable to provide sufficient details on the project due to lack of experience with it.”

Fourth-year Patty Fernandez, founder of the UChicago Clothesline Project, said that, contrary to Sokoloski’s statements, the Clothesline Project applied for funding to supply only the nine T-shirt making sessions, all of which had occurred by the time of application, and not the installation, with a proposed budget that matched this year’s budget.

“This isn’t to demonize SG, but I do think that some of the comments that the AnnAl board made seem to indicate that they hadn’t even read our appeal because they completely dismissed and didn’t answer some of the points that we made,” she said.

Despite the popularity of the petition this year’s decisions are final, Sokoloski said, though the Clothesline Project is likely to receive the funding it needs next year through SGFC.

Nonetheless, Fernandez said, she believes the petition has successfully increased awareness and support for sexual assault issues on campus.

“I think what it ended up really doing and—I don’t know if we could have really anticipated it—was showcasing how much this campus really wants to support survivors. I think that has been the most important outcome,” Fernandez said. “We want to build a repository of shirts and stories that can keep growing every year so we can keep a record of the survivors in our community and keep supporting them even after they’ve moved on.”