Archive for April, 2010

Toward a More Perfect Union? (Part III)

Posted in bsump on April 30, 2010 by Brandon

[This post was part of a series. You can read the rest here: Part I ¦ Part II ¦ Part IV ¦ Part V ]

Today’s where we’ll look a bit at the background of BSU&MP for those less familiar with it. On Monday, be prepared for potentially offensive language as we move into some specific and not-so-pretty comments of the debate over BSU&MP reform.

What is BSU&MP?

Black Student Union & Multicultural Programming has a long history at FAU, and that’s part of the reason proposals to change the name became a big deal. It began as an FAU club in the early 70s. In 2002 the club was upgraded to the status of “agency,” then again in 2007 to a “program.” Both of those evolutions brought the organization more funding and more recognition, but also brought more complex and sometimes frustrating interaction with SG and administration.

Collene O'Reilly, Student Body VP

Some of SG’s top leaders have started out running BSU(&MP) — including former student body president Ancel Pratt and, more recently, presidential candidate and outgoing VP Collene O’Reilly. One of BSU’s earliest presidents, Wilson Bradshaw, is the current university president of Florida Gulf Coast University.

The organization is best known for its monthly themed programming, which highlights history and culture through movie nights, educational discussions, more creative stuff like the April 14 arsty-craftsy “Cultural Arts Explosion” event in the Breezeway, or by bringing culturally relevant guests to campus.

Wilson Bradshaw, FGCU President

The organization shares a lot of membership with Konbit Kreyol (the Haitian culture group on campus) and often co-sponsors events with them and other cultural groups on campus. Both are among the most proactive groups at FAU.

This year they had $69,000 of student money to spend on freebies and programming. Next year, it will be $91,500.

BSU&MP highlights some more “fun facts” on its Facebook page:

Black Student Union Multicultural Programming consider themselves as the example setters for promoting “Positive Cultural Endeavors” amongst student organizations.

We are student created. student ran, student led and student controlled.

Originally founded June 8,1970 as a club. First black or multicultural organization of any kind on campus. We are the Longest Lasting of theses type and are 2nd oldest organization on the campus

• February 28,2002 became an Agency only the third BSU in the nation to hold such status
• May 15th, 2007 Became a program

I wonder what the oldest organization on campus is. Maybe FAU’s marijuana club, NORML? Apparently that organization formed nationally in 1970, too… Regular commenter Dan might know the answer to that.

Anyhow, check back Monday for more on BSU&MP.

Toward a More Perfect Union? (Part II)

Posted in bsump on April 29, 2010 by Brandon

[This post was part of a series. You can read the rest here: Part I ¦ Part III ¦ Part IV ¦ Part V ]

This post is the second in a series; if you haven’t read the first one, you might want to scroll down and do that. Today, we’ll look specifically at the text of the bill and what it means. Check back tomorrow for a little more background on BSU&MP — it’ll go a long way to explaining why they’re upset about a possible name change.

Allison Gentry, Boca Governor-elect

What is this bill that passed on April 23?

BRHB-10-21, titled “If We are Going To Do It, Let’s Do It Right,” is essentially a legally binding* timeline developed collaboratively between outgoing Boca Governor Marni Sherman, Governor-elect Allison Gentry, outgoing BSU&MP Director Kerri-Ann Nesbeth, and Boca House Parliamentarian Amanda Phillips. It was sponsored by almost the entire House; the copy scanned and linked below shows the original sponsors, but many others chimed in their support prior to voting on it.

You can read the text of the bill here. It also includes minutes of the “what now?” pow-wow I mentioned in the previous entry, which do a decent job of contextualizing the issues. The gist of the bill is:

  • the reform process started out on the wrong foot, that is, with the Boca House trying to make decisions without consulting the cultural groups on campus
  • there’s not enough time left this semester to work out an agreeable collaborative solution

    Kerri-Ann Nesbeth, BSU&MP Director

  • the responsibility to fix this should be passed on primarily to the incoming leaders of the key groups, i.e., BocaGovernor-elect Gentry and the next BSU&MP director.

