SA Senate declines to fully fund disabled speaker event, angering advocates

Media Credit: Sam Hardgrove | Assistant Photo Editor

Sen. Devan Cole, CCAS-U and chair of the finance committee, defends the committee's decision to allocate roughly $6,500 to the English Graduate Student Association for an event featuring a disabled speaker during the Student Association Senate's meeting Monday.

Updated: Oct. 24, 2017 at 11:10 a.m.

The Student Association Senate declined Monday to increase funding for a graduate student organization to host an event with a disabled speaker despite lobbying from disability advocates on campus.

The senate finance committee set aside about $6,500 for the English Graduate Student Association’s annual March conference, focused on disability awareness this academic year, roughly $1,500 less than requested. The committee did not provide funds for attendant care for the keynote speaker, artist-activist Liz Crow, who uses a wheelchair.

The decision angered the organization and other student disability advocates, but the committee’s head said the move was an act of fiscal conservatism that was not meant to be discriminatory.

The senate unanimously approved the $6,425 allocation with four abstentions.

Sen. Devan Cole, CCAS-U and chair of the finance committee, said the committee decided not to fund the request in full because the event would only benefit about 100 students and the organization has time to fundraise the money before the conference in March. He said the group could also use money allocated for other items to pay for attendant care if it wished.

In a presentation to the finance committee Oct. 12, EGSA representatives said the event would benefit at least 100 people but that the organization expects a turnout of up to 350, according to meeting minutes obtained by The Hatchet.

Cole said the committee receives “a ton” of funding requests each week and “we have to be conservative in some way and figure out where we can cut, where we can pick up the difference.”

“We were not at all trying to not fund her attendant on her disability because we did not think that was important, that that wasn’t a priority for this event – we recognize that was an important expense for her,” he said.

The vote came after four students voiced support for more funding during public comment at the start of the meeting.

Josh Benson, EGSA’s social chair, delivered a letter to the senate with more than 20 signatures urging the body to boost funding for the event. He said the current allocation would prevent Crow from attending the event – amounting to disability discrimination.

“Put simply, to fund an honorarium for Crow without funding her attendant care is to functionally exclude her on the basis of disability – the very kind of bureaucratic action this conference works to uncover and undo,” Benson said, reading from the letter.

Senior Lindsey O’Connell, the president of the Disabled Students Collective, said it is “very rare” to hear disabled speakers on campus and implored the senate to increase the funds.

“It’s really important to the disability community that we see ourselves represented on campus,” she said.

Sen. Brady Forrest, G-at-Large and the president of EGSA, was not allowed to participate in the senate debate about the allocation but later said he was “disappointed” that the senate did not ask for more money for the conference.

He said this is the fourth year the conference has been held but the first time that the organization has come to the SA to ask for money because the conference this year focuses on disability awareness, and it can be expensive to be “truly accessible.”

“To not get that help as a department that specializes in disability studies, that is recognized by the University – the University mission statement talks about this stuff, we have an office of diversity and inclusion – what the fuck does that mean if we’re not talking about disabled people?” he said.

Earlier in the meeting, the senate approved three nominations for the Joint Elections Committee – the body that runs SA elections in the spring. Program Board and Class Council have yet to announce their picks for the committee.

The senate also confirmed four nominations for student representatives to the Faculty Senate.

The senate approved Natalie Ioele to the Student Court after her nomination was tabled at the last meeting. She had held a leadership position in the Feminist Student Union, something the SA’s constitution does not allow for Student Court nominees.

Ioele resigned from her post as FSU’s activism director for her nomination to be reconsidered by the senate.

Sarah Roach contributed reporting.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that EGSA’s conference is an annual event. The conference is biennial. We regret this error.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.