Student groups shouldn’t blindly fund partisan politics

Stephen Ontko

The Black United Students is regarded by most students as an organization that represents black students on campus while holding events and programs for the black community. During last November’s election, however, BUS has expanded its group mission statement to include partisan politics.

Fulfilling its tasks in coordinating events and programming, the e-board of BUS receives compensation from the university. This is similar to various other organizations receiving compensation from the university under Administrative policy 3342-7-05.3. Unfortunately, this means that BUS’s newfound involvement in political activism means taxpayer dollars are being diverted to partisan tickets without their knowledge or approval.

On Oct. 21, 2008, I received multiple e-mails that went out to the listserv of BUS that pertained to Barack Obama’s campaign for the presidency. In one such e-mail, Black United Students was listed as the sender to the BUS listserv, describing BUS’s involvement in the Barack Obama campaign. The e-mail said Obama’s campaign in Portage County was “working very closely with student organizations on campus, especially BUS.” The e-mail went on to say that the “Barack Obama Campaign and Black United Students” were to have a rally in Risman Plaza on Election Day eve.

In another e-mail to the BUS listserv, it was announced that BUS was going to have a “Barack Obama Get Out The Vote” whereby the attempt was to gather students of Kent State in order “to make history and elect Barack Obama.” This e-mail, however, didn’t just list BUS as the sender, it actually listed the BUS executive board as such.

Such blatant usage of BUS’s organizational resources for active political campaigning during the last election season for a candidate essentially includes BUS as a political student organization. Neither the College Democrats nor the College Republicans (of which I am a former president) receive school funding over the other, yet now the university is compensating a student organization that supported a partisan ticket. This is an illegitimate political endorsement by the Kent State administration.

After multiple attempts for an interview, no statement has been provided by BUS president Ashley Tolliver.

A necessary question is: Why should some student organizations receive compensation, and not others? Certainly, student organizations get students more involved in university life and the ability to organize university programming and involvement isn’t just limited to those organizations that do receive funding to their e-board.

Given that not all student organizations receive university compensation, a more important question emerges: Why should a student organization with political bias be funded with taxpayer dollars? To allow politically charged student organizations to be blindly funded without any sort of evaluation process of taxpayer dollars is an injustice. The persistent sham of taxpayer dollars being funneled toward support of only one side of the political spectrum may continue.

University support for BUS’s partisan campaigning goes even further than e-board compensation, for BUS is also the only student organization, whether political or otherwise, to have a permanent seat on the Allocations Committee. The committee, of which I’ve been a member for the past academic year, is made up of students who approve requests from student organizations for funding events on campus or conferences.

While there have been other permanent seats on the committee before, BUS now remains the only student organization, under Section 5 part A of the Allocations Guidelines to have kept its permanent seat. It should be noted that partisan groups who request funding from Allocations are legitimate. BUS’s campaign for Obama seems to conflict with another part of the Allocations Guidelines; Section 4 part G, whereby funding cannot be given to partisan political activities attempting to influence issues or candidates on a current ballot. The guidelines are explicit in this clause’s purpose to adhere to federal, state, local and institutional laws concerning student activities fees.

This preferential treatment toward BUS sets a dangerous precedent that only one group represented with only one specific political affiliation should be allowed to influence campus programming and receive state funds.

This blind monetary and institutional support for one specific partisan political activist group must cease. If it is the new policy of the Kent State administration to fund political activism and partisan causes that are on current ballots, then Ohio taxpayer dollars shouldn’t go to one political cause – it should be given to the student organizations representing all political affiliations. If the Kent State administration doesn’t want to end tuition dollars going toward campaigns instead of focusing on students’ education, then the e-boards of the College Democrats and the College Republicans are waiting for their checks.

Stephen Ontko is a senior economics major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].