Incidentally, the job of BSU&MP director is open. You can apply here. The job posting closes May 14 and an

appointment will be made a week later. Last year’s salary for BSU&MP director was $7,520, and next year’s will be higher: $7,990 for the 2010-2011 academic year.

What do you think of the bill and the timeline? Does this seem like a robust and fair process?

Tomorrow: more on BSU&MP.

*I say legally binding because it is a bill, and not a resolution (which would just state the opinion of the House about what should be done), but it’s really a technical point since they didn’t write any punishment for failure to meet the timeline into the legislation. Still, it does demonstrate a greater degree of seriousness, which is why I point it out.

Toward a More Perfect Union? (Part I)

Posted in bsump on April 28, 2010 by Brandon

[This post was part of a series. You can read the rest here: Part II ¦ Part III ¦ Part IV ¦ Part V ]

It’s the most debated issue in Student Government of the last year, maybe the last two years: the structure, name — and in some proposals, the funding  — of what is currently known as Black Student Union & Multicultural Programming. And it’s not going to be decided this semester.

Marni Sherman Boca Governor

It might be resolved by October, depending on who you ask. If everybody can get along.

After a month of heated (and circular) debate, several shot-down pieces of legislation,  and a pow-wow organized by Boca Governor Marni Sherman, a bill aimed at “reforming” the organization passed unanimously on April 23, the last Boca House meeting of the semester.

What’s the big deal?

To answer a question with a question: what’s in a name? One of the criticisms raised by the Boca House in recent weeks is that BSU&MP’s mission isn’t in line with its name. New students, they say, might get confused.

Here’s part of their mission statement, posted on the BSU&MP Facebook group:

Black Student Union Multicultural Programming’s was created on campus to develop and provide cultural enrichment for all students at Florida Atlantic University. Black Student Union Multicultural Programming’s purpose is to develop students educationally and socially and to uphold their self identification with their history and culture. It addresses issues affecting all students on campus.

The purpose and mission of this organization is to foster cultural unity in order to fulfill the responsibility of serving the Blacks, Hispanics, Multicultural and other minority students of Florida Atlantic University.

We fulfill this responsibility by: (1) presenting and emphasizing the cultural achievements of minorities by sponsoring and/or supporting cultural, educational and alternative activities and programs, (2) by creating a relevant social and academic atmosphere for minorities, (3) by providing multicultural students with a set of symbols and values that are essential to the development of the wholeness of the individuals.

The emphases are mine. The House argument goes that BSU&MP by definition can’t live up to its mission.

In other words, having “Black Student Union” as part of the name for an umbrella organization meant to serve and inform all students about minority cultures is a contradiction, especially with so many other cultural groups on campus.

The BSU&MP response to that criticism is mostly: we were here first, and we work harder than the other multicultural organizations.

At one of the debates in the House on April 16, Assistant BSU&MP Director Jesse Jarrett said it was important to keep the name because “there is heritage behind the name and we did a majority of the multicultural [events] on campus.”

So for the House, the name is an issue of representational equality. But for BSU&MP, it’s an issue of respect for tradition and credit where it’s due.

Is this all about the name?

Some House reps go further and say the name isn’t the only inequality; they mutter that BSU&MP might show favoritism in planning and funding events as well.

At another meeting on April 9, House Rep Sai Lo — and president of Asian Student Union — cited some numbers to

Sai Lo, Boca House Rep

make that claim:

I think it is an issue of bias. This is a record of BSU&MP’s request to the budget committee:

  • Black History Month: $20,200;
  • Jewish History Month: $10,000;
  • Women’s History Month: $10,000;
  • Asian History Month: $6,000.

That has already been addressed in the upcoming year’s budget, where additional rules have been placed on BSU&MP’s spending. Each cultural group the budget identifies (Hispanic/Latin, Native American, Jewish, Black, Women, Asian) is specifically allocated $14,000 to ensure fair spending.

More to come

You’ll notice I titled this post “part I.” This blog’s always been an experiment for me. In some ways it’s succeeded,  but till now it’s failed to do what I’ve ultimately wanted it to: cover an issue closely enough to start a dialogue about it. The closest it came was the coverage last year of Chris Ayala, which some people denounced as sensationalism. And maybe those people will say the same about this: I hope not.

