Honor Board vetoes DEB funding proposal for third and final time

3

Honor Board vetoed a proposal to raise student body fees to fund the Diversity and Equity Board (DEB) on Wednesday. Six jurors voted against the proposal, two voted for it and one abstained. This marks the third and final time that the funding request was struck down, but the DEB committee plans to move forward with the student-body-approved board without this funding source.

“The majority opinion of Honor Board was that constitutionally, to charge students for something that could be funded from other sources without increasing student body fees with no effect on the other sources of funding, would be unfair and unjust,” Honor Board Juror Kara Alam (sophomore) said.

One juror at the April 15 meeting justified Honor Board’s evaluation of the proposal by referencing the board’s duty to uphold the Associated Students of Occidental College (ASOC) constitution, which states that Honor Board must approve increases in student body fees. Their honor code, under which they are required to operate, reads, “no student shall take unfair advantage of another student or member of the Occidental Community.”

“I feel like people—because we’re not working with much—see that as being outside of our bounds, whereas for us, in fact, or in our opinions, it is within our bounds because there’s so much gray area,” Alam said.

According to the April 15 Honor Board minutes, four criteria were used to evaluate the funding proposal: first, that the proposal warrants an increase in student body fees; second, that the DEB proposal merits an independent source of funding; third; that it benefits the majority of the student body; and fourth, that the funds will be adequately accounted for and managed. These criteria were reported by former Honor Board Chair Ian Hutchcroft (junior) in an email to the Occidental Weekly last semester, and Alam said that they had been agreed upon by Honor Board and the Diversity and Equity Board Initiative (DEBI) committee at the March 25 joint Honor Board meeting.

Several Honor Board jurors at the vote said that the proposal violated the second and fourth criteria. In particular, they felt that the proposal did not need an independent source of funding, as the ASOC Senate has a surplus in funding that could be reallocated. According to Alam, another concern among jurors was that the fund lacked adequate oversight or accountability, as the proposed DEB bylaws state that its allocation is at the discretion of the board members, who would be appointed through an internal process.

Alam added that this issue was particularly difficult because it was the first time Honor Board had to vote on a student body increase since that power was given to the board by a 2010 constitutional amendment.

ASOC Interim Vice President of Financial Affairs Keven Duran (senior), however, referenced statements by Honor Board saying that they vetoed the proposal because they were unsure whether the student body wanted it. He said this claim is unjustified because the student body vote on DEB reached quorum on its first day, with 95 percent in favor of creation of the body.

“I think we can no longer be blind and we can no longer not listen to the people, not listen to the Occidental community,” Duran said. “It’s clear that they are not listening, it’s clear that judgements are being made off of personal reasons.”

Senate also alleged that Honor Board’s treatment of Senate and the DEBI committee has been disrespectful throughout the approval process. The senators said that Honor Board members did not answer emails for months, cancelled meetings without warning, did not attend the DEB teach-in, were not inclusive of DEBI committee community members and neglected to personally inform the committee of the result of their third vote on the funding request.

“One thing that happened during the Honor Board meeting between Senate and DEB, there was a lot of conversation about disrespect, about vilification, about all these things that Senate has done to Honor Board,” Senior Class Senator Kerry Sakimoto said. “I mean, this is just a clear example of a history of how Honor Board has continually disrespected Senate and disrespected the DEB committee.”

Sakimoto said that even without the establishment of the funding component, the DEBI committee plans to move forward with the creation of the DEB board. In an April 7 article of The Weekly, Vice President of Academic Affairs Karen Romero (junior) said that the committee will appoint the DEB board at the end of this month.

Meanwhile, La Raza Coalition began to circulate a petition in a April 13 email to the campus calling to amend the ASOC constitution so that student body fee increases are approved by a vote of the student body, not Honor Board.