Hundreds of students participated in the GW F.E.E.D. kickoff at the Gelman Starbucks despite growing concerns from several of the program’s sponsors regarding the initiative’s motives.
Student Association Sen. O.G. Oyiborhoro (CCAS-U), chair of the GW F.E.E.D. homelessness initiative, said the kickoff was a success, but refused to answer questions regarding the program’s funding. The Student Life chair would not confirm or deny if SA money from the student fee was being used to pay for material that was being handed out at the kickoff.
“A lot of executives from Starbucks, administrators from Rice Hall and leaders of student organizations came out,” said Oyiborhoro, a junior. “It was very successful.”
SA President Nicole Capp, a junior, used the first veto of her presidency last week to shoot down the bill which was slated to provide GW F.E.E.D. with $6,000 for T-shirts, buttons, banners and other promotional material. As a compromise, Capp gave GW F.E.E.D. $450 of “non-student-fee SA revenue account funds” to purchase banners for the event’s kickoff.
None of the money requested for GW F.E.E.D., which stands for “Feed Everyone Everywhere Daily,” would have been used to buy food for area homeless.
Michael Tapscott, director of the Multicultural Student Services Center, said his department still supports GW F.E.E.D. but has reservations about the initiative.
“There has got to be something more going on here,” Tapscott said. “I am concerned because there seems to be a lot of back and forth about it.”
Andrew Blackwell, president of GW Mock Trial and Hippo Grill Masters, said the initiative seemed like a worthy cause when Oyiborhoro first approached him, but said his organizations now have reservations about the program.
“GW Mock Trial and Hippo Grill Masters will be re-evaluating our support for GW F.E.E.D. and potentially withdrawing the use of our name and logo at the next executive board meeting,” said Blackwell, a junior. “We do not support those who wastefully spend and inappropriately receive student funds.”
Blackwell said he did not think the Senate would approve $6,000 for his organizations like the body did for GW F.E.E.D. Only the College Republicans and College Democrats received more than $6,000 from the SA during budget allocations. Most organizations receive only a couple hundred dollars.
“It will be a cold day in hell before GW Mock Trial ever gets a $6,000 lump sum from the Student Association and we are ranked fifth in the nation among over 350 collegiate teams,” Blackwell said.
College Republican chair Chris Brooks said the initiative doesn’t address the real issue.
“The motive to be behind GW F.E.E.D. – raising awareness about homelessness in the D.C. area – the initiative’s purpose is worthy of support,” said Brooks, a senior. “However, the population of GW students is aware of the homelessness crisis in D.C. and the GW College Republicans challenge GW F.E.E.D. to go beyond raising awareness and work towards a solution.”
The Student Activities Center, one of the GW F.E.E.D. sponsors originally listed on GW F.E.E.D. material, no longer publicly endorsees the program. Tim Miller, executive director of SAC, asked for the SAC logo to be blackened out on all promotional supplies for GW F.E.E.D.
“The Student Activities Center oversees all student organizations on campus so I have always felt it was a conflict of interest for us to ‘publicly support’ any specific organization as this would create what I feel is a conflict of interest,” wrote Miller in an e-mail. “We work in an unbiased way to manage all of the student organizations on campus and to support one group’s event, no matter what the content might be, would create the appearance of favoritism.”
Josh Kiss, president of Buzzing for Change, said his organization continues to stand with GW F.E.E.D.
“As one of the major social action organizations at GW, we felt that it was important that we support other social action groups as well,” said Kiss, a senior. “GW F.E.E.D. seemed to us to be a great cause, as we have all seen the struggles of the homeless and hungry on the streets of this city.”
Oyiborhoro told The Hatchet last week that he still supports the GW F.E.E.D. bill and “believes the SA will give (him) the money” to pay for the initiative.
All requests for SA money must first be approved by the finance committee, which is chaired by SA Sen. Richard Fowler (U-At Large), a junior.
The Senate can only allocate funds to GW F.E.E.D. if the body overrides Capp’s veto with a two-thirds vote or if the finance committee and then the Senate approve new legislation submitted by Oyiborhoro.
SA Executive Vice President Brand Kroeger said that if Oyiborhoro plans to resubmit legislation regarding GW F.E.E.D. to the Senate, the bill must commit to the normal legislative process, which includes an approval by the finance committee. When the GW F.E.E.D. bill was initially brought to the Senate floor, Oyiborhoro pursued potentially unconstitutional Senate procedures by circumventing the committee.
“I think every student organization and event should be subject to the same finance process,” said Kroeger, a junior.
Kroeger said Oyiborhoro has not informed the Senate if he plans to reintroduce legislation requesting funds for GW F.E.E.D.