But regardless of those people, I think it’s worth committing some time and words to, so I will do that in the coming weeks.

In particular, I’d like to look back at some of the failed approaches, some of the comments made, and hopefully interview some key people to put all this into a larger perspective. Hopefully they’re not too busy with finals or disappearing for summer.

Tomorrow, though, I’ll talk more specifically about the legislation that did pass. And for now, I’ll end with a quote.

As President Obama said — and William Faulkner before him —  “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.”

SG Photo of the Week

Posted in photo on April 23, 2010 by Brandon

Boca House Representative Charles Berichi (third from left, FAU T-shirt) spent more than an hour of the April 16 Boca House meeting webcamming on Skype and playing Flash games. This photo was taken five minutes after Speaker Alan Pollock said, “You should not be online during these meetings.” Berichi continued to play Flash games during this week’s meeting, the last of the semester. (Although he did participate in both meetings.)

Q & A & A & A

Posted in president on April 13, 2010 by Brandon

My annual sit-down with the incoming and outgoing presidents is out this week. I’d recommend reading it in print, because it’s easier to read there and looks nicer.

But the thing about print is you can only fit so many words on a page: and some people want more than the abridged edition. I try to make the stuff that goes in print relevant and interesting to as wide an audience as possible, figuring the hardcore SG people will come here for the rest.

So if you’re interested  enough about what Ayden Maher and Tiffany Weimar have to say, you might want to look at the extended versions of my interview with them below. They’re not as pretty, nor as grammatically and conversationally “clean” as the pared-down print versions, but you might find some interesting comments.

Here’s the Q&A with Maher.

Here’s Weimar’s.

If you want to see last year’s Q&As, you can check them out here.

OK: Now it’s official

Posted in blog-related on April 8, 2010 by Brandon

42 days after the original election results — and 14 days after the run-off election results — Ayden Maher has officially been declared the student body president-elect. Oh, and 69 days since the declaration of candidacy period ended, if you wanted to know.

The official notification just went out:

Attention FAU Student Government,

The elections campaign period, contestation and appeal period have officially ended for the FAU Government President & Vice President elections. The following candidates have now been certified by the Elections Board and the Student Government Advisors as elected officials for the 2010-2011 school year (Statute 302.100.m):

President and Vice-President
Ayden Maher, President
Evan Konecky, Vice President

The Inauguration for the Senior Student Government officials (President, Vice President & Campus Governors) will take place on May 11, 2011.

Best Regards,

Freddy Moldt
Elections Chair

Look for my Q&A with Maher and with outgoing president Tiffany Weimar in next week’s print edition of the UP. (And probably a longer version here.)

Election still not quite over

Posted in elections on April 5, 2010 by Brandon

The “United Party” ticket continues to contest the Student Government election results even as its VP candidate, Chuck Forbes, quits his position in the Boca House.

Collene O’Reilly has appealed the decision of the student court (see previous entry) to Student Affairs, arguing that two groups of student leaders — the election board and the student court — failed to do their jobs.

This is the only reason for which such an appeal can be filed:

Student Court decisions are final. Appeals regarding failure of the Student Court to provide due process must be submitted in writing to the Senior Vice President for Student Affairs within twenty-four (24) hours of receiving notification of a Student Court decision.

This is section 319.500 of the election rules. “Due process” sounds like a complicated legal phrase, but it is not defined anywhere in statutes or the SG Constitution since it just means “the appropriate established procedures are followed.”

I spoke with Associate Dean Terry Mena following this announcement, and he couldn’t tell me what would happen, only that Student Affairs Vice President Charles Brown would begin considering the appeal immediately.

O’Reilly’s running mate Chuck Forbes resigned without explanation from the Boca House of Representatives at 12:43 a.m. on Friday, April 2. In an e-mail to House Speaker Alan Pollock, he merely said:

I resign as your rules and policies chair and as a representative.

Warmest Regards,

Chuck Forbes

I contacted Forbes for comment, and he said he would be glad to talk — after the appeal process was over. Stay tuned.