Honor Board reviews DEBI proposal, questions student body fee increase

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Honor Board is reviewing the recently passed Diversity and Equity Board Initiative (DEBI) to determine whether the Associated Students of Occidental College (ASOC) Senate can raise student fees to fund the measure.

DEBI was unanimously passed by the ASOC senate Nov. 17 and will head to a campus-wide vote next semester. If passed, the proposal will authorize the creation of the Diversity and Equity Board (DEB), an independent branch within ASOC that would support initiatives to foster inclusivity and multiculturalism on campus. The DEBI mission statement describes the board as “an official student-led branch of ASOC that works towards empowerment and improved conditions for structurally marginalized groups on campus.” According to the mission statement, the board would “support student and faculty-led initiatives that foster a campus climate of inclusivity through intersectionality, compile reports on offices’ and ASOC branches’ commitment to diversity and equity, and put forth recommendations towards improved practices.”

To fund DEB, student body fees would be increased by $10, a move that the Honor Board called into question at its last meeting of the semester Tuesday. The student body fee increase was initially proposed at $7, but was increased to $10 on the night of the vote in response to requests from students present.

In an email to The Occidental Weekly, Honor Board Chair Ian Hutchcroft (junior) said that Honor Board wants to determine whether ASOC has the power to allocate funds for DEB. He said they would review the proposal’s merits on four criteria: whether the proposal warrants an increase in student fees, whether it merits an independent fund, whether it will benefit the majority of the student body and whether there is adequate accountability and oversight over the funds.

During their meeting Dec. 2, members of the Honor Board agreed that the current proposal lacked specificity, in particular regarding oversight of funds, which prevented them from coming to a final decision. The board will issue a list of recommendations for revisions by Friday night for senators to consider over winter break. Senators will have another opportunity to present the proposal the first week of second semester, at which point Honor Board will make its decision.

Despite his concerns about funding, Hutchcroft is supportive of the proposal.

“I think it’s a terrific proposal that will advance the diversity agenda on campus,” Hutchcroft said. “The DEBI initiative is strong evidence of student body’s commitment [to] the ideals of multiculturalism and diversity.”

The Honor Board’s concerns over the $10 increase in student fees were echoed by several ASOC senators. Some believed that not enough time was spent debating the proposal, as the final proposal was sent out only 24 hours prior. The senators understood the desire to pass the bill as soon as possible, but acknowledged the importance of working out its kinks and exploring the possibility of implementing it without the additional fees.

“I really support the initiative, but we shouldn’t have voted yet because it wasn’t finalized,” an anonymous senator said. “[The committee] was still going to write changes into the proposal, and we should’ve waited to vote on something that was finalized.”

Pressure to pass the vote came from both within senate and outside of it, according to the anonymous senators. The night of the vote, students in support of DEBI filled the Studenmund room, lining the walls and crowding the floor.

“I felt that because the vote was open and in public, I had to vote yes,” the anonymous senator said. “And I don’t think that I’m the only senator who felt that way, which is why the vote was unanimous. Not that I don’t support DEBI, but under the circumstances, voting yes on DEBI didn’t align with my beliefs or values.”

Devon DeRaad
Devon DeRaad