Honor Board rejects initial DEBI request to increase student body fee

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In a 4-3 decision Tuesday, Honor Board struck down a component in the Diversity and Equity Board Initiative (DEBI) that would raise student body fees by $10.

The proposal, if passed by the student body, would authorize the creation of the Diversity and Equity Board (DEB), an independent branch of the Associated Students of Occidental College (ASOC) that would develop and assist efforts to foster an inclusive multicultural campus community. The student body fee increase would fund the new branch.

Members of Honor Board questioned whether such a large increase in funds was necessary, given that the organization has yet to operate and does not have a clear idea of its budgetary needs, according to Honor Board Chair Siri Guntupalli. Instead, they recommended that DEBI modify its funding request to allow students to opt out of $5 of the increase. As the board’s duties become more clear over time, its funding could be adjusted accordingly, Guntupalli said.

“Basically we thought that without truly knowing or seeing how this new organ would act, to suddenly give all this money, that was a concern that a few students had,” Guntupalli said.

The ASOC senate passed DEBI—which was proposed by senators Adrian Adams and Kerry Sakimoto, former senator Abhilasha Bhola and Vice President of Academic Affairs Karen Romero—Nov. 17 in a public vote attended by over 50 students. Despite the unanimous decision, several senators later revealed to The Occidental Weekly that they felt pressured by other senators and DEBI supporters to vote on the measure before they considered the proposal to be finalized.

DEBI’s funding component also had to be approved separately by Honor Board. The board requested Dec. 2 that DEBI sponsors submit a more specific proposal regarding their structure and aims, to be reviewed and voted on in the spring semester.

“People, after reading it, wanted to know about the financial component, and how events were going to be financed and where the money was going to come from,” Honor Board juror Malena Ernani said. “But in terms of the purpose and mission statement of what DEBI would be, we were all on the same page.”

The revised funding request will likely have to be approved by both senate and Honor Board, said Guntupalli, although several jurors expressed a desire for the new proposal to be reviewed directly by Honor Board to quicken the approval process.

“We want to give everything that we can possibly in the beginning to make sure that this is a great, sustainable, strong organ from the get-go,” Guntupalli said.

Guntupalli noted that, while the state of DEBI’s funding remains in question, the student body will still vote on the formation of the board itself later this spring.

DEBI sponsors were unavailable to comment on the matter but will host an open discussion about the proposal in the Studenmund Room in the Johnson Student Center 1 p.m. Sunday.