ISS sets precedent to not fund registered student organizations

By Megan Jones

Additional chairs were needed in the Pine Lounge at Wednesday night’s Illinois Student Senate meeting as more than 40 members of the Black Chorus awaited to hear if the senate would allocate $18,390 to buy chorus robes. However, fewer than ten members remained after three hours of debate on the proposal, which failed, 9-17, with two abstentions.

“We made a clear precedent tonight and I beseech the Illinois Student Senate to create funding policies in regards to the possibility of funding external organizations,” said Shao Guo, senior in ACES. “Quite frankly, there are over 1,200 RSOs on campus and if only one percent of that 1,200 came here requesting $5,000, we would be bankrupt.”

Student Body President Damani Bolden said this does not align with his goals for the senate and the body needs to self-reflect and step back from petty politics.

“This is a dangerous precedent as we are called upon multiple times throughout the year to lend a helping hand to a multitude of student organizations,” Bolden said. “I’m very disappointed that the body has made this decision. I have on my desk currently multiple proposals, and now that the body has spoken, can I in good conscience bring another request to this floor?”

Senator Joshua Baalman, sophomore in LAS, said if the senate allocates funds for the chorus, similar registered student organizations can come asking for money too.

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The resolution asked the senate to fund 100 robes, which cost $183.90 per robe — a total of $18,390 — but after an hour of debate over the amount, Senator David Mischiu, senior in FAA, made an amendment to change the amount to $9,195, exactly half the amount the chorus asked for.

“I am fairly confident that they can find the other half of the money somehow, and I would be willing to work with them to find alternatives to their funding,” Mischiu said.

Senator Calvin Lear, graduate student, reminded the senators that while the Black Chorus is a great organization, it only represents 100 students out of the entire student body of more than 40,000 students.

“Yes, it’s a big number and we’re asking for a lot right now, but when students 20 years from now are putting on the robes that you helped sponsor, you can say that’s something you helped do,” said Kayln Hutchinson, chorus member and senior in LAS.

As senators continued onto the second hour of debate, many of the members of the Black Chorus began leaving the Pine Lounge before the senate arrived at a final verdict.

“(Robes are) a want, just as you want many things,” said Brian Siegel, senior in Media and former Illini Media employee. “It’s our job to represent everyone on campus. I’m not speaking against the organization, but we have a job to be fiscally responsible.”

The Black Chorus serves as an RSO, a class and part of the College of Music. It was founded in 1968 by four African Americans students who wanted to give “life to the African American experience through the black sacred music tradition,” according to the resolution. The chorus performs at events such as Ebertfest, National Association for the Study and Performance of African-American Music Conference and more.

Their robes are 23 years old, and if passed, the Illinois Student Senate would have been a co-sponsor of their annual fall and spring concerts. Senator Shana Harrison, graduate student, said this would be a huge marketing tool for them, costing $500 per semester when broken down over the 20-year partnership.

Senator Tony Fiorentino, graduate student, said the senate is a government and should not have partnerships.

“It’s kind of disheartening hearing some of the members of the student senate being so outwardly opposed to funding the robes, because they should see the benefit and the responsibility of helping their constituents,” said Keshena Watson, student director of Black Chorus. “The presence of student senate is not very strong on this campus, but on the contrast many students would say they know the Black Chorus and they’ve been to one of our concerts. Why wouldn’t you want to merge together and join a partnership because as you help us, we help you.”

Several members spoke about how the Black Chorus serves as a family to them and has impacted their college careers.

“Each robe tells its own story for the past 23 years,” said Sarah Rabin, chorus member and freshman in FAA. “That’s a long time and a lot of stories to be seen and from what I’ve seen, this choir is a family.”

Megan can be reached at [email protected].